In response to the Wall Street Journal incredible affirmation that “The Arabic-speaking part of the Gulf has essentially no indigenous tradition of visual or plastic arts.” Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi writes an article “Correcting misconceptions of the Gulf’s modern art movement” for AL Monitor. Below is an excerpt about early art movement in Kuwait:
” In 1958, Kuwait also held its first pan-Arab art exhibition, which tackled themes such as colonialism and underdevelopment. Kuwait today hosts a successful art museum that also doesn’t shy away from relevant political themes. The country’s first art gallery was inaugurated in 1969 with a joint show of Munira al-Kazi (ndr . also may be written Al Qadi or Al Kadi) and Issam al-Said, two leading artists from Kuwait and Iraq respectively. The Sultan Gallery went on to host the likes of Andy Warhol and Syria’s Fateh Moudaress.
Abdallah al-Qassar, one of Kuwait’s leading landscape and portrait artists started exhibiting as early as the late 1950s and won awards in Egypt, where he studied the early 1960s. Qassar’s pioneering peers included surrealist Mohamed al-Shaibani who critiqued elements of development of the Gulf and acclaimed sculptor Sami Mohammed who was a founding member of the Kuwaiti Association for Plastic Arts in 1967.
The earliest recognized visual artist in Kuwait and most probably the Gulf region to have studied art was Mojib al-Dosari who was orphaned as a child before living with his uncle in Basra. Dosari became the first Kuwaiti to study visual arts in Egypt and continued his studies in London. Born in 1922, Dosari advocated for visual arts in Kuwait through writing in Al Bi’tha magazine that was targeted at Kuwaiti students abroad. Sadly, Dosari died at 34, after only two years of teaching in Kuwait. Only 13 of his works of art are known to have survived.
Sami Mohamed, the pioneering Kuwaiti sculptor, told me the tradition of drawing in Kuwait and the Gulf goes back over a century when dhow builders would employ an artist to sketch a ship using charcoal before it was built. These images were almost never preserved and the earliest one he saw dated back to before the discovery of oil in Kuwait in the 1930s. The same process was also employed when building houses, especially for merchants with the intricate Gulf style of architecture.
According to Sami Mohamed, the advent of Egyptian and Palestinian teachers to the Gulf in the 1950s was a contributing factor to the launch of the modern visual art movement in the Gulf as we know it. “Our Egyptian teacher Mr. Mansour at the Al Sabah School told us to prepare the stage to commemorate the Tripartite Aggression on Egypt and the battle of Port Said in 1956,” Mohamed recalled, who was only 13 then. Mohamed created the background figures consisting of soldiers, women and children for the play from the little material that was available. His figures were so well-constructed that Mohamed said, “The school gave me the first prize, a dry ink pen, which I was so proud to win.” Mohamed went on to be one of the most accomplished artists in the Middle East winning numerous international awards.”
Read full article : Al Monitor – Correcting misconceptions of the Gulf’s modern art movement