Archive for the ‘Past’ category

The Cultural Identity Shop – An Installation by Nawar Al Kazemi


Nawar Al Kazemi 12th December 2019 to 9th January 2020

The Cultural Identity Shop Installation, a research-based project.

Nawar N. Al-Kazemi is a designer، a design critic, and the founder of Square One Creative Lab, 2017. She holds Master of Fine Arts in Design Criticism from The School of Visual Arts, Manhattan, NY. Her research focuses on design education and its role in bridging the growing gap between design and cultural identity, specifically in the Arabian Gulf countries. A strong believer in design possibilities, Nawar seeks to emphasize the integral role of design critique, which to her once properly applied, leads to a healthy creative eco-system that would greatly benefit the creative community in Kuwait.

This installation focuses on the notion of cultural identity in the context of the collective memory, and our relationship with our identity. 

With the rise of consumerism worldwide, particularly in Kuwait where this research is based, this project seeks to question how cultural identity is viewed as a commodity, like a brand, lacking deeper understanding of what it means to be “Kuwaiti?” The project started with interviews conducted with people who have ties with Kuwait, both locals and non-locals, asking them to share personal experiences that shape their contribution to cultural identity through visuals, colours, and other elements. Ten recurring responses were selected from the responses along with the various associated narratives, this installation was designed, mimicking a store’s experience, and referencing the increasing intertwine between consumerism and national identity today. The outcome is based on our conversation with people, they further elaborated on their responses of the surveys they completed beforehand. I created objects that represented each of the ten responses, using white gypsum, a material that communicates raw aesthetics, replacing colour with people’s narratives, which gave each object its significance as perceived by people.

‘Fareed Abdal – A solo exhibition’


12 November 2019 – 9 January 2020

Fareed Abdal, a solo exhibition brings together ten new works in a first time exploration of woven art.  

Fareed Abdal (b. 1957, Kuwait) is an artist, architect, and educator. His practice probes into the inheritance of cultural constructs and is interested in what happens away from language in the relationship between form and concept. Though noted for incorporating Arabic text in his work –rather than use writing to delineate thought– his meandering and contortionist-like strokes complicate the experience of language and living. Working against Western rationalism, his work is rooted in Asian philosophy and spiritual practices of the East.

In this new body of work, Abdal culls a cohort of characters from a number of Eastern mythologies. Ten figures are made visible through interlocking Arabic letters, sometimes revealing words and fragments of poetry. Berber-like, the pieces combine flat and raised weaving techniques, and have a palette of 5 or 6 colors at the most. The pieces are composed of repetitions of bold strokes that double as locks of hair and clothing embellishments, and reflect a strong admiration of Eastern literature. In Moons of Time I&II, for example, Princess Budour and Prince Qamar are brought together by omnipresent external forces into a staggering love relationship, akin to the invisible algorithmic mechanisms of dating apps today. In Red-Veined Darter (or Nomad) the artist pays tribute to the migrant dragonfly whose arrival from Europe indicates the start of autumn, and for many comes as a sign of relief from the scorching heat of the desert summer. In Villager of the Abandoned Paradise, the artist mourns the loss of the land worker in the era of the Anthropocene. Abdal’s study of historical texts and motifs beckons viewers to revisit the past while thinking about the present and future. His ability to connect the ancient with the modern aspects of our lives is testament to the cyclical nature of mankind and leaves viewers oscillating between feelings of reassurance and irresolution.

The pieces in this exhibition were woven in Turkey on a traditional vertical loom. They are made from wool, plant fibers, and colored with natural dyes from various plant roots, leaves and berries. The artist expresses his deep gratitude to the management team of Samovar for its guidance and support in making this work possible.

Moons of Time II (Princess Bodour)
Fortune Teller

Foreign Architecture / Domestic Policy by Hamed Bukhamseen and Ali Karimi


Hamed Bukhamseen and Ali Karimi –April 23rd – June 20th 2019

The Sultan Gallery is pleased to present ‘Foreign Architecture/Domestic Policy’, an exhibition by Civil Architecture/Hamed Bukhamseen & Ali Ismail Karimi. Opening 7pm the 23rd of April, the exhibition looks at the overseas architecture of Kuwait and how it embodies changing ideas of citizenship, foreign policy and the branding of the nation state.

In the context of resurgent global xenophobia, the role of the Gulf city-state in Europe and the US crops up on several occasions. Often as a wary skepticism or concern over the possibility of foreign control over national resources, many of these concerns are not new, and are repeating legacies of larger questions that were posed earlier in the 20th century, with the oil embargo, or instability in the Middle East. The questions ultimately ask what it means to imagine separate nations in a world which is increasingly interdependent.

After the 1973 OPEC crisis, the country of Kuwait began undertaking a series of efforts to secure its position as one of the world’s leading exporters of crude oil. For a country of less than a million people at the time which exported 10% of the world’s oil, the narrative of the state was inextricably tied to the projections of wealth and identity outwards. This need to constantly reinforce Kuwait’s position in the global community is part of the effort to transform oil rent to intellectual and cultural capital, but also to secure political ties abroad, creating a network of allies to support the small city-state in events of aggression or international pressure.

Among the strangest and most recognizable of these investments are the not so subtly titled Q8 gas stations. These gas stations inhabit and make up  a significant percentage of gas stations in Italy,  Belgium, Luxembourg as well as other locations in Europe, all bearing Kuwait’s abbreviated name and brandishing the twin dhow sails as a logo.

For the average passerby the inconspicuous Q8 appears to be any oil company. For Kuwait however, the creation of a second Kuwait through a network of infrastructural investments, gas stations, and branding was a way to build demand and secure a market for Kuwaiti products.

During the first Gulf War the stations were called to play a political role as well, acting as sources of funding for protests and lobbying movements after Kuwaiti assets were frozen due to the Iraqi.      

‘بالإنجليزي industry كلمة ‘ by Abdullah Al-Mutairi


Abdullah Al-Mutairi

10th April – 10th May 2018

يرتكز ثاني معرض للفنان عبدالله المطيري على التطور السريع الحاصل على الصعيد الإجتماعي و دور التكوينات الهجينة المولودة من تصادم مختلف الثقافات و الطبقات في تمثيل و حث هذه التغيرات

تعزيزاً لمضمون معرضه السابق بإسم ‘المنتجات الثانوية للتطور’’, ومن خلال إعادة النظر إلى الأساليب الرسمية المستخدمة لترسيخ تاريخ وزمن منطقة معينة، يقدم المعرض واقع بديل لتاريخ مستقبل الكويت مستخدما مواد و خامات ثانوية من بقايا الإستهلاك اليومي مع أخذ بعين الاعتبار التأثيرات و التقلبات النفسية والجسدية الحاصلة كردة فعل للتشبع الذهني الناتج عن سرعة التطور الإجتماعي

يشكل واقعنا الحالي فترة حادة لاصطدام أنظمة متعددة مسببة اضطراب في استيعابنا تكاليف أنماط حياتنا العصرية واختياراتنا لتحقيق ما نعتقد هو الذات .

ما وظيفة المؤسسات الثقافية في تحديد السرد الشعبي، وكيف تحدد مدى مادية هذا الرسخ ؟ ما أثر الإستهلاك المعلوماتي والمادي على استمرارية إدراك الذات؟

For his second solo show, the artist Abdullah Al-Mutairi focuses on the role liminal forms play in both representing and urging further rapid social development

Building on the concepts of his past show titled ‘byproducts of development’, and through the re-evaluation of how a region and time’s history is officially documented, the exhibit presents an alternate view of the future history of Kuwait through the use of second-hand materials and daily disposables while considering the physical and mental volatility resulting from development and our constant saturation with information

Our era is constituted by acute clashes confusing our understanding of the price of our contemporary lifestyle and how we choose to self-actualize. What is the role of cultural institutions in determining social narrative, and how is its materiality established? What are the effect of material and informational consumption on the continuation of self-actualization?

Culture Fair – Yesterday,Today & Tomorrow by Aseel AlYaqoub


Aseel AlYaqoub

13 February 2018 – 23 February 2018

The Sultan Gallery presents the second solo show of Kuwaiti visual artist Aseel AlYaqoub during the national month of February. Bringing together almost two years of research revolving around Kuwait’s postage stamps, Culture Fair focuses on AlYaqoub’s dialogue with the nation’s use of imagery and events during the Golden Era (circa 1940-1980) in particular. Known for her politically satire works of art, Aseel AlYaqoub explores various histories of Kuwait’s past and how it emerges into the present. Using nostalgia as an instrument for critical thought, rather than longing for the past, allows AlYaqoub to investigate the invention and reinvention of heritage and tradition.

In the process of collecting Kuwaiti postage stamps, AlYaqoub probes at the visually subdued and discreet nature of the propaganda exhibited. As it was once widely circulated, the postage stamp does not usually have an obvious message which in turn enhances its peculiar effectiveness. The stamp itself was ideal propaganda. It went from hand to hand and town to town; it reached the farthest corners and provinces of a country and even the farthest countries of the world. It was and may still be a symbol of the nation from which the stamp is mailed, a vivid expression of that country’s culture, civilization and of its ideas and ideals.

The exhibition is categorized into three modules of time. In Yesterday, AlYaqoub reconfigures the narratives of old stamps by dissecting and reassembling the layers, destroying the national artefact and image with her own narrative.  They are displayed as museum or cultural relics usually found in world fairs. The magnifying domes expand the seamless collages to emphasize on the continuity of history. In Palace of Justice, a dinosaur holding a large sword roams the green fields of the judicial building. Its presence suggests somewhat of a pre-historic nature in the system. A Kuwaiti man stands in the forefront with white paint on his raised hands, as though to claim his innocence.

In Today, AlYaqoub proposes three concepts for postage stamps that present vignettes of Kuwait’s current culture and external politics. Inspired from an old stamp celebrating ‘Traffic Day’, Entrepreneurial Day appropriates Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks diner and resituates it into a popular area in the city of Kuwait. The originally quiet diner is packed with young familiar faces indulging in selfies, burgers and coffee. It is a private soft-opening, exclusive and elite. Due to its obscure location, the street is empty apart from an immigrant worker sweeping in the background and a couple waiting to be seated. AlYaqoub pokes at today’s ever-growing support for entrepreneurship, their exclusivity and temporary lifespans.

Tomorrow presents proposals for the future and expresses attitudes of tradition and cultural appropriation that will follow us all the way into space. Architectural Fantasies is a nod towards Russian constructivist architect Yakov Chernikhov. In the centre of the stamp is one of his designs for a future city that carries similar spheres to those on the Kuwait Towers. The architectural regional race to building cities on islands and arid deserts continues outwards into space, presenting the citizens with hope and aspiration.

The six scenarios are in and of themselves collages inspired from the visual language of the original Kuwaiti stamps. Through the process of offset plate printing, they are presented in the same four-colour printing format used to manufacture stamps. Alongside the artwork is a projected video of AlYaqoub’s thought process. In it she digitally records the slicing and reconfiguration of the stamps to involve the viewer in her decision making. The original stamps are presented, prior to their destruction, as evidence of their existence.

















A Selection of Artworks by Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim



Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim

November 7th – December 12th, 2017



Abdullah Al-Mutairi : Byproducts of Development


11th April – 27th April, 2017

Focusing on the impact industrial expansion has had on the bodies and identities of youth in the region, “Byproducts of Development” utilizes found materials, both digital and physical, to portray a theory of cultural transformation. The show aims to draw attention to the physiological repercussions of rapid urbanization; linking the effects of oil industry to noticeable changes in the body. Additionally, digital connectivity is scrutinized as a locus of change, prompting shifts in self-image and methods of self-actualization that mirror the drastic changes in local landscapes. Male fragility is positioned as a reaction to, as well as a consequence of, rapid development, with youth caught between a changing ecology and digital influences.

This is Abdullah Al-Mutairi’s first solo show.

يركز معرض “المنتجات الثانوية للتطور” على أثر التوسع الصناعي في الكويت على أجساد و هويّات شبابها، أعمال المعرض المادية والرقمية تستغل مواد و خامات معاد تدويرها لتوصف نظرية للتحول الثقافي.

يهدف المشروع إلى لفت الانتباه للعواقب الفسيولوجية للتطور الصناعي السريع بربطه نتاج الصناعة النفطية لتغيرات جسدية ملحوظة و محسوسة. إضافةً لذلك، يقوم المعرض بالتدقيق على خدمات التواصل الاجتماعي كموضع تغير في المجتمع و الذي يؤثر على النظرة الذاتية للشخص وأساليب تحقيق الذات.

يتنبأ المعرض أن هشاشة الهوية الذكرية تكون ردة فعل و نتاج للتطور السريع، فيصبح شبابنا محكورين بين بيئة متغيرة و تأثيرات رقمية.

 يعتبر هذا المعرض أول معرض شخصي للفنان عبدالله المطيري.

 SDD_Byproducts of development






George Awde : Still Departures


Still Departures


6th December, 2016 – 5th January, 2017

George Awde’s first solo exhibition in Kuwait, chronicles the transitory existence of a group of young men and boys – many of them migrant laborers, emigrants from Syria and Syrian Kurdistan living in the context of Beirut from 2007-2016. This exhibition considers the embodiment of becoming men, while also appreciating issues of mobility and nationality as we each etch out our place in this world.

Awde’s photographs question the relationship between citizenship, masculinity, and the sense of belonging to a place – as well as to one’s own body. The work explores the scars of the flesh with those of the soil. As these men grow and change, the photographs capture physical marks – in the form of tattoos and cuts – giving hints of struggle and survival. The shape, role, and uses of the body change as these boys age – filling out – becoming men. Parallel to changing borders of manhood are those of physical mobility which widen, contract, and close in terrains of the changing geopolitical climate.  The landscape allows us to consider our states of belonging, not just as a metonym, but a portrait of Beirut’s physical terrain in which these processes occur on/through/in the bodies of individuals.

Awde’s practice of using a large format camera, and the slow process it requires, contributes to the intimacy and guides the aesthetics of his photographs. This process mirrors the gradual approach he has of building trust and familiarity through a collaborative process of photography over a number of years.  Awde has a compulsion of returning; revisiting the same spaces, people, and obsessions time and again. From this emerges a passage, which creates a broken continuity – a process unfolding like that of aging, moving, or staying.

George Awde is currently an Assistant Professor of photography at Virginia Commonwealth University in Doha, Qatar and co-director of marra.tein, a residency and research initiative in Beirut. His awards include the Aaron Siskind Foundation’s Individual Photographer’s Fellowship (2012), Philadelphia Museum of Art’s photography Portfolio Competition (2012), Fulbright US Scholar Grant to Egypt (2012-2013), Alice Kimball English Travel Fellowship (2009), and The Richard Benson Scholarship for Excellence in Photography (2008). In 2015 Awde was an artist in residence at Light Work in Syracuse, New York.  Awde’s work has been exhibited internationally, including cities such as Los Angeles, Istanbul, Beirut, Paris, Doha, Dubai, Lahore, Cairo, London, and New York.


Khalid Al Gharaballi : Poor Image


The title of the exhibition is taken from German artist Hito Steyerl’s 2009 essay “In Defense of the Poor Image.” In it she says: “The poor image is a copy in motion. It’s quality is bad, it’s resolution substandard. As it accelerates, it deteriorates. It is a ghost of an image, a preview, a thumbnail, an errant idea, an itinerant image distributed for free, squeezed through slow digital connections, compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed, as well as copied and pasted into other channels of distribution…The poor image is a rag or a rip; an AVI or a JPEG, a lumpen proletarian in the class society of appearances.”

While Steyerl was referring to sharpness and resolution as indicators for placement within the hierarchy of images, the subject matter for this group of paintings isn’t focused solely on the clarity and quality of the source image but also on it’s geographical and historical origin. A low resolution thumbnail of a house found on a Kuwaiti real estate website, a blurry photo of a floor-bound sectional divan posted – years ago – on a now abandoned online Saudi forum, images where practicality rules and aesthetics are of no consequence and whose intended audience is limited to it’s geographical origin. While existing on the fringes of our collective online consumption, these images are inadvertently documenting the domestic landscapes of the Gulf.

This is Khalid al Gharaballi’s first solo exhibition after first establishing a duo practice with Fatima Al Qadiri and then co-founding GCC, the artist collective whose work has been exhibited at MoMA PS1, the Sharjah Art Foundation, the New Museum, the Fridericianum, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Omar Khouri : Tensile Modulus


Abstraction and representation; self and other; science and art; geometric structures and natural shapes; autonomous units and parts of the whole; the suspended present moment and the perpetual flow of time… Our world is filled with dualities that pull at our lives in opposing directions, creating the tensile forces that move us forward. Taking the tension between the artist’s Arab cultural background and his Western one as its departure point, “Tensile Modulus” is a series of portrait experiments exploring the opposing concepts that suspend each of us in our unique and lonely spot in the infinite net of being that paradoxically connects us all.


Omar Khouri was born in London in 1978, but spent his childhood in Lebanon. In 2002, he graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston with a BFA in illustration. Back in Beirut in 2006, Omar cofounded Samandal Comics Magazine, the first experimental comics periodical in the Arab world. He is currently an Editor of Samandal and one of its many international contributing artists. Omar’s work spans many art forms including painting, comics, animation, theater, film, and music.