PAINTINGS, sculptures and installations were just some of the artworks that went on display at a major contemporary art fair that opened in Bahrain.
Art Bahrain Across Borders (ArtBAB) opened to the public yesterday in Hall One of the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.
Fifty participants, including artists and galleries from around the world, are taking part in the third edition of ArtBAB, which is a collaborative venture with Tamkeen.
ArtBAB fair and programme director Kanika Subberwal said there has been an overwhelmingly positive response from visitors.
“(The response has been) absolutely overwhelming, it couldn’t have been better,” she told the GDN.
“We have seen upwards of 40 per cent in the sheer size and volume of exhibitors.
“It is very encouraging the kind of effort the exhibitors have gone through to put up a fantastic collection, not just the international exhibitors, the Bahraini artists have put together collections they haven’t showcased before and new collections, so this adds to the magic we see today.
“(Next year) we would like to fill up Hall Two (of the BIECC).
“The aim has been to grow this as we go, we haven’t been over ambitious we want to do things at Bahrain’s pace, we want to be consistent while we grow.”
The exhibition features new platforms for artists, including an emerging artists’ section, and a section called Kids@ArtBAB.
Another key segment at ArtBAB is the Galleries Pavilion, which hosts 17 galleries from different countries.
Two strikingly beautiful walls greet visitors upon entering the centre, both collaborations between several artists, predominantly from Bahrain.
Bahraini artist Mustafa Halwachi had a hand in both collaborations, one of which was the work of a newly-formed five-member group called Dirty Hands Crew.
The group was formed after the commissioning of ‘Bahrain’s biggest graffiti project’ in Sanabis.
“(Street art is my genre because of) my love of sharing art with a bigger audience,” Mr Halwachi, aged 41, told the GDN.
“Galleries usually cater to a certain segment of society and that’s fine, I love that too but sometimes art speaks a certain message of beauty or whatever it is, bringing a smile to everybody, and street art is the best way to reach the masses.”
The second wall, in a blue colour, was a collaboration of amateur artists who were managed by Mr Halwachi. “I managed with nine artists, most of them first timers, on the wall and some of them first time holding a spray can,” he explained.
“We completed the wall very quickly in seven to eight days.
“It’s a message of beauty.”
Also exhibiting was Bahraini gallery owner and artist Amina Al Abbasi, who hopes to revive local culture and tradition with her work.
“I work with Bahraini culture and I try to revive culture and tradition in my paintings but I try to do it in a very contemporary way,” said the owner of Amina Gallery.
“This collection is inspired by naseej which is fabric weaving, it’s a craft that was one of the most important crafts in Bahrain because it used to help people to get their basic necessities like clothing.
“We don’t use that anymore because we have machines, but I felt it is something that was very important back in the day.”
On the international art scene, London-based Galerie B Weil is representing artist David Breuer-Weil, who has a diverse collection of paintings and sculptures at ArtBAB.
“David’s work is a lot about representing community and exhibiting at ArtBAB is an extension of the philosophy in David’s work, and the response locally has been very positive so far,” said a representative from the gallery.
Born to Austrian and Danish parents, Mr Breuer-Weil’s paintings are fresh and vibrant expressions of his childhood holidays, while his sculptures are maquettes for larger pieces currently being displayed in London.
“We also have a couple of new works from his tin foil series, these are very playful, creative sculptures based on models made in aluminum foil,” added the representative.
Belgium-based NK Gallery is also taking part in the art fair and representing Russian artist Kirill Chelushkin, whose large-scale works of graphite and ash on canvas are on display, while Italian Sconci Art Gallery is “trying to promote pop art in Bahrain” with colourful pieces from five different artists.
“I have been a participant in the ArtBAB exhibitions from the time the movement was launched in 2016 and I believe that it has had a big impact on the Bahrain art movement,” said Bahraini artist Balqees Fakhro
Today’s programme includes a spotlight on Bahraini women artists, called the I AM Exhibition that opens at 3pm.
ArtBAB is being held under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty King Hamad and Supreme Council for Women president, and was inaugurated on Wednesday by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier.
ArtBAB will continue today and tomorrow between 11am and 8pm.