Kuwaits Gallery Bawa cooperates with the Saudi pioneer Ahmed Mater on a digital exhibition

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When Gallery Bawa launched in October 2020, it entered a pretty shaky art market. Despite numerous online auctions and virtual viewing rooms around the world, major art fairs have still postponed or canceled their events. In March, the Art Basel and UBS Art Market report found that global sales of art and antiques fell 22 percent in 2020, and 2021 was not expected to be a very hopeful year.

However, Kuwait City’s Bawa digital gallery has managed to weather the decline. Founder Bandar Al-Wazzan says he managed to make a profit in the first year. And that’s not all – for its final exhibition of the year, the gallery is partnering with one of Saudi Arabia’s greatest artists, Ahmed Mater, to showcase his first step into digital art.

Bawa was born during the pandemic, but its beginnings go back to when Al-Wazzan was a business student at Northeastern University in Boston at the age of 23. Visiting galleries in the United States, particularly New York, he wondered why Gulf artists were so rare. “The question was always: ‘Why don’t I see any artists near me on these walls?'” He says to millions and others not. “

In the second half of 2019, Al Wazzan completed a six-month internship at Christie’s Dubai, where he became more interested in the art market and worked on his first auction, a fundraising affair for the historic Al Balad district of Jeddah.

Upon graduation from Northeastern University, he set about organizing a group show of Arab artists at Lebanese American University, with a center in New York City. The pandemic messed up those plans and Al-Wazzan settled in Kuwait City when Covid-19 peaked last year. Looking back, he says that he knew it was an ambitious pitch, especially for a young grad who didn’t yet have the network to produce a show, but it helped fuel his desire to work in the arts .

He spent the next few months researching the art market, the art scene in the Gulf and understanding the gallery model. By the time his digital gallery website went live in 2020, he had compiled the next few artists he wanted to showcase, highlighting mostly younger, emerging artists whose practices he admired.

So far he has worked with artists such as Alymamah Rashed from Kuwait and titled their series on the female body Muslim woman cyborg, and Athoub Albusaily, an Abu Dhabi-based artist, whose work Non-land examines the landscape of her home country Kuwait with the help of etchings and drawings on paper.

Bawa’s current show entitled Infinite magnetism, is a generative work of art based on Matter’s well-known magnetism from 2009. The original work shows a massive cube magnet surrounded by iron filings and forming an abstract miniature replica of pilgrims circling the Kaaba.

Months before Infinite magnetism, Al-Wazzan and Mater had various conversations and both hoped to do more than just sell new work online.

Al-Wazzan had come across the mechanical drawing card from Hind Al Saad, a coder from Doha who could program a drawing machine to create illustrations based on a generative system.

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In the end the idea was like this – Infinite magnetism would exist forever, creating endless iterations of Mater’s artwork materialized as mechanical drawings with ink on paper.

Al Saad wrote the code so that each drawing generated has an outline similar to that of magnetism: a black square in the middle with notches, similar to iron filings, radiating from the middle and arranging themselves randomly and uniquely each time.

There are currently 7,777,777 editions available and in 10 years the code will automatically increase to 77,777,777. Another “7” will be added to the code in another 10 years, and so on until forever.

This experimental approach to working with artists is part of Bawa’s style. In April of this year, Al-Wazzan’s was among the first golf galleries to venture into NFTs with a solo by Saudi artist Ahaad Alamoudi, of which the founder admits that only one in six works has been sold (“one more than we expected had “, he says). , but felt was an important step into the crypto-art space. “It was very early for this type of exhibition and [it] was more of a statement, ”he explains, and reckons that the work will sell in a few years.

Bawa also runs at a different speed, averaging one show per month. In total, it presented three “seasons” with four shows per season over the course of the year. Additionally, it has its impromptu “mono” platform where the gallery has an artwork for sale without a fixed schedule that was announced on Bawa’s Instagram just 24 hours before it goes live on the website.

Al-Wazzan’s main focus, he says, is speaking to artists directly about their practice and building a young collector base in the region. Most of Bawa is self-established and self-sustaining, with the gallery owner creating and maintaining the website himself. For each exhibition, Al-Wazzan films and posts a video interview with the artist in which he talks about his work.

“The gallery exists to let artists do what they want. My ultimate goal is to fully represent an artist and allow them to do nothing other than just create the art they want to create, ”he says.

In addition to tackling the challenges of logistics and shipping, Al-Wazzan is also facing a bigger task – promoting and supporting art patrons in a still young market like Kuwait and parts of the Khaleeji scene. “It is important to build up a new collecting culture, to address people from the region who are interested in the artists and to get a direct connection to the work,” he says. When dealing with potential collectors, he often deals with them personally in order to understand their interest in the artist and the work.

Bawas’ long-term goal goes back to when Al-Wazzan was a student – to see more Khaleeji artists on the international art scene. “I want Bawa to be known for bringing new audiences to these artists around the world,” he says. “When people go to art fairs and see artists from Bahrain, Kuwait or the Gulf, I don’t want them to be shocked. It should just be a normal thing. It should just be part of the global art market. “

You can find more information about Galerie Bawa at galeriebawa.com

Updated: December 29, 2021, 6:26 am


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