Monday, 28 February 2011

Sultan gallery in the 50-20 mood

works by Abdulla al Awadi

works by William Andersen

Sultan Gallery hosted last week a collective exhibition with the Title: Kuwait 50 20. It is the month of celebration in Kuwait for their independence, their liberation. Among other artists were Abdulla al Awadi, professor of Architecture at Kuwait University and William Andersen, professor of Art at American University of Kuwait.
William's works were a grid of 50 by 50 pieces of 8 star shaped plaster with a significant photo collage on the subject, Kuwait. The images were about history, politics, islamic references, major moments that make the Kuwait of today,  major events of the region, wars, elections all on a background of islamic patterns or geometrical patterns.
Abdulla's work were canvas printed of intricate geometrical shapes produced with smaller images of kuwait. One canvas had the word Kuwait twisted in another pattern of calligraphy over the global production.
The correlation of these two works is quite striking. Both works have gone far in the details of research, finding history through icons or images, debating on the format, pondering on the significance of a country and how to present it. Their works are quite advanced which indicates an in depth understanding of the medium.
Although they remain at the surface of images, it is part of a general trend in Kuwait to keep the image of the country at the facade only. The decorative part is emphasised, keeping deeper subjects further away.

Thomas Modeen had few other works displayed, It was a delicate paper cut ripple effect of white on white in a near A4 size. Could it have anything to do with the 50 20 title? nevertheless it was a pleasant interpretation of texture and paper.

The giant blackberry phone was another striking artwork, maybe an installation, maybe a tribute to the importance in kuwait of  social networking, chatting and connecting at all times with friends, facebook and google.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Kuwait celebrates 50 20 5 in 2011

image hosted in flicker
The Arab world is tiptoeing on the verge of public protests, revolutions, demands, uprising and political turmoil, with a contagious sense spreading across borders.
While Kuwait is celebrating its 50 years independence, 20 years liberation and 5 years of the new Amir's leadership. The party was big. The military parade, a classic parade, had one significant twist: the Amir hosted a large congregation of Arab leaders, leaders from around the world, military delegations, friends and family. It must have been a good time to discuss current political issues. The Arabs have integrated in their language the word : "coulisse" used as "kawaleess" or what goes behind the scene. The kawaleess must have been the "it" place to be.
What could the Syrian president have said to the Lebanese president? What did the Iraqi president chat about with the King of Bahrain? Did anyone give any advice to the Qatari Emir on what to do with Al jazeera tv? Did the King of Spain share with anyone his experience in parliamentary monarchy?
It must have been a good fruitful party.
And for the people of Kuwait, the giant, massive fireworks along the Gulf Road was a display of joy and fun. It was very well prepared with a general artistic presentation of Kuwait's history. In the streets fully packed, people rejoiced.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Kuwait Auction - JAMM - Abdel Aziz al Mudhaf

Abdel Aziz al Mudhaf 's painting was sold during the JAMM auction in Kuwait. He's a young artist just graduating from American University in Kuwait.
His art is daring, bold with a cry of expression beyond the pain and repressed feelings. It was one of the few works that went beyond the decorative and expected.
He has produced in the same theme some works exhibited in Kuwait and in Dubai.
The buyer of this artwork must be a courageous collector and an audacious believer in supporting emerging artists. 

Friday, 18 February 2011

Auction in Kuwait - JAMM- Fareed Abdal

Interview with a Kuwaiti artist, Fareed Abdal, during the auction in Kuwait.
Fareed is an architect, professor, artist, photographer, jewelry designer and has many unspoken areas of interest... His artwork was sold at the JAMM auction of this year.

- What do you think of this auction in Kuwait?
"Any activity that can unleash creativity in our society is a good activity. It allows us to develop visual depth. We all have subjective opinions on what art should be, who is an artist and how should he be. Whether the artist is young or older, starting now to create or have a track record and maturity in art; It doesn't really matter.
The artist is listening to his inner journey, he will not be fooled by judgement of others. It is better if the art is celebrated but artists have their own story to be told.
There might be a need to have a more rigorous judgement and critique.

- How do you sparkle creativity in younger generations?
"Art is a form of meditation, a contemplation and reflection. It is the necessity to share each's point of vue, his angle of life and each is different. Practice often becomes the theme and becomes an obsession. Anything will be a source of sparkle...
Matthew Fox said: "Do not confuse beauty with beautiful. Beautiful is a human judgment. Beauty is All. The difference is everything. "

- Does Kuwait need an auction house, is there not enough galleries?
" I could build assumptions and see the negative side of auctions as it is known worldwide: It's like a stock market, you raise prices of shares and promote speculation.
The good side to an auction is bringing an understanding about the culture value. The value of a painting is different from its cost. Kuwaitis are sophisticated buyers in business and they are well aware of cost in many things. But the added value of development, of an extra mile or an extra artistic input is not yet appreciated. The power of aesthetics is an added value.  It is a new language of creativity and this auction will trigger debates about prices, value, added value, creativity.
That is quite healthy
We need to increase the number of people who recognize the added value.

- Is there a culture of auctioning in Kuwait?
" Not in the visual art maybe, but in our own history and culture we do a lot of auctioning, from the fish, to camels, to goats, to cars.. these are commodities and objects.
Historically, we even had  auctions on appreciation of beauty with arabian horses solely about aesthetics and beauty, so different from warrior, race or work horses.
So yes, we do have a  culture of auctioning in Kuwait in all of its meanings...

- What was behind your art work for sale in this auction?
" It's a work of calligraphy of a Quranic verse, but I like to flirt with the Sacred and the Holy and see what comes out of it. I confront the verse against other religious frameworks, against water on paper, against the structure and the imposition of a framework by preconceived ideas of sacred. I see the universal everywhere and I am part of the Divine's creation as equally as anything else."

- Nearly all works have been sold, is it a successful auction?
"I measure success not by sales but by the intention:
The auction is donating a percentage of the profit to a charitable cause: "Bayt Abdallah" a hospice in Kuwait for children with life threatening diseases, open to any child in Kuwait, regardless of origin, nationality or religion.
This cause celebrates every moment of life, to help out children in distress.
I find it special and different from other auctions, artists are part of collective effort to help out. and that is beautiful."

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Auction in Kuwait - JAMM - year 2

JAMM keept its promise after last year's auction in Kuwait. This year's auction was in a another venue, but the art displayed and sold through bidding was of equal quality if not more prolific.

For the event of the 9th of February 2011, JAMM selected around 90 art pieces, from paintings, photographies, sculptures, neon installation etc...

Artists came from Kuwait,  the Arab world, Iran, Turkey, and western countries. Some of these artists are just starting their careers, others are well established in Kuwait and out of Kuwait, some have a long history of recognized works.
Subjects had the classic calligraphy, modern calligraphy, political art, icons in theArab world, icons worldwide, classic Kuwaiti scenes and many more...
The eclectic choices showed an understanding of how the local market will react.

Pieces like the Damien Hirst prints were not perceived as a hot buy and did not make the expected high numbers. Art Critiques were saying that the market in kuwait was not a speculative one, they don't buy to resell and make immediate profit. They seem to need an emotional connection to the pieces they bought.
Overall, the experience was worthy of all the efforts.
Next year will hopefully be even better.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Rap in Tahrir Square - Cairo by Dia al Deen

A video clip in a rap style: The lyrics are simple but they express needs of the Egyptian street , going well with the Nile revolution.
" We live like cockroaches ...
This is the meaning of Freedom,
and it tastes better with Mouloukhia ...
Do you see the disaster in our lives
Everyone turns his back
and prays God to be spared ..."

Rap makes sense with the demands and discontents of the people. The Tahrir phenomena is a wave spreading. The Arab world is holding its breath waiting for the outcome and wishing for the best to be achieved.

(Thanks Abdullah for posting the clip on your facebook page)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Hang in there 248am - blogger gets a lawsuit for an opinion

The Arab world is boiling with turmoil, masses are asking for change, freedom, liberties, opportunities. In Kuwait besides the concours d'elegance and the preparation for the 50th celebrations of Liberation day, a blogger, Mark, in his popular blog: 248am, receives a lawsuit for posting his opinion on Benihana, a newly opened restaurant in Kuwait. He did not really like his experience.

Do you mean if one talks about anything negative, they will be immediately persecuted?
And this is not a political opinion, or a dissent's reaction, or a voice calling for justice or a repressed group in some underprivileged conditions.
This is just a restaurant, food, and marketing.

Well, fellow blogger, Mark, hang in there. It can only show how powerful you have become in your opinions and how important your views can be.

There is a lot of talks about the importance of Facebook or twitter and virtual communities in the making of these street revolutions.  The power of opinion, once it's heard by a larger group, can have a huge impact.
We'll be waiting to see the lawsuit's evolution and Benihana's survival.

248 am link to blog

Concours d'elegance - car show - Kuwait

photos by "concours d'elegance"
For the second year, Kuwait hosts a "Concours d'elegance" for vintage cars, in the Marina Crescent, Salmiya.
"Some of these cars are sculptures" says a viewer as he took his family to see the beauties on display. Some cars were flown from Japan, from the US, from all over the world. There is a jury of 16 experts on the matter. There must be a grand prize after the show.
But the real pleasure is the idea that Kuwait celebrates history. When it opens up it doors for old machines, labels them with the term "elegance", it gives an opportunity to value historical way or the old way of doing things.
For a country so geared towards the new and the latest in all technologies, it is reassuring to see that there are local oldies, polished, waxed, cleaned in their best attire.

link to the website Concours d'elegance

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Stefan Weber - Berlin Museum

Aleppo room

Ishtar gate
Stefan Weber, orientalist and director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin, Germany, gave a lecture in Kuwait at the Dar al Athar al Islamiyah. The title was obscure:" Fragments of a lost Past or evidence of a connected History: the role of urban artistic heritage in the new conceptualization of the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin".
It sounded convoluted, introverted study of unknown objectives.

Dr Weber pulled it off quite nicely and gave a historical perspective of the museum itself, with dynamics and thought process behind it in the 1920's and the 1930's. He explained the evolution and reasons behind a museum and the evolution of objects' presentations. As the museum is expanding in another wing, he shared briefly the process of making a new space.

He talked about how historically objects and architecture were not isolated but interconnected through time, space and in relation to global trade and movement of artisans. He referred to what Yuka Kadoi was lecturing on few weeks ago: "the Islamic Chinoiserie"or how China influenced Iran in productions of art and objects. But he had a more assertive tone and did not seem to question at all the evidences. He showed the phoenix and the dragon, symbols in China, on metalwork produced in Iran. For him, it could have been imported as a symbol, but after a generation, it was totally integrated in the culture and fashion thus becoming part of the local consciousness.

It seems like a new trend to integrate art history in a context and expand it, rather than isolate objects and art history in its own frame.

In the new Museum, he explained that objects will be displayed according to three parameters: of course chronologically, then geographically, and last, in relation to how and where these objects were used.

Have you been to the Islamic Art Museum in Berlin? Hurry then! They have treasures, and they have directors passionate about their work.
Dr Weber said:"When I got my job at the Museum, I was so happy I could see the Aleppo room and all its woodwork at all times, it's my favorite..."