The Bahrain Annual Fine Art Exhibition is the grand dame of Middle East art's events. Time Out examines its significance
The Bahrain Annual Fine Art Exhibition is entering its 35th year, which makes it the longest consecutive-running art event in the GCC. Organised by the Bahraini Art Society and the Ministry of Culture, and under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the event is presided over by Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifa, an eminent artist in his own right.
Joined by guest judges from the upper echelons of the Middle East’s art scene, competition among the 150-or-so submissions is intense to say the least. Staged every December at the Bahrain National Museum, works by Bahraini artists grace the building’s enormous foyer and attract hundreds of visitors, exemplifying that art in Bahrain is deeply embedded in local society.
Oils on canvas, mixed media, sculpture and installations from emerging practitioners, as well as established names such as Jamal Abdul Rahim, Ebrahim Busaad and Ahmed Baqer, span a gamet of artistic styles and themes. Year 2007 saw first prize awarded to Mohamed Al Mehdi, a young artist whose triptych of works depicted apocalyptic scenes of child-like anguish, inspired after a near-fatal car accident he was involved in on the island.
Not only is the exhibition the culmination of the country’s cultural calendar, but it provides an ample feast for the visiting art lover and a chance to meet some of Bahrain’s artists, some of whom will soon be gracing the auction sales of Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern art in London and Dubai.