DAR Art Fair : A meditative relish to Arab art

Nothing in the halls is taken for granted, and the Arab thread, which Omeish and Rifai emphasized, can be seen across the board and not in its usual polished manner.
(Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Too frequently, albeit in passing, you hear people complain about Jordan’s perceived limited offering of local and regional art displays. DAR Art Fair has come again to prove skeptics wrong.اضافة اعلان

Named after co-founders Dina Dabbas Rifai and Rania Omeish, DAR Art Fair is the founders’ brainchild in its second edition. The fair creates a home for works of over 200 independent artists and 15 galleries from 18 countries across the Middle East and Africa.

DAR Art Fair co-founders Rania Omeish (left) and Dina Dabbas Rifai. (Photo: Handout from DAR Art)

“Internationally, there are art fairs; why is Amman the exception? This is a segment of forgotten people, and we have to motivate them,” said Omeish highlighting the fair’s purpose.

Occupying a space of 1,400sq.m. in Swefieh Village P1, the works are separated into two sections — independent artists and galleries. But they are threaded by more than just common contemporary themes with a few modern works.

Lebanese artist and curator Abed Al-Kadiri, who resides in Paris, is the fair’s first curatorial consultant. His intricate placement choices adorned the halls, never once leaving space for confusion but leaving plenty for interpretation.

Mohammed Shammarey’s “Beating Heart”. (Photo: Jordan News)

The fair welcomes you with muted whites splashed with darker yellows and textured matter on canvas with Haasan Bourkia’s work, evoking a familiarity with a building abandoned yet marked with traces of life and love through consistent renovation. Softly, it serves as the backdrop to Mohammed Shammarey’s “Beating Heart”, a skeletal yet branch-like figure twisted in all ways but natural yet successfully carrying a dated mini-TV, presenting an eye-grabbing commentary on the history of co-existence.

Despite the earthy entrance, you are quickly contrasted with pieces that serve as a reflection of our current moment with colorful works that accent the mundane, or lack thereof, of crowds and escalators. Almost swiftly, the works continued from Sheikha Ibrahim Al Nasser’s embroidered “Untitled”, which presents an integrated community on a single fabric, to Sara Ramahi’s “The psycho-social support session”, bringing us back to the dinner table with our father as children.
Nothing in the halls is taken for granted, and the Arab thread, which Omeish and Rifai emphasized, can be seen across the board and not in its usual polished manner.
The works speak, in a familiar hushed whisper, a language predated by only a decade from the one we fluently babble. Yet, although — sometimes — ambiguous, the language leaves us in awe. Meditations on daily encounters become the norm (Hani Dallah Ali’s “Untitled” hammers home the beauty of sitting and having mail).

Nothing in the halls is taken for granted, and the Arab thread, which Omeish and Rifai emphasized, can be seen across the board and not in its usual polished manner. The curtain is lifted: bodies (Mai Qaddoura’s “Floating”), drugs (Paolo Farran’s “things we leave behind”), politics and religion (Saleh Al Malhi’s 1943–2013 works from Hindiyeh museum’s private collection), and gender and family dynamics (Nagham Khader’s “Out of her father’s house”) are all on the table.

Sara Ramahi’s “The psycho-social support session”.

None of the works were chosen hastily, but all the individual art section was chosen blindly. After the open call for submissions, where 360 emerging artists sent in works, 26 percent were accepted, and the rest of the displayed works were established and invited artists.

According to co-founder Rifai: “This year we had a selection committee that picked the art after they were shown anonymously,” and selections were not based on names “but based on the merit of the artwork”.

“Some of the works were submitted as sketches, and these were the ones we started with. To give them enough time to complete their works.”

Works by Saleh Al Malhi (1943–2013) from Hindiyeh museum’s private collection. 

However, the fair’s treasure trove, a staple of Rifai and Omeish’s commitment to presenting art as it grows internationally and locally, is the digital room. It includes NFTs, video art, and augmented reality (AR) properly presented in Jordan for the first time.

The digital art room is home to 11 of Emergeast’s artists.

Emergeast was founded in 2014 by two women, Dima Abdul Kader and Nikki Meftah, and is the MENA region’s first and leading online gallery. It “represents emerging and mid-career MENA artists,” said Emergeast Digital Content and NFT Manager Alia Kawar.

Hani Dallah Ali’s “Untitled”.

The works, from an infinity mirror and an AR man, to more tangible snippets of daily life — cartoon-like faces opposite of each other blinking and a naked woman presenting utmost comfort in her living room — welcomed questions, and though they were continuously changing, they demanded attention.

Much like Rifai and Omeish, who reiterated the importance of presenting digital art properly in the Middle East, Kawar highlighted that an NFT space was a “natural extension to Emergeast’s ethos, which is to make art more accessible”.

Beyond digital art, galleries, and individual artists, the fair holds a lively crowd and a cozy atmosphere; a nod to Omeish and Rifai’s tireless efforts (the “buzz room” is decorated with Omeish’s home furniture).

Show Album

(Photos: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)

Walking through provides a fresh take on the dull minute details of daily life through art. The area is crowded, yet the art stands out, and there is room for everyone regardless of age, taste, or expertise.

So, “come and come quickly. Look at the beautiful art, and just enjoy the tremendous amount of talent we have in this part of the world,” advised Rifai.

“Take your time, come with whoever you feel comfortable with, and enjoy. Ask around and look at works once and twice. What you see the first time might change the second time,” said Omeish.

The fair runs till June 7. And as you wander, keep in mind Omeish’s advice to experience the art fully and “feel the space”.

Read more Culture and Arts
Jordan News