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Art Information Kuwait

How Kuwait’s Public Art Scene is Getting a Shake Up

Last week artist Jad El Khoury was brought back to Kuwait to create a new mural in place of his erased one, that project was just one of many that the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters have in the pipeline.

NCCAL recently underwent a leadership transition that is instigating significant changes. They want to transform the public art scene starting with a commitment to providing increased opportunities for both local and international artists. By fostering trust between artists and the public sector, they hope to cultivate a vibrant public art community in Kuwait.

Their first project launched earlier this year and they called it “Al Fenn Al Thalith Murals Project” (roughly translates to “The Third Art Murals Project). The project is an open platform for artists that streamlines the process of obtaining permits to create murals on public property and spaces. They launched the project with an open invitation for people to submit their designs and if chosen, they’d then be able to paint them onto the electrical substations in that area.

With their first projects out of the way, NCCAL are now working on the next ones. One of the future projects targets what they call “trouble zones” all over Kuwait, breathing life into them with mural art. They also want to collaborate with a variety of entities such as Jedareyat, the Australian Embassy (future project in the works), and various private sponsors/collaborators.

I also found it interesting that NCCAL supports all local artists, regardless of where they’re from. Additionally, they aim to continue inviting international artists so they could bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the local scene.

NCCAL are currently in the process of setting up social media pages and an official website that will encompass all these projects, but for now, if you’re interested in obtaining a permit to create a mural on public property, you can do so through the NCCAL website, nccal.gov.kw

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Art

Street Artist is Back to Paint a New Mural

Back in 2016, a beautiful wall mural by the award winning artist Jad El Khoury was commissioned on the side of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) building. The project had been sponsored by Jedareyat, a local volunteer group that scours the city for dead walls, and artists who can transform them into picture-worthy landmarks.

In 2020, controversy arose when the mural was painted over with white paint, completely destroying it. A lot of people were obviously upset about the incident, and what was a beautiful wall in the city turned into a generic white surface.

But there is now some good news! 

Jad has been brought back to Kuwait and has been commissioned to paint a brand new mural on the same wall again. The new artwork was commissioned by Froyo, the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters and in collaboration again with Jedariyat.

The building has been undergoing preparation over the past few days and is now ready to be painted on. Jad will be starting work tomorrow (Friday) and is expected to complete the artwork by next Wednesday. If you want to watch him paint his new mural, then you can pass by over the coming days during the day to check him work.

Jad’s previous artwork was titled “Single Man” and was inspired by him moving from Lebanon to Kuwait for work. The mural had represented a single person trying to fit into a new chaotic environment.

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Art Kuwait

1,329 Roses at Al Shaheed Park

On the occasion of National Day and Liberation Day, @alshaheedpark in collaboration with @martyrskuwait created a light installation composed of LED roses. There are 1,329 roses in the garden, each representing a Kuwaiti martyr.

The installation is located in Al Shaheed Park Phase II, and if you want to take photos, I’d recommend visiting during sunset so that your photos don’t end up very dark.

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Art People

Kuwaiti Artists Shine at Desert x Alula

Two Kuwaiti female artists, Aseel AlYaqoub and Monira Al Qadiri are taking part in this year’s Desert X AlUla 2024 open-air art exhibition.

15 artists from around the world were invited to take part in the exhibition under the theme of “In the Presence Of Absence”. The exhibition is taking place in AlUla area in Saudi Arabia and is open to all to visit.

Aseel’s work is the one on top, while Monira’s are the black enlarged meteorites above. For more information and photos of their installations, head over to their instagram account @aseelalyaqoub and @moniraism.

Desert X AlUla 2024 runs from 9 February to 23 March. For more information on the exhibition, visit @artsalula

Photos: Courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla

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Art Events

BDD Exhibition

If you’re looking for something to do tonight, Bon Jiri has a small bottom drawer drawing exhibition featuring 7 artists and 14 artworks. Generally the vibe at their small events are very cool so pass by if you feel like doing something. @bonjiri.yakitori

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Art

Farah Behbehani’s Art Installation at Louvre

Kuwaiti artist Farah Behbehani was one of seven artists shortlisted for the third edition of Louvre Abu Dhabi ‘Art Here’.

This year ‘Art Here’ explores the theme of ‘Transparencies’ and Farah’s installation titled Hiya (She) is a homage to the 10th-century Syrian Muslim astronomer, Mariam Al-‘Ijliya who changed the face of astronomy by pioneering an early scientific instrument used to measure time and to calculate the position celestial bodies.

Farah’s installation is inspired by the Tughrul tower, a 12th-century brick tomb tower that also functions as an indicator of time. The original brick structure is recreated in colored glass, referencing the tradition of stained glass used in sacred monuments dating back to the Umayyad dynasty. The colors of the 48-paneled glass structure are based on the visible light spectrum, which varies in wavelength across the day. As light permeates the colored glass, it transforms throughout the day, painting its surroundings with a rich interplay of color and light.

Farah Behbehani is also shortlisted for The Richard Mille Art Prize 2023 with the winner taking home a $60,000 cash award.

If you’re in Abu Dhabi anytime in the next couple of months, Art Here 2023 is running till February 18th, 2024.

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Art Things to do Travel

Visit the Noor Riyadh Festival 2023

Last year I visited Riyadh to check out the Noor Festival, the largest light art festival in the world. Noor means light in Arabic and last year they had 44 different light installations spread across Riyadh and some were really epic. This year the festival is going to be even bigger with over 80 artists invited to participate.

Monira Al Qadiri (@moniraism), the Kuwaiti visual artist whom I’ve previously featured on the blog before is one of the artists invited to take part in the festival this year which starts on November 30th and continue till December 16th.

Visiting the different light installations is free and finding them is easy using the festival app.

If you’ve never been to Riyadh it’s a fun road trip if you want to drive down. Any resident of Kuwait can also apply for a Saudi tourism eVisa no matter of your nationality. There is a lot to do in Riyadh in terms of things to see and restaurants to experience. Last year I went for one night only because there were a handful of light installations I wanted to see but it was really hectic and I wished I stayed a night longer. You can do it in just a night if you really want but two nights would be much better experience.

For more information on the festival, visit @noorriyadhfestival or riyadhart.sa/en/noor-riyadh

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Art Kuwait

The Tareq Rajab Museum has Reopened

One of my favorite museums in Kuwait is the Tareq Rajab Museum. I always found the museum interesting since it was packed with a vast variety of objects covering many different subjects. They have an incredible collection of over 30,000 pieces many of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Over a year ago, the museum closed for renovations but they’re now finally reopening again tomorrow (Oct 17).

The museum was originally founded in 1980 by Tareq S. Rajab and his wife, Jehan S. Rajab. A couple of years ago their grandson Tareq N. Rajab took over the responsibility of the family museum and started the process of rejuvenating it. He originally started with the website and Instagram account, that was followed by the creation of the new Arms & Armor wing of the museum before being handed the rest of the museum to renovate.

Tareq invited me to visit the museum for a sneak peek and although before visiting I was worried it might have lost its charm with the renovation, I’m pleased to say it hasn’t.

At first glance, the museum’s aesthetics remain largely unchanged, but there have been significant improvements. The displays, previously overcrowded and lacking descriptions, have been completely revamped. They are now curated with clear descriptions for every item. There is also a new and HUGE diorama in the museum depicting the famous “Battle of Hattin”. The diorama is composed of 3,500 tiny soldiers that were hand painted individually by Tareq, his dad and three other colleagues over a period of 14 months. There was clearly a lot of time and passion involved in the museum renovation.

If you’re looking for an interesting place to visit then I can’t recommend this museum enough. The entrance fee is still only 2KD and it also gives you access to the “Tareq Rajab Museum of Islamic Calligraphy” that’s located in the same neighborhood.

The opening hours are:
Saturday to Thursday: 9AM – 1PM & 4:30PM – 8:30PM
Friday: 9AM – 1PM

The museum is in Jabriya and here is the location on Google Maps.

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50s to 90s Art

Gulf War ANSI Art

Found these vintage ANSI art relating to the 1990 Gulf War and thought they were super interesting. I use to love ANSI and ASCII art back in the day and if I remember correctly, my first digital porn image I had was a black and white ASCII drawing sometime back in the 80s which a friend had given to me on a 5.25 floppy. Source

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Art

Onus Art Installation by Monira Al Qadiri

Onus is a glass installation by Kuwaiti visual artist Monira Al Qadiri. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw the pictures and read the story behind it.

During the Gulf War, dead birds, fish, and animals regularly lined the coastline and deserts because of the massive toxic clouds fed by hundreds of torched oil wells. When images of these oil-drenched animals were shared in the news, many people thought they were fake and just propaganda. Monira learned of this misconception while she was studying at university in Japan and so Onus is her way of breathing life back into her memories by recreating these oil-drenched birds as glass objects.

If you’re in Berlin, Monira’s work is currently on display at the Koenig Galerie. If you want to see more of her work online, check out her Instagram @moniraism or website moniraalqadiri.com

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Art

Giant Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin in Kuwait

I was going through some articles about Kuwaiti homes on Architectural Digest when one home caught my attention. The house had a giant bronze pumpkin by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in their courtyard. I recognized the pumpkin because I had previously come across photos of them nearly a decade ago when they were being exhibited outside in a garden at a gallery in London (see below).

So random that one of them ended up here in Kuwait. To get an idea on how much these sell for, Yayoi is considered to be the most expensive living female artist at auction and a smaller version of this pumpkin got sold for a million dollars back in 2017.

To check out all the photos from the house, here is a link to the article on Architectural Digest.

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Art People

Art for Pinot

Pinot is a digital artist that was living in Kuwait up till 2014 and is incredibly talented in pixel art and animation using vintage computers. He gained worldwide fame through the service Vine which back before Twitter acquired it, used to allow users to share six-second-long looping video clips. Eventually a digital agency in New York found out about him and offered him a job so he packed up and left Kuwait with his family to work and live there. Since then he’s gotten even more popular with nearly 400K followers on Instagram and even ended up on an MKBHD episode where he showed Marques how to paint on an old Mac.

His Childish Gambino video that went viral

Sadly back in June he suffered a stroke and fell into a coma. Since then he’s been gradually progressing ever so slowly and eventually was taken off life support since he started breathing by himself. He also started making hand gestures and moving one of his arms and legs and is still slowly improving.

Art for Pinot is an initiative from the Indonesian NFT community to help him by inviting fellow creators to donate their artwork as a form of support. If you’re an artist reading this you can help by donating an artwork. For more information visit bit.ly/ArtforPino

If you’re not an artist but still want to help, there is a GoFundMe page.

If you’re just curious and want to check out some of Pinot’s work, his Instagram is @pinot and his twitter (which he posts animations in progress) is also @pinot

If you want to stay updated on his progress, his wife is sharing updates on her Instagram @ditut

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Art

Call for Illustrators

If you’re an illustrator you might be interested in this. The National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters is asking local artists to share illustrations with the theme of Cosmic Fantasy. There is no prize, it’s not a competition, but the best illustrations will eventually get featured on their Instagram account.

If you’re interested, more details are available here.

One thing to be careful of, according to the rules, they might choose to use your artwork for future campaigns and you won’t be paid for it. So you’d be providing campaign artwork for free which doesn’t seem very fair to the artist.

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Art Events

Four Exhibitions Opening Tonight!

The Contemporary Art Platform is opening four different exhibitions tonight featuring:

I Am Here – Manuella Guiragossian
My Name Is Woman – Maha AlAsaker
Deconstructed Phyche – Sheikha Al Habishi
DIVA! – Organized by the Italian Embassy

The opening is at 7:00PM and is free to attend. Here is the location on Google Maps

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Art Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek: Kuwait National Museum

In May 1960, an international competition was held for the architectural project for the Kuwait National Museum which would be located in the cultural district of the 1952 Master Plan of Kuwait. The competition was won by French architect Michel Écochard and the museum was finally opened in 1983 where it stayed open up until the 1990 invasion. The museum was badly damaged during the war and most of the buildings remained closed (some photos of the destruction here). There were talks at one point of demolishing the museum and building a new one but thankfully in 2014, it was decided to save the existing museum by restoring it.

The restoration project is now complete and the museum is currently in the process of getting ready to reopen. I got invited to a sneak peek of the museum, something that I’ve been wanting for years. I was lucky enough to visit the museum back in the 80s, and although I don’t remember much of it, I do appreciate the fact that they decided to restore the landmark building instead of demolishing it as is the case most of the time.

The Kuwait National Museum is part of the Qibla Cultural District (Google Maps) which includes the Sadu House, the National Library, and Al-Qibla School for Girls Education. The main museum complex comprises of four buildings each housing a different part of Kuwait’s history:

Building 1 – Archeology of Kuwait
Building 2 – Ethnographic History of Kuwait
Building 3 – Ancient East
Building 4 – Ancient East

Buildings 1 and 2 are already open while buildings 3 and 4 are the ones heavily damaged during the war and the ones I got to tour. Buildings 3 and 4 are the largest buildings and will cover art in the Ancient East starting in the 3rd millennium BC going through Arabia before Islam, then the beginning of Islam, followed by the full chronology of Islamic Art.

All four buildings are connected by closed bridges. This means once you enter a building you can navigate the whole museum without stepping outside making it very convenient during the hot summer months.

Minor changes were made to the structure of the buildings, large semi-opaque windows were installed to bring in more daylight, and some minor new stairs and walkways were added due to updated fire safety requirements. All the work looked very tasteful and well-executed although I do wish they had kept the original pink brick facade.

There is also a planetarium outside the museum which you’ve most likely seen driving by on the Gulf Road since it’s the building closest to the road and its round spherical shape is hard to miss.

The planetarium is also in the final stages of renovation and will be reopening soon.

As I mentioned early on in the post, buildings3 and 4 of the museum are currently in the process of getting ready to reopen. They’re expecting that would happen in two years’ time, around 2024. In the meantime, buildings 1 and 2 are open and you can visit those now, here is my previous post about them. Link