For all the art fans, budding artists, and seasoned pros in Bahrain, October sees the international art fair ArtBahrain providing a global platform to showcase the very best in Bahraini art. The four-day fair will stimulate creativity and opportunity for the local arts scene to connect on a global stage. FACT caught up with ArtBahrain Co-founder Kaneka Subberwal to learn more about the venture…

Art Bahrain has teamed up with a number of Bahraini galleries including Al Riwaq, Hend Gallery, Busaad Art Gallery and Amina Gallery as well as The Bahrain Arts Society to provide an opportunity for local artists to exhibit their work in some of the most prestigious art institutions.


“Art has been at the forefront of happenings in Bahrain for a while now, with 2014 being declared Our Year of Art and in 2013, Manama was chosen as the Arab Capital of Tourism…”

Bahraini artists such as Ali Al Mahmeed, Sheikha Marwa Bint Rashid Al Khalifa, Shaikha Lulwa Bint Abdulazia Al Khalifa and Jamal Abdul Rahim, along with many more, will be displaying their works.

Art has been at the forefront of happenings in Bahrain for a while now, with 2014 being declared Our Year of Art and in 2013, Manama was chosen as the Arab Capital of Tourism. These developments have put Bahrain on the global map and there has never been a more inviting time for art-enthusiasts to check out the emerging local talent.

ArtBahrain is preparing to host up to 200 international art collectors, 2,000 VIP clients and approximately 10,000 visitors. The event is set to be a culminating point for artists, art collectors and art lovers. Internationally minded, the art fair will serve as a platform where artists and galleries from around the world will share space, ideas and inspiration with local artists.

Here, Co-Founder, Kaneka Subberwal, tells us more…

Hi Kaneka! Tell us more about how the idea for ArtBahrain started…

ArtBahrain has been my dream and vision ever since I arrived on the Island. I experienced the wealth of culture that Bahrain has to offer while hosting a number of exhibitions since I moved here in 2008 with my company Art Select. I came up with the idea of doing ArtBahrain as a way to be the conduit for local Bahraini artists and the international art community.

What is ArtBahrain’s vision?

The vision for ArtBahrain is to establish a forward thinking platform to further promote the growth of art in the country, and to bring local artists to an international audience.

Describe the local arts scene in Bahrain – is there any room for development?

Bahrain has had an interesting, independent artistic spirit. In 1983, 34 Bahraini artists approached the government to establish the Bahrain Arts Society, a non-government organisation aimed at supporting Bahrain cultural arts and sharing it regionally. The only thing that local artists are missing is international exposure.

What do you hope to achieve through the ArtBahrain fair?

I hope to create a common space for galleries and artists from around the globe to connect with collectors and art aficionados, whilst hoping that neighbouring Arab States will be more proactive in investing in and promoting their contemporary artists to the world.

Tell us more about the process by which the fair has been organised…

I have been in touch with artists and galleries over the years in connection with Art Select, an art advisory organisation. I believe that outreach is a key factor in sharing and spreading the word about this major initiative. I focused on working with media across the world ranging from the Middle East to the UK, as a crucial step towards attracting the right people to the fair.

Why do you think it’s taken so long for something like the ArtBahrain fair to take place in the country?

Art fairs are quite a new phenomenon in the Middle East. Even Art Dubai is barely 10 years old. This must be seen in the context of other art fairs across the world. Just as an example, the Venice Biennale in Europe was inaugurated way back in 1895. I think it was just a matter of time before something like ArtBahrain took place.

Did you face any challenges with setting up ArtBahrain?

Of course, it is inevitable that there were challenges galore! As an art investment expert, I had to learn to wear different hats. But I am glad there is a wonderfully motivated, highly trained professional team that is working with me to make this happen.

How can people get involved – artists and collectors/art fans?

By attending the event! Apart from the art on display, we will also have forums, panel discussions, skill-enhancing workshops and other interactive activities. You can also keep updated via our social media channels too.We are happy to assist with even primary logistics like accommodation and beneficial rates for shipping etc. We have worked out bulk prices to pass on the benefits to the actual users as we want people in and not to alienate people by making it expensive.

Why is ArtBahrain so special to you?

I want people to experience the wonderful island as I have. I came to Bahrain in 2008 and had a number of art shows across the country – this is the culmination of my work in Bahrain, and one that I hope will make a big impact in the region.

What’s your advice for budding artists in Bahrain?

I think exposure is crucial – I would advise them to see as much art as they can, to visit exhibitions and expose themselves to the art scene more. All of this will encourage them to engage in learning new mediums, methods, styles, and techniques and to develop themselves. Most importantly – they should express issues or facets of Bahrain and the Middle East in their art, and not lose their focus and blend in with the works of artists from the west.

What does the future hold for ArtBahrain after the fair is over?

We are planning to host ArtBahrain annually, with the aim of making Bahrain a focal point for art in the Middle East.



GO: ArtBahrain will run from October 13 to 16.

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