Marion Labani is fast becoming Bahrain’s most important art fixer
Time Out Bahrain staff
How long have you been in Bahrain and what is your background in terms of art? I come from a country which no longer exists, the German Democratic Republic or East Germany. I spent my childhood and teenage years in a political, economical and cultural system which did not allow much self discovery and creative freedom. Just after I graduated from university, the reunification with West Germany occurred and my life took directions which I never could have dared to dream of. While working in a stem cell research team at the university in Leipzig, I took private art classes in the evening during a time when a lot of people were turning to the creative arts to try to understand what was happening in the country. I moved to Bahrain in 2004, and have since worked with many of the country’s most interesting artists in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, the German Embassy, and the National Museum of Bahrain.
What do you look for in art? My personal approach to the region’s artwork, especially to Bahrain’s artists, is based on my passion for art which speaks to me, letting my inner voice resonate with the aesthetics , expression, impressions, mystic and socially critical pieces of art. The artwork produced here in all its facets constantly surprises me in terms of the diversity of styles and how artists manage on this little island to work in so many different techniques.
You founded ART Lounge. Tell us more about it. ART lounge provides art consultancy for private and corporate clients. I am helping individual clients to find the right piece of artwork for them. Often it is for hotels or corporate spaces, in which case I speak with the interior designers to make sure the artwork fits with the overall philosophy of design. I am focusing on making people aware of Bahraini artists and artists who are resident here, and that includes painters, sculptors, photographers and so on. I also provide prints of classic art by a fine art printmaker in Munich, Germany. In addition to this, we also organise site-specific exhibitions for local artists.
Does the commissioning of art for businesses and corporate spaces limit the creative process? A commissioned piece of art is always different and, of course, a challenge for the artist in comparison to a piece which the artist creates in free spirit following solely his/her inspiration. Ideally we marry the objectives of the client with the style and inclination of the artists so the two can work in parallel. Most of the time it’s a challenge which the artist takes as an artistic enterprise, though many of the clients are relatively free with their objectives as they want to have an authentic and true piece of art work.
Tell me about your latest project, the Sofitel Zallaq Resort. What were the specifications and what did you deliver? I am consulting Sofitel in all matters of wall artwork related to the guestrooms and public areas. The guestroom wall artwork has been already chosen and produced and is waiting to be hung within the next few weeks. The objective was to find pictures that reflect Bahrain’s culture, traditions and heritage. Right now we are searching for art to be displayed at the public spaces within the hotel.
Is art reall that important in corporate spaces? For my point of view, but I am of course a passionate art lover, art is important everywhere in life. We spend a lot of time in corporate spaces, and art gives these places a soul. A place with no art is a dead place to me. Art instils all kinds of feelings: to be inspired, to be motivated, to be relaxed, to feel happy, sad, melancholic… It allows people the space to pause for a moment.
Bahrain has relatively little public art, but if you could bestow one work of art in a public space in Bahrain, what would it be and where would you put it? Firstly, I would put art on the walls of Le Palme at the Bahrain Fort Museum – currently it has the charm of the inside of a freezer. Secondly, I would place sculptures all over Bahrain, particularly in the malls. Thirdly, I would rather like to have a rule that all banks, insurance companies and the like would have to purchase a piece of art by a Bahraini artist for their public areas as some kind of business tax. Wouldn’t that be a good idea?
ART Lounge has a permanent exhibition at the German Orthopaedic Hospital of the work of Bahrain resident Manfred Erber and Bahraini artist Abdulshaheed Rahmdan. To learn more about ART Lounge, contact Marion on 39 212 060, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.artlounge08.com