Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi Portrait

Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a respected commentator on Arab Affairs, is also the founder of The Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation, an organisation that seeks to promote art from across the Arab world.


It’s not an easy task to narrow down some of my favourite artworks from the Arab world, which is a testimony to the diversity and breadth of the talent that existed and continues to exist in our region. This list I have suggested is by no means an exhaustive list. Some of these works I cherish and are owned by institutions and friends; others belong to the Barjeel Art Foundation which I set up in 2010.

Arab art is today finally being recognised by international as well as regional institutions. Arab artists are now an integral part of any serious international exhibition from Europe to North America and increasingly in East Asia as we have seen with Japan’s Mori Art Museum’s Arab Express exhibition and the Singapore Art Museum Terms and Conditions in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Western institutions including the Whitechapel Gallery in London and the New Museum in New York have also chosen to offer dedicated shows to Arab art. Ironically, what Arab art requires now are more venues within the Arab world that are willing to celebrate the accomplishments of artists from the Maghreb, Egypt, the Levant and the Gulf States. Western auction houses have also started organising auctions in the Gulf for Arab art and over the past few years have included artworks by artists from the Arab world in international auctions. The Arab art world would certainly benefit from more critical writing and more dedicated art museums, however there is no doubt that he future of Arab art is bright and positive.

Kadhim Hayder, The Martyr’s Epic, 1965. Oil on canvas, 91 × 127 cm. Collection of Barjeel Art Foundation
Kadhim Hayder, The Martyr’s Epic, 1965. Oil on canvas, 91 × 127 cm. Collection of Barjeel Art Foundation

Asim Abu Shakra, Cactus with City in the Background, 1988. Oil on paper, 140 × 105 cm. Collection of Barjeel Art Foundation
Asim Abu Shakra, Cactus with City in the Background, 1988. Oil on paper, 140 × 105 cm. Collection of Barjeel Art Foundation

Sadik Al Fraji, The House My Father Built, 2010. Video installation 400 × 500 cm, Edition of 3. Collections of Barjeel Art Foundation, LACMA, and Museum of Fine Art Houston
Sadik Al Fraji, The House My Father Built, 2010. Video installation 400 × 500 cm, Edition of 3. Collections of Barjeel Art Foundation, LACMA, and Museum of Fine Art Houston

Marwan Kassab-Bachi, Kadouche 1, 1966. Oil on canvas, 162 × 130 cm. Collection of Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi
Marwan Kassab-Bachi, Kadouche 1, 1966. Oil on canvas, 162 × 130 cm. Collection of Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi

Abdul Qader Al Rais, Intifada, 1989. Oil on canvas, Collection of Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts
Abdul Qader Al Rais, Intifada, 1989. Oil on canvas, Collection of Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts

Abudul Rahman Al Ma’aini, Untitled, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 140 × 220 cm. Collection of Barjeel Art Foundation
Abudul Rahman Al Ma’aini, Untitled, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 140 × 220 cm. Collection of Barjeel Art Foundation

Mona Hatoum, Infinity ∞, 1991-2001. Bronze, 61 × 34.5 × 34.5 cm. Collection of Barjeel Art Foundation
Mona Hatoum, Infinity ∞, 1991-2001. Bronze, 61 × 34.5 × 34.5 cm. Collection of Barjeel Art Foundation


A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART ISSUE #29, PAGES 131 – 146 AND LIMITED EDITION #50, PAGES 24 – 30.

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