The members of Bait 15, the artist-run space in downtown Abu Dhabi, have announced they will be taking a step back from the collective to move forward in their individual endeavours.
The organisation was founded in 2018 by five artists in the UAE and became a significant voice for grassroots cultural development in Abu Dhabi. The villa that housed the collective comprised a downstairs exhibition, social space and library, with studios upstairs for the artists.
The original members were Maitha Abdalla, Afra Al Dhaheri, Hashel Al Lamki, Kris Mortensen and Tony Bragg. The last two have since left the UAE and last September the Emirati artist Zuhoor Al Sayegh, a former artist in residence, joined.
Other artists in residence included Tara Aldughaither from Saudi Arabia, Camilla Singh from Canada, and Lina Mazenett and David Quiroga (in collaboration with Art Dubai) from Colombia.
In addition to providing a space for non-institutional activity in the capital, the artists frequently appeared on panel discussions to argue for a multi-layered approach to cultural development, and collaborated with fellow UAE art entities such as Alserkal Avenue and Art Dubai.
The idea of continuity with previous generations of Abu Dhabi artists was important to the collective, and the site itself was the former home of Emirati painter Mohamed Al Mazrouei, with whom Al Lamki worked for a 2018 show at the NYUAD Art Gallery's Project Space.
The site's library held back issues of Al Tashkeel magazine, published by the Emirates Fine Arts Society in Sharjah, which was an early voice for artists in the UAE.
In a statement on Instagram, the four current members said they were “stepping away to allow for further individual growth".
“Our public engagement was significantly affected due to the pandemic; however, this allowed us to reassess our roles and responsibilities to the community.”
The careers of Abdalla, Al Dhaheri and Al Lamki, in particular, have taken off in the last four years.
Al Dhaheri is now assistant professor of visual art at Zayed University, her alma mater, is a recipient of the 2021 Misk Art Grant and is on the roster of Green Art Gallery in Alserkal Avenue.
Abdalla recently had a solo exhibition at Tabari Artspace, in both the Dubai gallery and London's Cromwell Place, and Al Lamki had a major show at Warehouse421 in 2020, and is presented by Leila Heller.