A Cross-Cultural Artistic Dialogue Between France and Bahrain

The Editors


Celebrating Bahrain’s rich history as one of the oldest cultures in the Middle East, the pavilion at La Biennale introduced art collectors and enthusiasts to Bahrain’s contemporary artists. The pavilion marks 50 years of Bahrain’s contemporary arts scene, commissioned by ArtBAB (Art Bahrain Across Borders).


The ambition of the ArtBAB is to bring Bahraini artists to the world, while also bringing the art world to the island nation through an annual fair. Strengthening Bahrain’s position in the Gulf as a regional arts hub, ArtBAB inspires entrepreneurship, art education and the development of artistic practice. Bahrain has been steeped in culture since the days of the Dilmun civilization in the Bronze Age, and has much to offer the art world. An archipelago of 33 islands, Bahrain is well-known as a source of oil and pearls. The cultural knowledge Bahrainis have marked an inherent distinction between people who adapt themselves to art and those who inherit it.


Presenting a story of Bahraini art and culture, the pavilion featured the work of 16 contemporary artists, alongside unique, rarely seen artisanal pieces developed by 12 local traditional craftsmen as part of ArtBAB’s newly launched crafts showcase, The Bahrain Room.


The contemporary artists range from those born before and after the oil boom, all witnesses to rapid transformation of the island, multiple histories and changing perspectives. Working with a diverse range of media from photography to sculpture, the works reflect the aesthetics of change, explorations into the material and cultural legacy of oil extraction and industry, the growth and decay of urban centers and aspirations to progress.


The curatorship is provided by Pascale Le Thorel (France) and by Amal Khalaf (Bahrain). Featured at the center of the pavilion is a focus on the long cultural and economic history of pearl diving and the pearl trade, once the main economic driver of much of this region before the discovery of oil. Bahrain’s pearls are renowned for their brilliance and beauty. Recognized as the world’s finest, thanks to their purity of color, these jewels of the sea occupy Bahrain’s warm waters, a mix of sweet water springs and salty sea water, which gives Bahrain its name, “Two Seas.”


For more information, visit: La Biennale.







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Courtesy of Heymann Renoult
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