Bahrain Art Across Borders | Cultural Insights with Kaneka Subberwal


In today’s modern world, we need a new lens in which to view society’s and their cultures.  
Brian Keeble surmised that “there are powerful economic and social forces of persuasion”.  The unstoppable and uncontrolled freedom of our scientific and industrial society, distort and manipulate our perceptions.  Univocal has become equivocal.  Understanding values – spiritual, social, psychological, cultural, aesthetic – bring true enlightenment.  Art has the ability to unite these elements.  It does not require the opinion, nor a consensus on what is right or wrong.  It encourages us to interpret and to see and feel through our primary senses.  Art can engage diverse audiences in a common debate, with only one objective: a sharing of ideas through a mutually respectful discourse.  The Cultural Aficionado engaged with Kaneka Subberwal, the creator of Bahrain Across Borders, to understand the raison d’etre of this year’s exhibition, and how art can help connect historically diverse cultures. 



Could you describe your job?

I created Art Bahrain Across Borders and am the Fair and Programme Director.  As part of my job, I try to make Bahrain a focal point for art in the West Asian region and establish a forward-thinking platform to promote the growth of art in the country.  Through BAAB – Bahrain Art Across Borders – an initiative to take the art of the artists of Bahrain across borders globally – we have worked to organise exhibitions in Paris, Singapore and London.



What inspired you to create Art Bahrain Across Borders (ArtBAB)?

I was inspired by the plethora of talent that exists in Bahrain, and the passion of the artists as they work towards growing their practice. I love working with those who aspire towards using the arts to support education in a way that enhances the future.  I felt the artists needed a platform, a way to be able to communicate without borders, and it was this desire that inspired me to start this initiative.



What message is Bahrain Art Week trying to promote?

We are now in our third edition of Bahrain Art Week which primarily has been conceived as a place for interaction and engagement.  It offers a platform for audiences to view these amazing artworks as well as having the opportunity to engage with the artists, discussing diverse views and bridging gaps.  Bahrain Art Week in London will enable more people to access and appreciate the artworks being produced in Bahrain.  Bahrain Art Week will provide a platform for these artists to expand their international influence through London’s dynamic art scene.



How do the different mediums of paintings, sculptures, and videos interconnect with each other?

The theme for this year is ‘legacy’ and the exhibition looks at how, across generations, the form has redefined itself but the owner of one’s self-remains deep-rooted.  The exhibition is a meditation on the historical legacies of Bahrain from traditional crafts, industry, and pop culture to modernism’s forms, including art and architecture.  It’s fascinating how these different mediums can easily converse with each other, discussing the key theme as well as concepts of memory and value.



Could you tell our readers how best they approach Bahraini art for the first time?

Honestly, the most important thing is to approach the art with a clean slate. Don’t categorise it as specific to a region as the art is very contemporary, diverse and versatile.  There are artists in Bahrain who have been painting for 25-30 years – their works are already being collected and exist in the secondary market.  These artists are handing the baton over to the next generation who are challenging techniques and forms in an eye-opening way.



What do you think the future of Bahraini art looks like in the next decade?

Over the past few years, specifically since the programme was launched, thanks to the increased communication and awareness, we have seen a significant increase in sales and I think the interest in Bahraini art will only increase in the future.  Whilst the seniors are growing to hold their own in key collections, there is also a surge of creatives emerging and setting new standards themselves.


Useful links

Art Bahrain Across Borders (ArtBAB)

Alon Zakaim Fine Art

Bahrain Art Week Press Release (Zakaim Fine Art)

Chloe Nelkin Consulting


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