Many an artist will be able to recount the challenges of attempting to co-exhibit their work, let alone achieving a solo exhibition. Especially here in the Middle East, now that the Art scene is expanding at an almost exponential rate, competition is just getting fiercer.
But what if we were to disclose that word on the streets (or art promenades, if you will) is that a gallery dedicated solely to the purpose of showcasing and nurturing young, Arab talent is scheduled to launch here in the UAE?
Our ‘told you so’ comes in the form of The Ara Gallery, a soon-to-be-inaugurated ‘concept galley’ in Downtown Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The term Ara (depending on your Arabic diction) can either be pronounced as such to mean ‘to adorn or embellish,’ or alternatively enunciated as Ara’a to mean ‘opinions.’ Having been privy to the ideals with which this gallery intends to function, we couldn’t agree on a more befitting tag.
Khaleejesque managed to catch up with Moza Mohamed Al Abbar, founder of The Ara Gallery, just weeks before it’s official launch:
KT: You say that the Ara Gallery is a ‘concept gallery.’ What do you mean by the term?
MA: By “concept gallery”, we are referring to a gallery that is in fact concept driven, be it in reference to the different monthly ‘themes’ If you will) that our exhibitions will revolve around, or in terms of solidifying the type of gallery we claim to be – that is one that goes deeper than your average art gallery when it comes to bringing in new ideas, new artists, and new forms of expression.
KT: How do you intend for the gallery to operate?
MA: The way we plan on functioning at the gallery is by having monthly/bi-monthly exhibitions showcasing either a selected group of artists or one artist, depending on the concept of the exhibition. We will first announce a concept, then call for interested artists. We then choose from the artists who have applied on the basis of his/her style of work, their ability to commit, and the overall enthusiasm for their talent. Finally we will have an opening night to give the artist(s), the concept, as well as the gallery due exposure. Having said that, we will however also have months whereby we will focus on certain emerging artists and their work (through either solo or group exhibitions), not rounding the exhibition on a concept per se.
In between these showcases, the gallery will also be conducting general workshops for the community to engage in. These will be open to everyone, and will focused on building dialogue and exchange of thoughts and perspective on various subjects relating to the art world.
KT: How would you say that The Ara Gallery differs from any other art gallery in Dubai?
MA: Dubai’s art scene has been on the go, bringing in a huge variety of artists, forms of art, and ways to engage the community. I believe The Ara Gallery serves to compliment the art industry through the unique concept of focusing on “the artists of the future” or emerging artists. We aim to create a space that is anything but intimidating, a space where artists and their friends and families can get together, learn about art, and see beautiful artworks.
KT: What was it that started you thinking about (and eventually working on) this project? Are you an artist yourself?
MA: Well, my (relatively recent) interest in art lead me towards this project. I have always been fascinated by the different forms of expression that art and its artists provide, and it wasn’t until several years ago did I begin learning more about it theoretically and practically.
That, in turn, got me thinking about exhibiting someday, but being a very amateur “artist”, I did not get the courage to do so! So it was through this, that the concept of The Ara Gallery came to life.
I have always been interested in community based work that involves engaging with people, but never imagined I would take this route! I believe I saw an opportunity to create a space that is boundless, one that everyone (whether interested in art or not) could come together and enjoy, and one that would serve as a platform primarily for aspiring artists.
KT: How do you personally define art, and what does it mean to you?
MA: To me, art is unpredictable and sort of like a mystery. That is what I feel is the beauty of it. I believe that art can take on so many forms, from paintings and sculptures to even pure words. It is a mode of expression, and we all express ourselves in our own way, which makes everything all the more interesting.
KT: It seems that the art scene is accelerating here in the UAE, and possibly even the Middle East as a whole. Do you agree, or do you believe that there is still much room for improvement?
MA: I do agree that the art scene is speeding up in the UAE and the Middle East as a whole. Having concurred with that, I see immense potential not for improvement, but for solidifying the art industry and engaging the community more into art.
KT: What advice to you have (if any) for young and upcoming artists here in the Middle East?
MA: The one (very humble) piece of advice I would like to give young artists is to keep going, showcase your work, and keep learning. We are at a time where we are lucky enough to have the means and opportunity to showcase our individuality, thoughts, and feelings to the world and I believe art serves as the perfect opportunity to do so.
The Ara Gallery is scheduled to open in April (exact date to be announced soon) with its inaugural exhibition “Through the Eyes of Africa’s Children.”
This novel exhibition, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and Kodak, will showcase the work of approximately 30 pieces by 6 emerging Arab artists, all inspired by photographs taken by the children of Lesotho.
2.5% of the total retail price of each artwork sold will be donated, in line with Zakat, to Habitat for Humanity in Lesotho. Also, an art auction scheduled for the grand opening event will see a whopping 100% of the money raised from the sale of additional pieces (created by participating artists) donated to the same charity.
Art combined with humanitarianism, paired with impartial opportunity for emerging talent? We don’t know about you, but for us April couldn’t get here soon enough.
– Shaahima Fahim. Images: The Ara Gallery