AUTHOR: SAMI HA ZEN
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi believes in sharing the traditions of the region to enhance cultural exchange.
Over 100 artworks that showcase the rich Arab art history will find a place at the Sharjah Art Museum, thanks to an Emirati art collector.
Art collector and political commentator Sultan Sooud Al Qassimi has entered into a five-year agreement with the Sharjah Art Museum through his Barjeel Art Foundation, to keep his Arab art collection on permanent display.
Highlights from the Barjeel Art Foundation will be on display at the museum till 2023. The artworks depict strong cultural connections of artists and sculptors, particularly in the mid-20th century. Iconic paintings include Kadhim Hayder’s Fatigued Ten Horses Converse with Nothing (1965), Ibrahim El Salahi’s The Last Sound (1964) and Dia Azzawi’s A Wolf Howls: Memories of a Poet (1968).
“I became attached to Arab art over the years and am proud of our region’s art history. This has only reinforced the belief that we should be sharing it with the world and among ourselves. I would like to call on anyone who has Arab art to place it online and make it available for loans,” Al Qassimi told Khaleej Times.
He believes in sharing the traditions of the region to enhance cultural exchange between Arab region and the rest of the world. “Even though I have left the artworks in the UAE for the public, I carry it in my heart. I see the artworks in my mind’s eyes and I get comfort in knowing that it is on display in Sharjah.”
Manal Ataya, director-general of the Sharjah Museums Authority, said: “With the five-year display at the Sharjah Art Museum, art lovers, researchers and students from the UAE will be able to fully appreciate and use the collection as a resource for study as this is the only private Arab modern art collection of this breadth and diversity on public display in the Gulf region.
“The Sharjah Museums Authority and the Barjeel Art Foundation have a shared commitment to the region’s art and culture. This agreement between the two organisations will include an extensive education programme to run alongside the display to ensure our public benefit as much as possible,” she added.
Alya Al Mulla, head curator at the Sharjah Art Museum, said the exhibition highlights the museum’s vision to preserve the role of art in the region. “Working with the Barjeel Art Foundation has been a great experience as they relentlessly support and interact with us. Their engagement and energy since the beginning of the exhibition have helped us through the process.”
Al Qassimi, who is currently teaching politics of the Arab art at Yale University in the US, said he would visit the UAE, as often as possible.
While Al Qassimi is keen to acquire more artworks depicting the region, he believes that there is a lot of potential that remains untapped. “The UAE has the potential to be even a greater country if we are able to harness the talents and networks of expatriates and citizens. The burden of responsibility must be shifted from the government to the private sector and individuals in terms of business and civic duties. We also need to open up more spaces for dialogues and break the ceiling of creativity.”
Al Qassimi is optimistic about the future of art in the Arab world. “I am inspired by the younger generation of Arabs who I believe will succeed where my generation has not. I see passion and promise in their eyes that they hold – to be citizens of the world, to be respectful and accepting of others; and to be free thinkers who are curious and ambitious,” he concluded.