Feature. The Saudi female thobe HRH Princess Basma bint Majid bin Abdul-Aziz AlSaud is wearing is her own adaptation of a classic original, and she moves in it with the kind of effortless confidence reserved for a woman who feels at home in her own body and life. “The people who say that traditional dress inhibits a woman’s mobility don’t know the variety of choices we have in Saudi Arabia,” says the philanthropist, who is credited with launching a movement that bolsters fashionable traditional dress in the Kingdom, while also preserving the precious cultural patrimony of the country.

With its classic Islamic architecture contrasted with artwork by hot-ticket Arab names, the Four Seasons Resort in Dubai is the perfect backdrop for today’s photo shoot. There is a whole caravan of people involved and a handful of local onlookers. But the Princess is unfazed. Leaning against a gilded mosaic with her hands clasped, the princess wears a silk thobe dotted with embroidered pomegranates – an updated version of a dress that would typically be worn in the Kingdom’s central region by women from the Banu Tamim tribe. A vintage gold lariat encircles her neck, trailing down her torso like a summer vine. Her makeup is minimal and her face is elegantly ageless, but her expression is focused.

We are here to discuss the Princess’s innovative work with the Riyadh-based Art of Heritage organization. Under her leadership, and with the support of the board, including chairperson HRH Sara Al Faisal Abdul-Aziz, HRH Princess Haifa Al Faisal (who started the collection years ago), and HRH Princess Moudi bint Khalid bin Abdul-Aziz, it has been making waves by crafting contemporary luxury takes on traditional dress. All the garments are meaningfully produced by more than 100 female artisans who are employed full-time.

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Review. International press loves to dismiss Dubai as a soulless place devoid of local culture and invested instead in yachts, luxury malls, camel racing, and cheap labor. Just a few miles from the touristy glitz, however, a strong and stable art scene lies in the industrial area of Al Quoz, where artists have been testing conventions and beliefs in the United Arab Emirates since the 1980s alongside pioneering dealers who have sold work to increasingly cultivated collectors for more than a decade. And now a show of works by another community of artists—this one from the historical lore of downtown New York—is on view at the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, a private museum on Al Quoz’s Alserkal Avenue.

“Artist Run New York: The Seventies,” a group exhibition featuring 44 works by 18 artists including Richard Nonas, Tina Girouard, Trisha Brown, Richard Tuttle, and Gordon Matta-Clark, prompts conversations about the resonance of art from a very different time and place. Perhaps more importantly, in the midst of a fast-developing 500,000-square-foot Alserkal Avenue complex of warehouses now containing around 12 galleries and 40 creative outlets as well as a new Rem Koolhaas-designed exhibition space, connections can be drawn between a celebrated period from a foreign past and a growing UAE art ecosystem.

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INTERIORS. Beirut fashion photographer Tarek Moukaddem’s converted shoe factory blends old world flavour with warehouse edge.

“Both my work and my home are organized chaos, but there is harmony hidden within,” says, Tarek Moukaddem. In much the same way that the boundary pushing fashion photographer, draws out the sculptural beauty of unconventional faces from behind the lens, he was able to recognize the potential for an old shoe factory unexpectedly devastated by a fire to be transformed into a place to call home.

The 500-square meter warehouse is set in Karantina, the new Meatpacking District of Beirut, where an experimental arts and culture scene is on the rise. When a realtor first showed it to him more than four years ago, the walls were charred black, the flooring was mismatched, and a series of non-load-bearing walls fully blocked out the vivacious city’s light. Moukaddem quickly converted the space into an open, loft-style expanse—with only his office, bedroom and an intimate living room for entertaining close friends positioned behind private doors.

Read More… AD13 – Portfolio Tarek Moukaddem

 

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NEWSPAPER ARTICLE. The New York-based online platform artnet opened its inaugural sale of Contemporary Middle Eastern Art earlier this month. In some ways this first thoughtfully curated sale plays it safe with lots by some surefire darlings of Middle Eastern art— including ‘Transparent Body’ a rare 2013 oil on panel from a particularly successful series by Hayv Kahraman who is known for her portrayal of the female figure as delicate yet unstoppably fierce. Other lots include pieces by Shirin Neshat and Manal Al-Dowayan, as well as two hand-coloured gelatin silver prints by Youssef Nabil, which depict the Cairo film scene with such nostalgia that one can practically hear a scratchy soundtrack playing in the background.

Although it’s exciting to watch artnet’s predominantly Western group of collectors gain exposure to established regional forces, what is truly intriguing about this sale is the inclusion of up and coming names. This includes an accessible mixed media piece by breakout artist Sara Al Haddad (who was recently announced as participating in the upcoming UAE National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale), an earlier work by Emirati surrealist Nasir Nasrallah, as well as Mousepad, a riff on traditional Persian carpets by Kour Pour, a British artist of part Iranian descent based in Los Angeles.

The sale, which runs continually until February 27, comes on the heels of an announcement that the online platform has hired Bibi Naz Zavieh as Senior Middle Eastern Art Specialist. A familiar name to many, Zavieh cut her teeth at Christie’s Dubai, spending critical years investigating regional art’s passage from studio, to estate, and ultimately auction room, as all the while the UAE art market steadily emerged.

Zavieh suggests that her new role at artnet is the result of prestigious Western institutions acquiring work by regional artists as well as holding high profile group exhibitions. “All of this has been raising greater international awareness for the art of the region,” she says. “As we see this major shift, it is a natural step for artnet, and other auction houses, to focus more on this field and bring in their expertise on the market.”

As a particularly tense political climate divides North America, it is surely not coincidental that most of the artists included in the sale have been concerned over the long haul with using their practices to, as Zavieh aptly puts it, “build bridges between East and West.”

Founded back in the 90’s by German dealer and artpreneur Hans Neuendorf, artnet first came onto the scene as the home of an invaluable subscription-based price database, but was subsequently one of the daring few to lead the way in launching exclusive online art auctions—a trend which seems to be here to stay around the region and abroad, particularly for work selling at young collector and mid-range entry points.

Zavieh says that moving forward at artnet, “We are hoping to hold three to four general Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sales like this one per year. We will also have themed auctions throughout the year where we will be working across categories, such as bringing together photography and art from the Middle East, or a sale focusing on modern artists from the region.”

-Originally published here by The National, on The Art Blog edited by Anna Seaman. Image courtesy of artnet.

Kour Pour
Mousepad, 2014
Inkjet and acrylic on canvas laid over panel
9 x 7 x 1.25 in. (22.86 x 17.78 x 3.18 cm.)
Estimate: $2,500-3,50000

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