New art gallery opens with exhibition of top Omani artists


Alia Al Farsi and Ahmed Al Serkal at the inauguration of the new gallery. Photo - Mohammed Ali/Times of Oman
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Muscat: Muscat's newest centre for visual arts, Stal Gallery, opened Sunday evening with an exhibition by a group of leading Arab artists.

Located in Madinat Sultan Qaboos, the gallery is funded by the Al Serkal family from Dubai, who are big supporters of the arts, while here in Oman the idea was conceived by artist Hassan Meer, who has dedicated a very long time to the project.

"The work and the production took two years and the reality, to see the people here packed in the gallery, is nice. I think the Al Serkal family are really supportive. They've done a lot in Dubai and it's good that they've opened a hub here in Oman. They have a vision and they know the importance of culture," Meer told Times of Oman.

In the UAE the Al Serkal Group has long been a leader in supporting the arts, with projects like Alserkal Avenue which provides a framework for different creative communities to foster international dialogue and cultural exchange. Today, Alserkal Avenue is known as a go-to place for art exhibition openings, workshops, seminars, young collectors auctions and community events in the region.

"For us in Dubai, Oman is like our country. If we are investing in arts in Dubai, we should invest in arts in Muscat. We feel this is the role of our family," Al Serkal Group chairman Ahmed Al Serkal told Times of Oman.

The inaugural exhibition, "Reflections," included the work of Omani artists Meer, Alia Al Farsi, Anwar Sonya, Adnan Al Raisi, Budoor Al Riyami, as well as Bahraini artists Jamal Abdul Rahim and Omar Rashid, Qatar's Ali Hassan and Abdullah Akar from Tunisia.

"It's a good sign in the area for all of us artists. It puts culture in front. Culture brings business. When I go to any country I want to see the other culture, not only come to buy and sit in the mall and do business. We must stand with anyone who does something for culture, because culture isn't just for this area, it's for the whole world," said Jamal Abdul Rahim, who came to Muscat to attend the opening.

For the arts community in Oman, the addition of a new gallery is an important event as there is a growing number of artists who are need of space to show and sell their work. Alia Al Farsi said this will help them establish themselves in the market, and added that she was most impressed by the gallery space.

"Hassan knows everything about the lighting, the space, and what exactly we need in a gallery. They are going to have a lot of projects and workshops for artists," Al Farsi said.

Anwar Sonya, one of Oman's senior artists added that it was a good venue for displaying larger works, such as his two contributions to the exhibition, which were large, vibrant canvases about featuring the Nizwa Souk.

The Stal Gallery will be curated by Hassan Meer and Catherine Abbott, an Irish resident of Oman, who together will play a major role in carrying forward the gallery's vision, both in bringing exhibitions and hosting workshops and other activities in its associated dedicated residential artists' studio, Studio Stal.

"A coherent, dynamic and realistic vision is central to the current and future wellbeing of the arts in Oman and Stal Gallery aims to represent the interests of practitioners in ways that are both meaningful and practical," Abbot said.

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