A region at the crossroads of cultures, the Persian Gulf has always been a site rich in heritage. Its contemporary art scene has been on the rise in recent years, with events such as the Sharjah Biennale and Art Dubai key fixtures in the art world’s calendar. Here, Metis takes a look at five artists whose works interrogate the various intricacies of life in the Persian Gulf.

Rashed Al Shashai

Installation view of A Concise Passage, Rashed Al Shashai, in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Lance Gerber, the artist, RCU and Desert X.

Playful and irreverent, the works of Saudi artist Rashed Al Shashai nonetheless tackles questions that loom large over the contemporary landscape. Questions of superficiality in culture, modern apathy and suffocating media presence are dealt with through forms that invite questions and dialogue.


Golnaz Fathi

Untitled, Golnaz Fathi, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 170 x 130cm. Image courtesy of Opera Gallery.

Iranian Golnaz Fathi gleefully subverts her classical calligraphic training in pieces that focus on gesture and abstraction. Bold colour and vigorous, confident movement couple in works that are energetic yet meditative. 


Taha Heydari

Rays, Taha Heydari, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 165.1 x 132.1 cm. Image courtesy of Haines Gallery.

Iranian Taha Heydari’s works look at the power of the image in contemporary political narratives. His large-scale canvases, with fragmentary aesthetics and minutely-detailed brushstrokes, interrogate prejudice and propaganda in both the United States and the Middle East. 


Ahmed Alsoudani

Fishing, Ahmed Alsoundai, 2018, acrylic, charcoal and coloured pencil on canvas, 193 x 284.5 cm. Image courtesy Marlborough New York.


The surreal and vivid canvases of Iraqi Ahmed Alsoudani reference the artist’s experiences in the recent Iraq War. His figures are distorted and grotesque, in agonised arrangements. Arriving in the US after fleeing the War in the mid-1990s, Alsoundai was one of five artists to represent Iraq in the Venice Biennale, in the first pavillion hosted by Iraq in 35 years.


Sarah Al Agroobi

With Silver Bells, and Cockle Shells, Sarah Al Agroobi, 2019, acrylic on wood panel, 80 x 60 cm. Image courtesy of The Park Gallery.

Artist, curator and educator Sarah Al Agroobi (b. United Arab Emirates) reckons with culture and identity through the lens of colonial discourse. Her series glitch, time, repent looks at the power of technology to collapse time, bringing the future and past to our fingertips all at once.

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