The Bowes Museum and The House of Fairytales were recently successful in our application to The British Council scheme ‘UK-Gulf Exhibition Programme’. Our goal was to meet with organisations in the region to work together on re-staging ‘Turkish Tulips’ (which showed at The Bowes Museum last summer).
I travelled with Anastasia Sakoilska, Deputy Director of The House of Fairytales to the UAE and visited venues in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. It was an extremely busy few days – although I did find the time to get remarkably sunburnt!
I was hugely impressed by the quality of the displays across all of the venues we visited. The incorporation of digital media added to the visitor experience – adding context and enriching displays rather than seeming like a ‘bolt-on’. There is a huge amount to learn and I am excited to share ideas and bring some of them to The Bowes Museum.
Many of the artists I saw were new to me. Two of my favourites were in Sharjah Art Museum – the vibrant colours of ‘The Village’ by Abdulqador Mubarak and ‘Do not Spend Two Words When One is Enough’ by Hassan Al Massoudy.
One of the best exhibitions I saw was in the excellent Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi where they recreated the ‘National Pavilion United Arab Emirates’ as shown at La Bienalle di Venezia. The exhibition was an excellent balance between AV and graphics to give context, whilst leaving plenty of ‘room’ around each artwork.
One of the artists we’ve met was writer and illustrator Maitha Al Khayat. She signed a book for the Museum and said Quentin Blake was a big influence.
Perhaps most importantly the people that Anastasia and I met were fantastic – creative and practical. Whether we can organise something around Turkish Tulips in the short-term is one thing (watch this space…) but I hope it is the start of a real partnership together over the long-term based on the exchange of knowledge and best-practice.