Art & designAn art lover's guide to Bahrain

Gallery-hop your way around Bahrain and immerse yourself in the kingdom’s vibrant art scene

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Hot on the heels of its glitzy Gulf neighbours, Bahrain is emerging as an art destination to be reckoned with. The unstoppable rise of Manama’s gallery-laden Adliya district and the launch of ArtBAB international art fair have secured the attentive gaze of the art world, making the island kingdom a creative hotspot. From the best galleries to see contemporary works by a new generation of local talent, to unearthing historical works, join us on an exploration of Bahrain’s up-and-coming art scene.

Lafontaine gallery Manama Bahrain

 

The district

A bohemian district of Manama, peppered with galleries, cafes and colourful street art, Adliya is Bahrain’s coolest quarter where creativity reigns supreme. A gateway to the kingdom’s art scene, it’s within this neighbourhood you’ll discover the largest concentration of spaces that play host to exhibitions, workshops and events. Wander round the atmospheric streets of Block 338 to witness incredible photo-realistic murals splashed across walls and ‘calligraffiti’ – a hybrid of classic graffiti writing with a Middle Eastern spin. Then step inside Adliya’s galleries to immerse yourself in Bahrain’s contemporary culture.

 

The galleries

The catalyst for Bahrain’s burgeoning art scene is Albareh Art Gallery. Since opening in 1998, this landmark spot in Adliya has catapulted contemporary MENASA (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia) art into the global art scene’s consciousness. Expect to see radical solo shows from Middle Eastern artists like painter Hilda Hiary or sculptor Jamal Alyousif.

Occupying a grand, 150-year old town house on the older side of Manama Souq, La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art is as mesmerising as the art it showcases. Harmonising the essence of a French chateau with the codes of traditional Islamic architecture, the centre is a place of great beauty and home to an art gallery, open-air amphitheatre, fine dining restaurant and a spa. The gallery presents everything from 21st century paintings, photography and sculpture, to African tribal art and Australian aboriginal imagery.

For traditional Islamic art that offers a window into the kingdom’s rich heritage, Arabesque Art Gallery showcases the most fascinating historic pieces. Here you will unearth old maps of Arabia, the chromolithographs of Prisse D'Avennes and 19th century Lithographs by David Roberts. As the Gulf region’s main authority on antique art of the Middle East, Arabesque Art Gallery is a must-visit for art lovers on the history trail. Journey further into Bahrain’s past at Bahrain National Museum. Ancient artefacts tell the story of the region’s history as the seat of the Dilmun empire, while a selection of works from Bahrain’s leading artists are an expression of local talent.

Lafontaine gallery Manama Bahrain

 

The fair

An international art fair that places Bahrain firmly on the cultural map, ArtBAB (Art Bahrain Across Borders) is a spectacular showcase of contemporary works from the MENASA region. In a few short years the fair – held each March at the International Exhibition and Convention Centre in Sanabis – has become the island Kingdom’s foremost platform for its homegrown artists. Unlike other art fairs whose booths are run by galleries, ArtBAB gifts control to the artists who curate and exhibit the booths themselves. From large-scale installations and drawings to virtual reality, the unorthodox and compelling works on display at ArtBAB make it a magnet for collectors and aficionados.

Perfectly positioned upon Manama’s glistening waterfront, Jumeirah Royal Saray is a magnificent base from which to explore Bahrain’s art scene.