Summer 2015

Art & Auctions
Celebrating art

Organisers of an upcoming fair in Bahrain are hoping the inaugural event will help boost Bahrain’s credentials as a destination for art

Artists and galleries from around the world will be in the spotlight at a new international art fair which will be held in Bahrain this October.

‘Art Bahrain’ is a celebration of a history and culture strongly rooted in artistic expression and is designed to showcase the very best the country has to offer and bring to the kingdom the finest from all over the world.

Organised by Pico International, the first edition of Art Bahrain will serve as a platform for artists and galleries from the kingdom and around the world to share space, ideas and draw inspiration from each other.

The brainchild of art enthusiast Kaneka Subberwal, Art Bahrain stems from a dream she had cradled ever since she set foot on the island.

“I came to Bahrain in 2008 and I’ve held a number of art shows in the country. What I did learn through my many interactions is that Bahrain has a lot to offer artistically and ever since then I have been dreaming of this day,” she tells Arabian Knight.

“I do not remember what brought me here but I definitely know what kept me here,” Subberwal continues, admitting that “she fell in love with Bahrain” from the first day she arrived.

Originally from India, Subberwal co-founded Art Select in Bahrain, an art advisory and consultancy, to assist clients in understanding art as an investment. 

Through Art Bahrain, Subberwal aspires to bring international art, artists and collectors to Bahrain. 

The roots of contemporary art in Bahrain are said to date back more than half a century,  with the establishment of an arts and literature club in 1952, representing the emergence of a modern art movement in the 1950s, according to Wikipedia, which also notes that in 1956, the first art exhibition was held in the capital Manama. 

Expressionism and surrealism, as well as calligraphic art are the popular forms of art in the country while abstract expressionism has only gained popularity in recent decades, it points out.


Held under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the wife of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and President of the Supreme Council for Women, Art Bahrain 2015 is open to both collectors and first-time buyers, celebrating the unique perspective of each individual’s sense and sensibility in terms of what art means to them.

At a press launch at the Four Seasons Bahrain Bay, Subberwal and the Art Bahrain team revealed details of the participating galleries and artists.

Among the budding local artists were Jamal Abdul Rahim – who displayed his largest lithograph print at the conference – Lulwa Al Khalifa and Marwa Bin Rashid as well as local galleries Al Riwaq Art Space and Amina Gallery.

Abdul Rahim is one of Bahrain’s most established and highly regarded contemporary artists, exhibiting his work in Europe and across the Middle East. 

His untutored journey into the world of art began in 1964, and since then he has amassed an impressive portfolio of exhibitions.

Abdul Rahim draws inspiration from the movement and fluidity of things around him, capturing his interpretations in colours and strokes. Being self-taught allowed him to experiment and discover conventional image making. 

He expresses himself through painting, sculpturing and lithograph prints, running one of the largest workshops for art printing in the region.

Speaking to Arabian Knight, Rahim says Art Bahrain is a “good start” for the country as the inaugural fair would “put Bahrain on the map”.

“We have great artists here, but they do not get the chance to publicise their art. Art Bahrain will be the perfect platform for local artists to show the world our talent,” he says.

Besides showcasing local talent, Art Bahrain will also feature the renowned British artist Sacha Jafri, Indian artists Binoy Varghese and Jaideep Mehrotra, Syrian artist Nasr Warour (who is based in Dubai), Emirati artist Matter bin Lahej, Radhika Hamlai, an Indian artist based in Oman, and Sujata Bajaj, an Indian artist based in France.

Overseas galleries include Elmarsa Gallery (Tunisia), Athr Gallery and Arabian Collections Gallery (both from Saudi Arabia), Albemarle Gallery (UK) and Samer Kozah Gallery (Lebanon).


A highlight at the event, Jafri will debut an 18-year retrospective world tour, which comprises 48 works – a selection of the four best paintings from each of his 12 collections from 1996 to 2014. The pieces have been handpicked and carefully curated by Jafri for display at Art Bahrain.

A leading contemporary artist, Jafri is said to be the youngest living artist in the world to have had a 10-year museum retrospective at leading museums of the world when he was just 30, according to reports.

Born in 1977, the Indian-origin artist’s achievements include an award from the United Nations (UN) for his artistic and humanitarian work, having personally raised over $14 million from the sale of his work for various charities around the globe. 

According to reports, Jafri’s works typically sell for between $250,000 and $850,000 and its collectors are said to include the royal families of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sharjah as well as billionaire Bill Gates, actors Kevin Spacey and George Clooney, US President Barack Obama and former US President Bill Clinton, amongst many other celebrities, museum collections and art houses.

He has had some very high-profile commissions including painting the official 1,000-day countdown painting for the 2012 London Olympics unveiled by HRH Princess Anne at the Natural History Museum; a life-size painted baby elephant sculpture for the 2010 Elephant Parade in London; the official painting to celebrate the achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson with Manchester United; a hand-painted TT for Audi; the official F1 Monaco Grand Prix painting commissioned by Prince Albert of Monaco selling for $850,000; a celebrated David Beckham painting, selling in 2009 for $500,000 that was subsequently valued at $1.4 million; the commission from Barbara Broccoli for the painting to launch the Casino Royale Bond film, and a live painting created at the Royal Albert Hall in front of a 5,000-strong audience.

He was also commissioned to paint the 22 most influential living Muslims including such luminaries as Muhammad Ali, soccer star Zinedine Zidane, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, and film legend Omar Sharif, amongst others. 

The fair, which will take place from October 13 to 16 inside a specially constructed marquee near the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, aims at hosting about 48 booths, showcasing a mixture of artists and galleries.

Organisers expect to host up to 200 international art collectors, close to 2,000 VIP clients and approximately 10,000 visitors.

© Al Hilal Group all rights reserved. Designed & Developed by North Star.