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Brought back home


15th May 2001

“Art buyers in the UAE are no longer choosing standard Orientalist paintings but want more contemporary work,” said Yvonne Eklund, art consultant from the London based Egee Art Consultancy commenting on the trends in the art market here in the UAE.

The art expert is currently in the capital to display the works of Arab artists living abroad at an “Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition” being held at the Scheherazade Gallery in Abu Dhabi.

Eklund has been selling art in the Middle East, to none other than the rulers themselves, such as Oman’s Sultan Qaboos and the Emirati sheikhs for the past eight years. “There have been a lot of changes in the art scene from the time I first came out here,” said Eklund. “I see buyers sourcing more from local art galleries now than ever before. And, more importantly, the younger generation seems to be moving away from traditional and Orientalist art towards more contemporary work,” she said.

People in the UAE were also seeking out local artists more than ever before, she added.

In her exhibition (which will continue for another week) you can spot a mixed media and calligraphic etching by Sharjah artists, Sadia Zaman and Tauseef Ali. Rather than UAE artists, the Egee gallery deals more with Arab artists living abroad.

In the current exhibition, all the 80 odd canvases and 200 unframed art are works by Arab artists, by internationally famous ones, such as Libyan Ali Omar Ermes and Iraqi Hassan Massoudy.

Ermes, who works with oil and gouash, uses Arabic calligraphy in abstract compositions, while the Paris-based Massoudy is known for pouring out his lyricism in his ink and water-colour calligraphy.

“In Europe, Arab artists are patronised only by people who’ve travelled in the Middle East and know about this part of the world.” she said. “It’s not easy for them to sell back home. Arab art is only displayed at a few places who specialise in this sphere like the Egee Gallery, the Brunei gallery or at the University of African Studies.”

Apart from the 10 contemporary Arab artists, this exhibition also features a collection of weavings like tapestries, modern paintings, etchings, lithographs and antique prints.

The copies of their limited editions of the unusual Alhambra Plaques seem to carry calligraphic art. They are painstakingly crafted in hall-marked sterling silver and encased in a 24-carat fold leaf frame.

This exhibition, which has already travelled to Doha, Bahrain and Kuwait, happens to be part of the Egee gallery’s philosophy.

“Many decades ago, Dale Egee, the gallery’s founder and I both lived in the Middle East, therefore being familiar with Eastern art. Our mission is to bring the works of some of these great artists, who have left the Middle East, back to where they belong. back to the countries for which they have feelings,” she emphasised.

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