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Omani artists go global through GCC's first digital museum


Founded in May 2020 by sisters Manar and Sharifah al Hinai, the Khaleeji Art Museum is the first digital museum that showcases and promotes the work of artists and photographers of the Arab Gulf States by hosting regular online exhibitions.

"We celebrate creativity, diverse forms of arts, established as well as emerging artists, and hope to connect art collectors, and enthusiasts with diverse talents from our region. The digital museum is a record and documentation of the art movement as it is happening in the region, presented on a global scale," Manar shared.

Since it is inception, "we've organised over seven virtual solo and group art exhibitions as well as exhibited the works of over 40 established and emerging artists from the GCC. The themes of the show revolved around Khaleeji identity, Summer in the Gulf, Ride Culture in the GCC, Ramadan amid Covid-19, and more timely themes," Manar explained.

The latest virtual group art exhibition is Transcendence where 12 artists from the GCC portray what spirituality means to them. The virtual exhibition is organized in the form of a maze to simulate the common perception of life as a labyrinth "where every road is a dead end."

Examining the various artworks on display, it is clear that the participating artists differ not only when it comes to defining a concept as complex as spirituality, but also in the ways through which they transcend and establish a spiritual connection and with whom.

Transcendence is the act of release, change of state and transformation beyond the physical. Transcendence is sublime. Its nature may not be seen, but it is strongly felt. To experience the sublime is to transport oneself into a boundless atmosphere. The chemical process of sublimation is what initially inspired this theme.

Sublimation is defined as the transition of a substance from the solid to the vapour state. This is what both Majeda al Hinai (Omani artist) and William Virgil imagine transcendence to be: a change from something material to immaterial, and in some sense metaphysical. With it being a very personal experience, the artists wanted the piece to loosely depict self-transcendence through the simulation of a human figure.

The series of photos "More Precious Than Gold" by rising Omani talent Mahmood Al Zadjali was on display in the virtual art exhibition "Ramadan in Quarantine". He raised a question which is, "What is the most thing you will miss in Ramadan?"

He describes his photos saying that "During Ramadan, food turns into an obsession. Refraining from it during the hours of the day turns it into a desire. The concept behind this project was to bring that all to light; our mothers have been creating these meals that are rarely ever cooked over the year and we hold them on to the highest regard; Luqaimat, Samboosas, pastries. They all fall into that same category: " More Precious Than Gold."

"Swim Good", by Mujahid Al Malki was included in the virtual art exhibition "Art For Change". The photographer describes his work by saying: "A lot of us feel like their job in the corporate world has become a large part of their identity and sense of self-worth. Most of the time you'd feel locked and marginalized which follows up with physical exhaustion and spiritual drain. This photograph describes a place where every corporate person would like to be in, a temporary escape to a perfect world where you swim in an ocean, and where the sun always shines".

Since the beginning of 2021, "we've collaborated with Dubai Festival City Mall, to organise monthly digital art shows that are projected on the world's permanent, outdoor projection thus shedding a light on our GCC talents on a wider scale," Sharifah said.

The ravaging of COVID-19 over the last two years has also drastically changed summers in the Gulf. For the second year in a row, the world is experiencing summer under exceptional circumstances. The preoccupation with the pandemic is clearly present in the works of Oman’s renowned artist Alia al Farsi who also take part in the ''Summer in The Gulf'' show that is projected on the world's permanent outdoor projection.

Alia’s painting, Corona Quarantine, depicts a group of women donning traditional Omani clothes and medical masks, isolated at home together and engaged in different activities such as painting or using their phones.

"As the numbers of COVID-19 patients are soaring in Oman, this summer will be no different from last year’s summer. People will continue to spend time on their phones and following up with their close friends and families to ensure their safety and health," said the artist who drew inspiration from Oman’s people, nature and architecture.

Everything from the identity to the online museum is developed and curated by women of the Arab Gulf States.

"In an art world where females are underrepresented in museums, galleries, and amongst management of art institutions, we are proud that our museum is run by an all-female team, and was developed by a team of GCC females. The identity of the museum was developed by Omani graphic designer Marwa al Kalbani," Sharifah said.

The digital exhibitions and galleries are free to experience stemming from the founder's firm belief that knowledge and arts should be accessible to all. You can enjoy the art displayed by the Gulf Art Museum through the Instagram account "khaleejiartmuseum" or their website

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