Inside London’s largest ever exhibition of Arab art 

Inside London’s largest ever exhibition of Arab art 
‘Awaiting the Return,’ Maysoun Jazairi. (Supplied) 
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Updated 21 July 2023

Inside London’s largest ever exhibition of Arab art 

Inside London’s largest ever exhibition of Arab art 
  • Highlights from Christie’s ‘Modern and Contemporary Work of the Arab World’ show 

DUBAI: This summer, London-based auction house Christie’s is showcasing what is billed as the largest display of Arab art to date in the British capital. Running until August 23, the “Modern and Contemporary Work of the Arab World” show is divided into two sections: “Kawkaba,” exhibiting 100 modern pieces from the UAE’s Barjeel Art Foundation, and “Emirati Art Reimagined,” highlighting the work of the late Emirati artist Hassan Sharif and the Gulf country’s contemporary talents.  

The exhibition features a variety of artistic mediums, offering insight into what creativity looked like in the region over a span of eight decades from 1939 to 2023. “It’s an educational project: If we have one visitor who comes and just discovers one tiny artwork that they like and remembers the artist’s name, I think I will be happy personally,” Dr. Ridha Moumni, the Tunisia-born deputy chairman of Christie’s Middle East and North Africa, told Arab News.  

“We’re trying to establish a bridge that brings all these collections to London, making them available to a general public that is not familiar with Arab art,” he added. “As Arabs, we are very proud when we have the opportunity to showcase our art, which means showcasing our culture and history. It’s an honor and privilege. And to highlight the art of the region in our headquarters is symbolic.”   

“Kawkaba” contains an equal amount of works by female and male artists — a decision taken by Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, the Emirati art collector and founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation and a firm supporter of equality in the arts.  

“I was told that it’s not possible to have an equal display of male and female artists in the region, because there were logistical, realistic, and factual reasons that would stop me from doing that. Male artists got more scholarships and opportunities. So, how can you have a gender-balanced display when men had more opportunities to learn professional art production than women?” he told Arab News. “But what we learned is that women were actually being more creative. They started doing art using henna on paper, ceramics, glasswork, and batik. I think they were doing this partially to counterbalance the lack of opportunities that they had. So the list grows if you only look for it. The lazy answer would be, ‘There aren’t any female artists.’ But if you apply yourself, you’ll find there are so many more that we didn’t know about in the Arab world.” 

In Arabic, the term ‘Kawkaba’ means ‘constellation,’ alluding to a group of star artists. But a larger meaning exists behind it. “This is a constellation of artists, but they’re also part of a greater galaxy of artists that exist out there,” Al-Qassemi explained. 

Here, Al-Qassemi and Ridha discuss some of the show’s highlights.  


Muazzez Rawda 

Born in Baghdad in 1906, Rawda was just 20 years old when she moved to Lebanon. She established herself in Beirut, making it her home for 60 years. Rawda reportedly opened the first kindergarten in Baghdad and was the first woman to obtain a driving license in Lebanon. She began pursuing art late in life. “What I admire about her is that she started creating art in the Fifties, when she was 50 years old. She is someone who entered the art world very late and started doing sculptures,” noted Al-Qassemi. One of them is this rare 1960s abstract, made of marble. 

‘Awaiting the Return’ 

Maysoun Jazairi 

This Syrian artist was very active between the late-Sixties and Nineties. She was influenced heavily by the region’s political turbulence, including the 1967 War and the 1973 Arab–Israeli War. As seen in the angular “Awaiting the Return,” women are at the heart of her works. “She reflected very much on the role of women as defenders of the homeland. She depicts women with weapons, for example,” said Al-Qassemi. “This work is from 1970 and is a reflection of all the people who were exiled, waiting to go back home. This is really a story that was perpetuated since the 1940s in the Arab world. A person on Twitter reshared my tweet of Jazairi’s work and said, ‘As if Jazairi painted it in the Syria of 2021. Fifty years later, there are still people who are exiled from their homes.’” 


Joyce Mansour 

Mansour was an Egyptian Jew and surrealist poet who was born in 1920s England. “For us at Barjeel, Joyce represents the emphasis both on women and religious minorities of the region,” said Al-Qassemi. Mansour also entered the arts late in life, creating ‘objets méchants’ (nasty objects) made of screws and nails. “She created this amalgamation that she felt reflected the reality of life that she wrote about as a poet. For her, this is an extension of her poetry,” explained Al-Qassemi. “She’s created a physical manifestation of her poetry that, for some people, is unsettling.”   

‘Curtain Shop’ 

Farah Al-Qasimi 

“I think the fact that she’s coming from different backgrounds — studying at Yale, being a photographer and a musician, doing video performance, living between the US and the UAE — shaped the very sensitive and relevant eye that she has,” Ridha said of the Emirati photographer and video artist. In her imagery, she captures highly patterned and bright interior scenes that reflect Emirati culture today. The concealed face, often hidden with objects, is a common element in her work. 

‘Four Rectangles’ 

Hassan Sharif 

Sharif, who died in 2016, was a figurehead of the Emirati art scene in the Eighties. This colorful 1985 painting is a rare work by the conceptual artist, who was influenced by the notions of form, time, and mathematical systems. “He works in an almost industrial way to build his canvas. I like the way he uses and mixes his colors. He’s a real colorist,” observed Ridha. “I have a feeling he had a very cheeky mind — in a good way. There’s something of his personality in his canvas. It’s called ‘Four Rectangles,’ but there are three canvases aligned in one rectangle.” Featuring ‘Four Rectangles’ in a UK show feels like a full-circle moment, since Sharif created it after he returned from England, where he was inspired by British constructivist art.  

‘La Mariée’ 

Safia Farhat 

A pioneering artist in post-independence Tunisia, Farhat was a ceramicist, teacher, weaver, publisher, and activist. “She is a symbol for Tunisia,” Ridha said. “She was influenced by the politics of Habib Bourguiba (Tunisia’s first president); to empower women and give them a new status for their rights.” In ‘La Mariée’, a bride is dressed in vibrant traditional clothing that is full of symbols. “Farhat participated in decolonizing painting,” Ridha explained. “‘La Mariée’ was a way to rediscover Tunisian heritage and identity and to create a new iconographic language at a time when art was part of nation-building.” 

Fashion Trust Arabia celebrates winners at London dinner with Salma Hayek

Fashion Trust Arabia celebrates winners at London dinner with Salma Hayek
Updated 18 June 2024

Fashion Trust Arabia celebrates winners at London dinner with Salma Hayek

Fashion Trust Arabia celebrates winners at London dinner with Salma Hayek

DUBAI: Qatar’s Fashion Trust Arabia held a party at Claridge’s Hotel in London on Monday to celebrate its cohort of winners for 2023.

Swedish-born Somali model Ikram Abdi attended the event alongside US Mexican actress Salma Hayek and the prize-winning designers.

Ikram Abdi attended the event in London. (Getty Images)

The organization announced the seven winners of the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize in December.

The usually star-studded awards ceremony was cancelled due to the “ongoing and deeply distressing humanitarian crisis in Palestine,” but a two-day virtual deliberation session was held to find the winners last year.

Womenswear designer Amir Al-Kasm and Renaissance founder Cynthia Merhej jointly won the evening wear category.

The finalists were selected by a panel that included Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and fashion writer Tania Fares, who founded the trust in 2018.

(L to R) Adam Alaoui Elyasse, Lily Max, Omar Taha, Fashion Trust Arabia Co-Founder and Co-Chair Tania Fares, Cynthia Merhej, Ahmed Amer, Katarina Tarazi and Sarah Hermez attend the Fashion Trust Arabia dinner in London. (Getty Images)

Other winners were Lebanon-based designer Ahmed Amer in the ready-to-wear category, British-Lebanese designer Katarina Tarazi in the jewelry category, and design duo of eyewear label A Better Feeling Omar Taha and Lily Max for accessories.

Menswear designer Adam Elyasse took home the Franca Sozzani Debut Talent award and Nigerian designer Adeju Thompson, founder of Lagos Space Programme, was awarded the Guest Country Award.

The sixth edition of Fashion Trust Arabia awards ceremony is set to take place in Marrakech, Morocco, as part of the Qatar-Morocco 2024 Year of Culture.

The event will take place in October, organizers announced on Instagram in April.

“In line with our ongoing dedication to diversity and inclusivity, we’ve selected the lively city of Marrakech as our hosting location,” the statement read. “The FTA Prize 2024 will extend invitations to talents worldwide, as we explore and showcase the diverse cultural heritage of Morocco.

“At the heart of our mission we have consistently championed creative communities across the Arab World and this year is no different,” the statement added.

Fashion Trust Arabia is a non-profit organization that provides financial support, guidance and mentorship to emerging designers from across the Middle East and North Africa region. 

The event is known for attracting industry heavyweights from around the world, with the 2022 ceremony hosting the likes of Bella Hadid, Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kourkova, Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Picciolini, British models Jourdan Dunn and Poppy Delevingne, former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, British actress Jodie Turner-Smith, US model Jasmine Tookes and US Somali model Halima Aden.

Nicole Scherzinger shows off Lebanese gown at Tony Awards

Nicole Scherzinger shows off Lebanese gown at Tony Awards
Updated 17 June 2024

Nicole Scherzinger shows off Lebanese gown at Tony Awards

Nicole Scherzinger shows off Lebanese gown at Tony Awards

DUBAI: US singer Nicole Scherzinger attended the 2024 Tony Awards in New York on Sunday in a gown by Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran.

The pink-hued gown featured a sheer, embellished skirt, with rouching on the hips. Stylist Emily Evans finished off the look with -Cicada and Maison H jewelry.

Nicole Scherzinger showed off a rosy-hued Nicolas Jebran gown on the red carpet. (Getty Images)

Scherzinger — slated to star in a “Sunset Boulevard” revival on Broadway — sang the “In Memoriam” section, the Associated Press reported.

She sang “What I Did for Love” as the names of late Broadway heavyweights appeared, including playwright Christopher Durang and actors Alan Arkin,Glenda Jackson, Louis Gossett Jr., and Treat Williams.

“The Outsiders,” a gritty adaptation of the classic young adult novel, won the Tony Award for best new musical. The win meant Angelina Jolie, a producer, landed her first Tony, too.

Angelina Jolie, a producer on 'The Outsiders,' landed her first Tony. (Getty Images)

“Stereophonic,” the play about a Fleetwood Mac-like band recording an album over a turbulent and life-changing year, won best new play and had the night's most total awards at five. It was written by David Adjmi, with songs by former Arcade Fire member Will Butler.

Two special guests electrified the crowd — Jay-Z and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The latter, a producer of a musical about suffragettes, presented “Suffs.”

“I have stood on a lot of stages, but this is very special,” Clinton said. “I know a little bit about how hard it is to make change.”

In the first musical presentation, Alicia Keys appeared at a piano as the cast of her semi-autobiographical musical, “Hell’s Kitchen,” presented a medley of songs. She sang her and Jay-Z’s 2009 smash “Empire State of Mind,” joining the rapper on interior steps to wild applause, according to the Associated Press.

Later, newcomer Maleah Joi Moon won best leading actress for “Hell's Kitchen,” brushing aside a challenge from veteran Kelli O’Hara. The 21-year-old, who plays a role loosely based on Keys’ life, dedicated her award to her parents.

Jeremy Strong took home the first big award of the night. The “Succession” star landed his first Tony for his work in the revival of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 political play “An Enemy of the People.”

“Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe cemented his stage career pivot by winning featured actor in a musical, his first trophy in five Broadway shows. He won for the revival of “Merrily We Roll Along,” the Stephen Sondheim- George Furth musical that goes backward in time.

Jessica Kahawaty stars in Charlotte Tilbury fragrance campaign

Jessica Kahawaty stars in Charlotte Tilbury fragrance campaign
Updated 16 June 2024

Jessica Kahawaty stars in Charlotte Tilbury fragrance campaign

Jessica Kahawaty stars in Charlotte Tilbury fragrance campaign

DUBAI: Lebanese Australian model Jessica Kahawaty has posed in a digital campaign for British luxury cosmetics label Charlotte Tilbury.

The model and entrepreneur stars in a video campaign advertising the brand’s Love Frequency perfume, which is described as a floral woody musk fragrance for women and men.

Love Frequency was launched in 2024 and the fragrance was designed by French master perfumer Anne Flipo. The top note is pink pepper; the middle notes are rose and saffron; while the base notes are musk, amberwood, patchouli and cashmere wood.

Kahawaty took to Instagram to share the sun-drenched campaign video with her 1.5 million followers.

“My love frequency summed up in 1 scent (sic),” she caption the post, which sees the model walking among flowers and tall grasses while holding the pink-hued bottle of perfume.

The model also recently unveiled her latest campaign with Boss. In March, she shared polaroid-style pictures from the shoot with her Instagram followers and wrote: “Double B, Every Me. Because there’s more than one way to be a BOSS.”

In the images, she wore a brown bomber jacket paired with a crisp white shirt, complemented by a black bag adorned with a chunky gold buckle and chain. Her brunette locks were in loose waves.

Earlier this year, Kahawaty took to social media to share images from her collaboration with Italian luxury label Versace for the month of Ramadan, days after the influencer worked on a Ramadan campaign with New York-based label CH Carolina Herrera.

The campaign featured a curated edit of modest wear from the New York-based label, combining distinctive patterns and vibrant color schemes.

The model and restauranteur — she founded Dubai’s Mama Rita eatery alongside her mother — shared a series of images promoting Versace’s Ramadan edit with her Instagram followers. Kahawaty was pictured in a pink floor-length dress with bell sleeves that boasted a neckline adorned with intricate pink, white and silver beads and crystals. Completing the look, Kahawaty is seen clutching a matching mini pink embellished purse while her voluminous brunette locks were styled in a 90s blowout.

Review: Survival game ‘Pacific Drive’ puts the fear back into driving

Review: Survival game ‘Pacific Drive’ puts the fear back into driving
Updated 16 June 2024

Review: Survival game ‘Pacific Drive’ puts the fear back into driving

Review: Survival game ‘Pacific Drive’ puts the fear back into driving

LONDON: The driving survival game “Pacific Drive” (PlayStation 5, PC via Steam) is set in the eerie landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. Developed by Ironwood Studios, it blends driving mechanics with survival horror elements, creating a captivating and challenging experience.

Players navigate a dilapidated station wagon through a hazardous, post-apocalyptic environment known as the “exclusion zone.” This area is cut off from the rest of America by a 300-meter-high wall designed to contain a strange phenomenon called the “instability,” which sees the environment change unpredictably with deadly consequences.

The setting, inspired by the Pacific Northwest’s dense forests and rugged terrain, plays a crucial role in the game. The vehicle is not just transportation but a lifeline; maintaining and upgrading it is essential as players encounter various obstacles and supernatural threats.

The eerie ambiance is further enhanced by the game’s sound design, blending environmental sounds with a haunting score.

Survival in “Pacific Drive” involves scavenging for resources, managing the car’s condition, and making tough decisions about when to push forward or retreat. Resource management is balanced with exploration, requiring players to weigh the risks and rewards of venturing into unknown territories. The narrative unfolds through scattered notes and radio transmissions, providing glimpses into the world’s backstory.

Visually, the game excels with detailed environments and realistic lighting effects. The sense of isolation and vulnerability is palpable as players drive through abandoned towns and desolate landscapes.

With a game time of roughly eight hours, “Pacific Drive” is not without its flaws. The repetitive nature of resource gathering, and vehicle maintenance can become tedious over time.

However, it offers a fresh take on the survival genre with its unique driving mechanics and atmospheric setting. The exploration, strategy, and horror elements make the game a compelling experience for players seeking something different.

‘Bridgerton’ star Simone Ashley flaunts Suzanne Kalan jewels in London

‘Bridgerton’ star Simone Ashley flaunts Suzanne Kalan jewels in London
Updated 15 June 2024

‘Bridgerton’ star Simone Ashley flaunts Suzanne Kalan jewels in London

‘Bridgerton’ star Simone Ashley flaunts Suzanne Kalan jewels in London

DUBAI: British actress Simone Ashley took to the red carpet at the “Bridgerton” Season 3 - Part Two special screening in London in a diaphanous Del Core dress and sparkling jewelry by Lebanon-born designer Suzanne Kalan.

The drop earrings hail from Kalan’s eponymous brand. Born in Lebanon, the designer has Armenian family heritage and has been creating jewelry for the past 25 years.

Meanwhile, Ashley’s peach-hued dress was plucked from Italian label Del Core’s Fall/ Winter 2024 ready-to-wear collection.

The drop earrings hail from Kalan’s eponymous brand. (Getty Images)

Kalan’s designs have been making the rounds on red carpets as of late. US actress Jessica Chastain sported the eponymous brand’s Bold Burst Rainbow Sapphire Tennis Necklace at the 2024 National Board of Review Gala in New York in January and entertainment reporter Zanna Roberts Rassi showed off a set of rings by the brand at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards in the same month.

Also, US musician Andra Day attended the 2024 Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala in New York on June 13 in extended hoop earrings by Kalan.

The “Bridgerton” cast has been hitting red carpets around the world to mark the launch of the latest season, which was released in two parts.

Irish actress Nicola Coughlan is the lead star of this season — the lead role in the hit series is revolving and season two saw Ashley take on the mantle of leading lady.

Coughlan chose two Middle Eastern labels for public appearances, including stepping out in a gown by Beirut-based label Sara Mrad at the premiere in Toronto in early June.

Coughlan donned a lavender silk organza mini-dress paired with a red mikado petal-like cape from the designer’s Spring 2024 couture collection. She accessorized with droplet-shaped earrings from London-based Ysso jewelry, which are hand-carved in Greece.

At the show’s premiere in Brazil in May, the actress wore a deep red gown by Lebanese fashion label Azzi & Osta. The gown featured an oversized hood, which she wore over her head, and long gloved sleeves adorned with gold embellishments.