In ART

Six prominent collectors of art from the Middle East and North Africa sat down with Selections to share their pick of 10 regional artists to watch

For this special One to Watch issue, Selections reached out to six prominent collectors focusing on art from the Middle East and North Africa to ask them for their personal recommendations of artists whose trajectories promise to amaze. The ten artists they suggested work in a wide variety of mediums, on a diverse range of topics, and hail from all across the region. From emerging young artists just starting to make a name for themselves, to veterans with dozens of exhibitions under their belts, we delve into the work of ten creative visionaries who are guaranteed to be going places.

The founder of Kuwait’s non-profit organisation Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwaiti-Palestinian collector Amer Huneidi has been collecting modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art for close to two decades. His artists to watch for this issue are Kuwaiti artist Ghadah Alkandari, best known for her dramatic, haunting portraits of women, and Alia Farid, a filmmaker whose atmospheric works focus on immersing viewers into unique environments.

Veteran Lebanese-Armenian collector and co-founder of the KA Collection, Abraham Karabajakian has been collecting art for over two decades, at first buying whatever appealed to him and later honing in on Middle Eastern art, with a particular focus on Lebanon. His artists to watch are Ayman Baalbaki, whose acclaimed paintings and installations explore the destruction and legacy of Lebanon’s Civil War and other regional conflicts, and Marwan Sahmarani, whose spectacular oil paintings also tackle Lebanon’s cycles of violence but from a much more oblique angle.

Lebanese collector Basel Dalloul, the chairman and CEO of Noor Group, inherited his love of art from his father, Palestinian collector Ramzi Dalloul. With a collection of more than 3500 works, he is one of the region’s most prominent collectors. His artists to watch are Randa Mirza, a photographer-turned-multidisciplinary artist whose work goes beyond surface impressions to explore what lies beneath, and Mahmoud Obaidi, whose work reflects on the history of his native Iraq. Dalloul also suggested Baalbaki, but was pipped to the post by Karabajakian.

Syrian collector and gallerist Ead Samawi is right in the thick of things, with Ayyam Gallery’s branches in Beirut and Dubai representing a host of regional artists. His artist to watch this issue is Paris-based Iranian draftsman Nima Nahandi. The mathematics graduate tells Selections how his elaborate, detailed drawings reflect his interests in science, psychology and music.

Dubai-based Iranian art collector Mohamed Afkhami’s collection is dominated by Iranian artists, in whose work he specialises. His artist to watch is Tehran-based draftsman Mohsen Ahmadvand, whose work defies categorisation, existing somewhere between portraiture, cartoon and illustration.

Last but not least, Qaswara Hafez, collector and founder of Jeddah’s Hafez Gallery, has been immersed in Saudi Arabia’s art scene for over 20 years. His artists to watch are Syrian photographer Osama Esid, whose hand-coloured images challenge stereotypes and interrogate the relationship between East and West, and Ibrahim El Dessouki, whose intricate, painstaking drawings and paintings capture day-to-day life in Egypt.

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