Exploring The Arabian Touch

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“Artists from this region like to stand out,” says Maliha Al-Tabari, Gallery Director of Art Space.
Sharon Carvalho speaks to the creative woman to find out why art is so important to her and the Middle East

“I began my journey with art after completing by B.F.A. with a minor in Art History at Otis College of Art and Design, California and Ringling School of Art and Design, Florida,” says Maliha. As a painter and sculptor herself, when she returned to Dubai in 2002, she noticed the distinct lack of contemporary art. She felt the need to promote modern Middle Eastern art in the country and it was this need that fuelled the establishment of the gallery. “ArtSpace was founded through the joint efforts of family as well as professional investors and collectors, all of who are extremely passionate about art and focus on the long term success of the art industry,” she explained.

Having worked with and developing the talent of artists within the region and internationally, the gallery has played a key role in creating awareness about Middle Eastern artist in the West. “We started off with modern, such as Adel El Siwi, and Adam Henien to now dealing with younger artists that we have developed, such as Zakarian Ramhani,” says Maliha.

It is intriguing to note that artists from here have been exploring subjects such as icons, beauty and politics. “Another aspect they explore is the moderinising of traditional calligraphy,” she adds. The art scene in the UAE is growing, according to Maliha, with a strong push towards establishing itself as the Middle Eastern hub.

Art has been a part of Maliha’s life for a long time. “Art makes you think. It moves you and gives you a sense of emotion,” she says, “I have loved Gustav Klimt since I was young. Frida Kahlo as well.” Maliha believes that art is very important for the youth as an appreciation of art from a young age allows the child to explore different thoughts and emotions. And this development leads to a thought process that is outside of the box. “It allows them to see things different as well as different ways of engaging people,” she explains.

This out of the box thinking has led to Maliha dedicating herself to highlighting women in the Middle East to give them a platform to speak out and show their work. She has also worked extensively on establishing a professional art center where the younger generation can develop their art skills. “We have hosted a number of workshops and art programmes for children in order to enhance their skills and increase their knowledge about art and its many dimensions,” she explains.

Maliha’s work with the gallery has always been about creating a sense of peace and harmony during times of turmoil. Actively involving themselves in philanthropy and charities, the gallery has been working with universities and non-profit organisations to find different ways to touch people with art and engage people. “We are working on a CSR project on recycling art that helps emerging markets through art,” she says with the hopes to reach a bigger crowd and work on something meaningful and that will make an impact and create something meaningful.