Founder of Al Riwaq Art Space shares her passion and inspiration.
Who is Bayan Al Barak?
I am a lover and collector of art from the Middle East and Persia. The same passion which has driven me to preserve the aesthetic heritage of the Arab World as a collector, led me to meeting friends and artists who would cultivate my taste and inform my founding of Al Riwaq Art Space in 1998. Having a clear taste allowed me certain independence; we were the only art space in Bahrain showing contemporary modern art, and we faced a lot of resistance, but I was ready to keep fighting until modern art was respected on the same level as traditional art.
What led you to establishing a contemporary art space such as Al Riwaq Art Space?
The function of Al Riwaq Art Space is more dynamic than a gallery. Artwork is not just displayed, it is a space for education where we run workshops and give public talks. It is a space for artists to develop their artistic practice and evolve. My approach to developing Al Riwaq Art Space is personal: often I’d met and developed artists from their beginnings, pushing them for residencies and giving them curatorial guidance throughout their careers. We play very distinct and complimentary roles which feed into the cultural production of Bahrain and out into the region. Sometimes it’s a challenge, but this is what inspires me and excites me to keep going.
What is your vision with Al Riwaq Art Space?
I am interested in evolving Al Riwaq Art Space as a space for alternative education and creating a platform for emerging artists who may not have access to formal education. We have already been creating initiatives such as the artBahrain/The Nest Annual Art Prize for this purpose, but I intend to expand on this in the coming years.
What would you say is the biggest accomplishment of Al Riwaq Art Space?
The establishment of Alwan 338 and showing public art was a huge step forward for Al Riwaq Art Space. Being able to showcase unconventional art in public spaces means a lot for us, as art is not just about collecting; it’s about changing mindsets. As an institution, when you are able to effect change in how people accept unconventional ideas, you can break barriers on a cultural level.
What advice do you have for emerging young artists in the GCC?
We encourage artists to take themselves and their practice seriously, so that they will be taken seriously on an international level. I encourage you to see and experience regional and international art, to explore your own tastes and to also gain perspective of your art on a global level.
Location: Osama Bin Zaid Ave., Manama