by Villa 88
  • 3 minute read
  • January 02, 2023
How The Khaleeji Art Museum Is Placing Gulf Women Artists On The Global Map

The year 2020 is significant in its own way. For many, it’ll always be synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a year when many of us had to rethink the way we work, and our lives were given a new meaning. Had you told us in January of that year that we’d be establishing a museum just a few months later, we probably wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s exactly what happened.

Being the founders of Sekka, a London- based media brand and creative and communications consultancy that celebrates art, culture and literature from the Arab world, we’ve been working closely with regional creatives for years. This has allowed us to understand the challenges faced by many of them.

Manar Alhinai, photography by Maryna Fasteyeva

When the pandemic struck, the creative sector was among the first to be negatively impacted. This was one of the main reasons why we dedicated our efforts towards spotlighting creatives in the Gulf region by launching a digital art exhibition as a pilot project on Sekka that year. Titled ‘Khaleejis in the Time of Corona’, the show featured diverse works by Khaleeji and Gulf-based artists, who channelled their experiences with the pandemic into their art.

The exhibition was an instant hit, and we welcomed more than 10,000 visitors just in its first month. Given its success, and with many museums and art institutions embracing the digital shift, it was a natural progression for us to establish the Khaleeji Art Museum.

Sheikha Lulwa Al Khalifa. Hello Doll Face. 2018. Oil on canvas. 100x120cm.

Officially launched on 18 May 2020 to coincide with International Museum Day, this is the region’s first digital museum devoted to exhibiting works by artists from and based in the Gulf.

Through the museum and the work we do, our mission is to introduce enthusiasts from around the world to the modern and contemporary art of our region, foster dialogue with them, and build strong cultural bridges.

We accomplish that through digital art showcases, galleries, in-flight experiences, and in-person events and shows that allow visitors to physically explore the works.

We embrace and honour creativity, diverse art forms, and established as well as emerging artists. We also collaborate with international art and public institutions to organise exhibitions that promote regional cultural production.

Since the inception of the Khaleeji Art Museum, we’ve displayed works of more than 65 artists based in the region, and organised more than 20 art shows. We’ve had the pleasure of exhibiting works by eL Seed, Maitha Abdallah, Sheikha Lulwa Al Khalifa, Nujoom Alghanem, Her Highness Sayyida Meyyan Al Said, and Hussain AlMoosawi, among others.

One of our most memorable milestones is celebrating Alia Al Farsi, a leading contemporary artist from Oman, and sharing her life’s works in a permanent digital gallery in our museum. With a career spanning decades, she has left a mark on her country’s art scene like few female artists have before her.

Sharifah Alhinai, photography by Nabeela Huda

The digital gallery was launched via an exclusive event at the artist’s Alia Gallery last June in Muscat, Oman, and is the first to digitise over 200 works by her, making them available for art lovers worldwide. It presents an unparalleled opportunity to view the work of an established artist from the region and show the world a glimpse of her creative potential.

It’s integral for us to recognise the works of regional women artists, who’ve generally been underrepresented in the global art circuit. By launching the museum with an all-Gulf-women team and celebrating artists like Alia through her permanent digital gallery in our museum, we hope to play our part in bridging this gap.

Nujoom Alghanem. Souraya. 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 230x122cm.

Our journey hasn’t been without challenges. As is the case with any venture, there will always be bumps on the road, but we’ve set our eyes on our mission and its significance in empowering artists. We’re grateful for how our journey has unfolded and we look forward to unveiling more creative projects that will continue to serve our region and its artists. All we can say is, stay tuned.

Manar Alhinai is the co-founder and director of the Khaleeji Art Museum, the first digital museum dedicated to art from the Gulf Arab states. She’s also the CEO and Editor-In-Chief of Sekka, a London-based media brand and creative and communications consultancy that celebrates art, culture and literature from the Arab world.

Sharifah Alhinai is the co-founder and director of the Khaleeji Art Museum, and the founder of Sekka, where she serves as COO. She’s a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies and the University of Oxford.

Visit and follow @Khaleejiartmuseum on Instagram.

Next In