By Al Anood Al Wahaibi
Located in the Rusayl Industrial Estate on the Muscat Expressway in Oman is Alia Gallery. Opened in January 2020, the art gallery is home to more than 120 artworks, including paintings on canvas, but also includes different styles of arts on furniture, stones, and wood, all by artist Alia Al Farsi, a renowned Omani artist who has exhibited her work in Paris, Brussels, Geneva, Tokyo and Seoul. Every artist and art gallery tells a story and has an inspiration behind their work. On a warm summer morning, I seek to unfold Alia’s.
Any viewer of Alia’s work, or visitor to her gallery, will quickly realize that the inspiration behind most of her artwork in the gallery is her country, Oman. Many of her artworks feature faces of the people of the Oman, as well as silhouettes dressed in colorful traditional clothes. Placed in the corner of Alia’s gallery’s entrance is perhaps her most iconic painting titled But Mostly Me, which depicts a woman dressed in orange and black colored traditional clothes, confidently sitting on a chair. Alia painted this as soon as the construction work on her gallery ended. The evening the work concluded, she went home, sat on her favorite sofa and made sure to paint a painting that reflects her true self, feeling pride and a sense of accomplishment, she tells me.
One of the reasons that first pushed Alia to open her gallery years ago was to showcase Oman and its heritage to the public and tourists. “I want tourists to see Oman in a contemporary way,” says Alia. Born in Muttrah, a center of marine trade in Oman with a rich heritage , at a time of historical change in the country, left a long impact on the artist’s life. “The fast growth of Oman has affected our traditional lifestyles and the way we communicate with each other. Through my art, I want to preserve our identity,” says Alia. “I also like to indulge myself in Sufism.” Her art gallery, which is 893 square meters big, and spans over two floors, houses artworks that can be split into three categories: Sufi-influenced art, Omani heritage and oriental architecture.
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“A private gallery is the best way to archive your achievements and celebrate your work with art enthusiasts,” says Alia. After exhibiting her art and representing her country in many national and international art events, such as representing Oman at the Venice Biennale in 2015, and participating in a solo exhibition titled Preeminence at Dubai’s Empty Quarter Gallery in 2015, Alia felt the need to showcase her work and document it through her eponymous gallery. Through Alia Gallery, she also aims to encourage emerging artists to believe in their work, and eventually turn it into a source of income. “I feel so happy when I see children coming to the gallery with their own paintings just to show them to me. Such projects can inspire a whole generation of artists inside and outside Oman,” she adds.
“The fast growth of Oman has affected our traditional lifestyles and the way we communicate with each other. Through my art, I want to preserve our identity.”
Alia highly encourages artists to celebrate their art work and art achievements through having their one spaces and art galleries. However, speaking from her experience of opening her own art gallery, she stresses the importance of being financially ready and have a large collection of paintings before embarking on this. It is also important to have a good strong network in order to assist the artist in advertising their work and selling some of it, she adds.
It took Alia two years to set up her art gallery. Throughout the process, she faced a number of challenges, such as finding the right venue and size for her gallery. “It was quite challenging to find a venue of such a size in Muscat, and for a reasonable price,” she says. She eventually picked a warehouse in Al Rusayl. Even though Al Rusayl is considered an industrial area, it is not a far place from the city and is accessible from different areas in Muscat, making it a strategic location for the gallery to be at. “Visitors would come to the industrial area, Rusayl, with low expectations, but once they enter the gallery, they are amazed by the place,” Alia adds. In addition to that, another challenge she faced was finding the materials she wanted to decorate her gallery with.
Alia Gallery does not showcase the work of the Omani artist, but also houses a public library, a quiet space for visitors that holds books on philosophy, the arts, self-development, in addition to biographies, novels and publications of Dar Al Saqi that feature Alia’s art on their covers. The gallery also has a cafe called Alia’s Lounge, where people can enjoy a cup of coffee or any beverages after their visit. A gift shop was also recently opened, offering a wide collection of shirts, prints of artwork, reusable face masks, bookmarks and many other products inspired by her paintings. Alia’s future plan for the gallery is to make it an “internationally acclaimed art hub that people across the world would fly to visit,” she says.
Al Anood Al Wahaibi from Oman is a rising senior at Northwestern University in Qatar pursuing a Journalism and Strategic Communication degree. Her interest in topics when it comes to writing revolves around featuring women’s achievements, but she aims to explore different topics including arts and culture. She is currently an intern at Sekka .
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