With a large number of contemporary art galleries focusing on promoting local Kuwaiti artists, Kuwait City is rivalled only by Dubai for the prestigious title of most prominent contemporary art scene in the Gulf. Despite this, the city is often overlooked by art enthusiasts. We have set out to change this: these are ten of the best contemporary art galleries and museums in Kuwait City you should visit.
Displaying the works of established Kuwaiti, Middle Eastern and international artists, exhibitions at the AL M Gallery have included works by Iraqi painter Ghassan Muhsin, local Kuwaiti painter Jassem Bu Hamad and lover of vibrant colours Afaf Al Essa. The Al M Gallery is located in the affluent Salhia Complex, right in the centre of the city. With a focus on the fine arts, the majority of the gallery’s exhibitions concentrate on painting as the primary medium with contemporary culture as the main subject area.
Working to promote local artists and plant Kuwait firmly on the map as an art-seeker’s paradise, the Gallery Tilal is a 450-square-metre exhibition space. The gallery focuses primarily on photography and paintings but occasionally hosts more unusual exhibitions such as a collection of Ayda Mirza’s fine silk carpets. Set on providing a starter platform to emerging artistic talents, Gallery Tilal focuses primarily on born-and-bred Kuwaiti artists. Past displays have featured works by painter Mohamad Al Amen and photographer Ammar Al Fouzan.
Kuwait’s only non-profit modern art centre, the Contemporary Art Platform is more than just an exhibition gallery. With a public arts library, a rotating schedule of film screenings, studio space for hire, a series of lectures and workshops led by both local and international artists, a trip to CAP could easily become a full day out. The large space is divided into three separate galleries: the main exhibition space, the art room and the design room, each of which hosts various events at the same time. Some of the artists celebrated here recently include photographer Raeda Saadeh, architect Aseel Alyaqoub and sculptor Martin C Herbst. The centre also has a quiet seating area where guests can peruse the beautiful art books available.
Home to Kuwait’s annual Affordable Art Show, the Dar Al Funoon Gallery works not only to promote emerging artists from the region but also to encourage and inspire the public to take an interest in the world of contemporary art. Since its inauguration in 1994, the gallery has been a firm supporter of Middle Eastern art, believing it to be one of the most dynamic and fascinating trends developing today. As well as displaying paintings by artists such as Reza Derakshani and Hussein Balbaaki, the Dar Al Funoon Gallery also hosts art and fashion fusion events such as exhibitions created by Abdullah Al Saab.
Founded in 1982 by Kuwaiti sculptor Jawad Boushahri, the Boushahri Gallery aims to draw attention to the local fine art scene as well as encourage young artists to follow their creative passions. The mediums displayed are primarily ceramics, sculptures and paintings with around ten artists featured in the rolling exhibition schedule each year. Although originally set up to highlight Kuwaiti arts and artists, in recent years established international painters and sculptors have displayed their works at the gallery too. Boushahri wants the gallery to be an educational space as well as a viewing gallery and so there is an extensive art library alongside the exhibition space. Boushahri Gallery doesn’t yet have its own website but its exhibition schedule can be viewed here.
the Sultan Gallery | Image Courtesy of the Sultan Gallery
Located in a renovated warehouse, the Sultan Gallery’s exhibition space is easily transformable to suit the artist whose work is being displayed. The gallery tends to focus on contemporary photography but occasionally displays experimental works incorporating the use of sound, video and performance art too. Many leading Arab and Kuwaiti artists have held exhibitions here including Dia Azzawi, Faisal Samra and Amira Behbehani. For over forty years, Sultan Gallery has been working to introduce Arab artists to an international audience as well as helping emerging artists to establish a name for themselves.
The FA Gallery aims to create a fashion identity for Kuwait in its blending together of art and fashion. Alongside paintings, sculptures and photographs, the FA Gallery exhibits exclusive fashion collections for both men and women including pieces by Pepa Pombo, Bendita Seas and Maria Garcia. The designers exhibited are from all around the globe, but the gallery focuses mainly on Colombian and Brazilian artists. Set inside a historical house, FA claims itself to be a ‘cultural centre’ with a unique atmosphere.
Call ahead to book a tour of this residential home-cum-magical mirror display. Lidia al-Qattan created her mosaic home from 77 tons of mirrored glass, not missing an inch of the exterior or interior. Each room has its own theme, complete with light shows and music, ranging from the universe, to the cosmos, to sharks, each one even more dazzling than the last. The two-hour tour begins with homemade ginger or cinnamon tea, apple cake and a chat with Lidia about Kuwait’s history and how and why she created this masterpiece. There is also a gallery of her late husband’s work, the famous Kuwaiti artist Khalifa al-Qattan and a gift-shop where visitors can purchase their own mini mirrored-mosaic masterpiece.
Opened by Tareq Sayed and his wife, the Tareq Rajab Museum is home to a collection of over 30,000 artistic items, 10,000 of which are constantly on display. Sayed was the first Kuwaiti to ever be sent abroad to study art and, once married, he and his wife travelled the Islamic world collecting enough items to open up their own museum back in Kuwait. Despite a strong focus on calligraphy and old scripts, the museum also hosts an abundance of ceramics, costumes, glass, jewellery and metalworks from across the Islamic world on display. Sayed has opened a further museum close by, the Dar El Cid Exhibition Halls, enabling him to display even more of his magnificent art collection.
Presenting the many works of acclaimed Kuwaiti artist Thuraya al Baqsami, the Ghadir Gallery gives visitors the unique opportunity to meet and chat to the artist whilst admiring her pieces of art. As one of the country’s most accomplished artists, Thuraya al Baqsami has been featured in over 100 exhibitions around the globe with her vibrantly coloured paintings becoming increasingly more popular. Information about this gallery’s exhibition schedule can be hard to come by, but for fans of Thuraya, it is definitely worth phoning the gallery to see what’s on when you’re in Kuwait.