ArtBahrain, the art fair that launched its pilot edition in 2015, is returning next year under the new name Art Bahrain Across Borders (ArtBAB). The revamped event, which last year attracted 15,000 visitors and raised £350,000 in sales, is now supported by Tamkeen, Bahrain’s economic development agency.
With a population of 1.2 million, Bahrain is the third smallest country in Asia, but it is home to a flourishing art scene. ArtBAB aims to give a platform to Bahraini artists, exposing them to local and international collectors, as well as creating “economic capital from cultural capital” for the small island kingdom, says David Hawkins, the newly appointed head of outreach and VIP relations for ArtBAB.
In a move that pits itself against Art Dubai (15-18 March), Art BAB will now run from 22 to 26 March, having opened its first edition in October. “Art fairs in the region need to appeal to the up-and-coming generation,” Hawkins says. “Our focus is on artists and grass roots authenticity to develop the market from the bottom up.” Booths cost $375 per sq. m, making it affordable for individual artists to apply without a gallery.
The fair will include two pavilions: one for 30 Bahraini artists chosen by an international jury and one for international artists. It will also include a section for 35 galleries from around the world, and a talks and education programme. Al Riwaq Art Space, Hend Gallery, Busaad Art Gallery, Art Divano and Amina Gallery were among the Bahraini galleries that exhibited in 2015 and are expected to make a return.
The newly rebranded fair builds on the momentum of the Bahrain Artists Across Borders project, which was launched at the Victoria and Albert Museum in May by the art adviser Kaneka Subberwal, who also established ArtBahrain. Seventeen artists including Amina Al-Abbasi, Balqees Fakhro, Ebrahim BuSaad, Faika Al-Hassan and Ghada Khunji took part in the show, which transferred to Mayfair’s Gallery 8 after the opening event.