Art Bahrain Across Borders: A Highlight of 2018
Early in 2018, Art Bahrain ran one of the most quietly fascinating exhibitions of the year. It may not have crossed your radar until now, but it’s well worth your time to look back at just what and who was involved and why it was significant.
Signalling Bahrain’s debut on the stage as a home of and patron for contemporary art, it was the arrival of a cultural force to be reckoned with and chose to grapple with a fascinating theme. It’s hard to deny we live in a divided world, and an exhibition that takes on the pain and drama of those political geographical divisions is to be lauded!
The organisers went to task in picking out artists to feature in this debut show: they could be forgiven for simply seeking out established names to give this new curatorial voice in the art world some of the weight associated with these already renowned artists, but Art Bahrain is to be commended for giving space for new voices. In among the heavyweights is Zurab Tsereteli, a Russian sculptor who works on a huge scale and whose work has long had a political bent, from comments on the fall of the Berlin Wall to the famous commemoration of the 9/11 attacks Tear of Grief in New Jersey.
In this exhibition, though, he takes second place to the relative newcomer Majid Kurdieh. While dismissed by some as simplistic and naïve – mere nature art – this criticism misses the context in which the work exists. Kurdieh works with the backdrop of the war in Syria constantly, wrestling with images of pain and torment, and the terror and horror of war. Taking this trauma, which exists on a national scale and transforming it into Utopian dreaming doesn’t just make his work the perfect fit for this exhibition, it’s the truest application of art in the world. To take in the horrors of a hurting world and dream a better future to sustain us and let us work toward is part of the heavy responsibility of being an artist in a hurting time, and his achievements are to be underestimated at your peril.
Art Bahrain Across Borders (already abbreviated to ArtBAB) has emerged as a space for progressive, inventive voices to meet, collaborate and emerge changed and energised. Those who are eager to find the next big thing in the art world, would do well to keep their eyes on ArtBAB, whether they’re collectors or simple enthusiastis.