Shara Art Fair celebrates Saudi artists

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A number of paintings by Saudi artists.
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Omar Naseef and Mohammed Awlia, founders of Oil and Barrel.
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Updated 30 June 2016

Shara Art Fair celebrates Saudi artists

For the second year running, The Saudi Art Council has organized and opened its doors for the Kingdom’s most influential art galleries to present some of the country’s leading local artists’ work. Shara Art Fair, opened on the 21st of Ramadan and running for five days, was held at the Saudi Art Council headquarters after the success of last year’s art fair. Sponsored by UBS, the world’s leading wealth manager, the sponsorship of the Shara Art Fair follows a successful collaboration between UBS and the Council during the 2015 art fairs that showcased the history and direction of contemporary visual arts in Saudi Arabia through a number of exhibitions, most prominent among them “21.39”, providing the public a unique chance to learn about the development of the visual art movement through the eyes of local artists. This year, it added a new feature for the art scene by having presented local food and furniture initiatives that made waves in the area; Medd Coffee and Roastry, Shelter Shoppe, Oil Barrel and Mashareq.
The participating galleries included Athr Art Gallery, Hafez Art Gallery, Cuadro Art Gallery and a silent auction held by Al-Mansouria Foundation, a foundation established by Princess Jawaher Bint Majed in support of creativity in the Kingdom. The gallery is set to encourage more Saudi artists to participate in the growing contemporary visual arts movement that has seen a great boom in the past few years and more galleries are set out to showcase their work for public viewing depicting Saudi culture and history through their eyes. Such an initiative not only encourages artists, but encourages the public to understand what Saudi artists portray through their canvases, sculptures, calligraphy, Islamic art and geometry and photographs, bringing together artists from across the Kingdom in one art space.
The space was divided according to the number of galleries partaking in the art fair and the number of artists showcasing their work this year was impressive with many varied pieces that surely caught the attention of newcomers and art lovers alike. To name a few from the field of Islamic calligraphy and geometric Islamic art, there’s Ahmad Angawi with his take on Hijazi patterns of “Al-Mangour” on glass and number talismans from Dana Awartani’s “The Hidden Qualities of Quantities”. Arwa AlNeami’s “spring camel” photographs in full blown vibrant colors, Ghada Al-Rabea’s pop art, Osama Esid’s “Erk Soos” and Moath AlOfi’s “Haramain” from his recent exhibit “Doors of Barlik” were all a hit with the visitors.
It was difficult to pass by and not stare in awe at the the intricate details of Izzat Batrawi’s “relief sculpture” with impressively fine and designed wood work , as was the neon installation by Majed Thobaiti depicting the ever so known arabic version “hhhh”.
There was an abundance of paintings displayed from various well-known and young up and coming artists, each painting with a significant concept of its own, each telling a story. There’s Tagreed Bagshi’s beautiful painting signifying the heroism of women and mysticism on a canvas aptly named “paradise”, a beautiful mix of collage and print in Garden 1 from Filwa Nazer’s Green Library Series. There was “The Ramadan Story” by Ola Hejazi, the vibrant work of the seven tawaf or circumambulations around the Kaaba series by Siddiqa Juma, Ammar Al-Attar’s five print series “salah” in an exquisite portrayal of the daily sacred ritual of prayer, as never seen before.
The Kingdom is seeing a new wave of art enthusiasm in all its forms with centers and galleries offering the best services to steer up and coming artists into the path they need to progress and evolve. Society is also opening up to the art movement, understanding the concept of art bit by bit and allowing a new contemporary wave to be displayed and appreciated.
Oil Barrel founders Mohammed Awlia and Omar Naseef were participating in the art fair as part of an initiative to support local brands as well as to integrate them with the art scene, a mix that sat well with Oil Barrel founders. “We enjoyed being a part of Shara Art Fair as it was also an opportunity for Oil Barrel to give its own rendition of the artistic history lesson through our version of Vision 2030. We chose a concept that was similar to the one Prince Mohammed bin Salman presented but through a hundred year timeline, vision 1930. It was a period of discovery and entrepreneurship, fast forward a hundred years later and the concept can be applied to the now.”
Oil Barrel’s corner of the art fair featured a centerpiece of stacked oil barrels with calligraphy work by artist Shaker Kashgari, a large mural by mother and daughter duo Siham Abdulgadir and Majdaline Bakr and original newspaper clippings from the 1930’s recreating a timeline on the very beginnings of the oil industry of the Kingdom. “Being part of Shara Art Fair also gave us the opportunity to test drive Oil Barrel’s latest furniture line, it was a success with lots of orders coming in. We literally recycle and reuse oil barrels in creative methods related to our brand,” said Mohammed Awlia.
Medd coffee and Roastery, a new favorite among Jeddawis was also a participant, serving their signature 100 percent organic, fair trade and freshly brewed specialty coffee, hot or cold of course, as well as sweets and snacks from local home businesses, an initiative they’ve been supporting since opening.
Shelter Shoppe, a concept store collaboration between husband and wife duo Faisal Sheraiff and Reem Basaad, was also a participant in the fair presenting home décor selected especially by the duo. “Shara Art Fair shared the same concept as the one we took up on ourselves to present in Shelter Shoppe, it was great being a part of such an amazing art movement. We choose pieces that are one of a kind. We handpick them ourselves and much to our pleasure, visitors were very pleased with our products and shared their delight as they browsed the area,” exclaimed Faisal Sheraiff. “We will definitely be participating more with The Saudi Art Council, the art lovers are exactly the target market we strive to attract to share our love for art.” Mashareq, a store that specializes specifically in traditional arts and crafts of the Islamic heritage, also debuted some of its magnificent wood work, handcrafted furniture and home accessories by Middle Eastern artisans. Their displays featured works that literally would take you decades back when woodwork was flaunted in homes, each uniquely crafted by the finest craftsmen.
The Saudi Art Council in partnership with the many galleries at the Shara Art Fair are helping artists in the Kingdom to come forward and showcase their work, simply by arranging art exhibits with exceptional concepts.

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Iraq Pavilion at Venice Biennale shuts in solidarity with protesters

The Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has shut down in solidarity with protesters. Supplied
Updated 13 November 2019

Iraq Pavilion at Venice Biennale shuts in solidarity with protesters

  • In a show of solidarity with anti-government protestors, the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has shut down
  • Initially set to run until Nov. 24, the exhibition entitled “Fatherland” was closed on Nov. 5.

DUBAI: Iraq is currently in the midst of ongoing anti-government protests that have claimed the lives of more than 260 Iraqis since they erupted earlier this month. In a show of solidarity, the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has shut down.

Initially set to run until Nov. 24, the exhibition entitled “Fatherland” was closed on Nov. 5.

“Fatherland” is a collection of expressionist paintings by Iraqi-Kurdish artist Serwan Baran that were commissioned by Baghdad-based non-profit organization the Ruya Foundation, which in an official statement shared that the move was to show support to “the popular youth uprisings that have erupted in Iraq against state corruption and deteriorating economic and living conditions.”

“We condemn the use of violence against peaceful protesting, and the bloodshed that has led to the death of over 265 protesters so far,” read the statement shared on the organization’s Twitter account. “Peaceful protesting is a basic right, enshrined in Article 38.c of the Iraqi Constitution.”

“Since our founding in late 2012, we have worked hard, frequently in inhospitable circumstances, to create a platform for artists across Iraq to freely express their creativity, in a firm belief that culture is an integral component of any society, and a powerful force for change towards an open and free country. This is particularly important for Iraq, given its difficult recent history and authoritarian past,” it continued.

The Baghdad-based foundation, which was co-founded by Tamara Chalabi, daughter of former Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi, has overseen the Iraq Pavilion in Venice since 2013.