Young faces enliven Kuwait's faded art scene

Wed May 22, 2013 11:47am EDT
 
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By Sylvia Westall

KUWAIT (Reuters) - After two lackluster decades, Kuwait is experiencing a quiet revival of an arts scene once known as the most avant garde in the Gulf, thanks to a new generation eager to tackle sensitive issues using cutting-edge art forms.

The artists have been exhibiting works in the graphic arts, photography, animation and fashion in private galleries but also bypassing traditional venues and arts groups - and possible censorship - by showing their work online to reach an audience beyond the 3.7 million people in Kuwait.

"They are creating an excellent buzz," said Lucy Topalian, who runs the Dar Al Funoon gallery in Kuwait which showcases contemporary art from around the world.

Young people in tailored trousers and elegant jackets packed her small gallery earlier this month to view Abdullah al-Saab's dark dresses, shirts and capes hanging from the ceiling in front of large black-and-white photographs.

The people in the photographs were blindfolded, some with labels such as "wife", "lover" or "friend". One depicted a man - the designer himself - bound with a thick rope, another a woman in a smart dress spilling coffee from a paper cup as a foreign maid kneeled on the floor to clear up the mess.

"I thought that some people would take it a little bit sensitively. The amazing thing is that they actually have an open mind and they can relate to it," said Saab, 27, on the opening night of the show, "Boundaries".

Art aficionados and experts say those like Saab in their 20s and 30s are helping to revive a cultural life damaged by indifference, religious conservatism and, possibly most importantly, the Iraqi invasion in 1990.

Kuwait has since rebuilt its badly damaged oil infrastructure and in recent years private companies have poured money into building skyscrapers, shopping malls and restaurants.   Continued...

 
Kuwaiti graphic designer Mohammad Sharaf talks about his work in his office in Hawalli, May 1, 2013. After two lackluster decades, Kuwait is experiencing a quiet revival of an arts scene once known as the most avant-garde in the Gulf, thanks to a new generation eager to tackle sensitive issues using cutting-edge art forms. Sharaf has produced work about his native Kuwait, such as a poster showing the parliament building made of bones or pieces about free speech, inspired in part by the explosion of democratic debate in North Africa and the Middle East sparked by the Arab Spring uprisings. He says he has not faced any restrictions in Kuwait, but adds he keeps his works subtle and any criticism indirect. Picture taken May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee