x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Bold artistic futures for region's aspiring talent

Violence and repression appear to have given birth to a new generation of artist-activist in the region.

Wafaa Bilal's head must hurt. The New York-based artist had a camera surgically attached to the back of his skull in order to record his daily life for one year. As The National reports today, he is the latest Iraqi provocateur to find an audience for his creations in Qatar, whose Arab Museum of Modern Art has commissioned much of his work.

Violence and repression appear to have given birth to a new generation of artist-activist in the region, many of whom, like Mr Bilal, are now patronised by Gulf-based collectors and curators. Mr Bilal fled his native Najaf after the First Gulf War in 1991. "Certain images stuck in my mind, of Kufa or Najaf, of smoke rising after the [Shia] uprising," he said. "I wanted to use the body, rather than the eye or finger, to capture images about the state of surveillance we now live in."

While others squabble over whether modern art has value at all or whether it erodes traditional identities, Qatar is placing a premium on the works of emerging talents, making its own mark as a creative hub in the process. But bold artistic leaps will require ever-bolder curators, without fear of their critics. As Mr Bilal said of his own experience, "no restrictions were placed on me in Qatar, which was a really big step for them to take".