Al Riwaq Art Space was credited with creating a vibrant art scene in Adliya, Bahrain, before rising rents forced it to vacate its premises in March 2018. The venue, which spearheaded the popular The Nest street festival and provided a base for local creatives, was so beloved that more than 2,000 people signed a petition against its closure, but to no avail.
Now, however, the gallery's masterminds are planning a comeback, as a new venue will open its doors in a new location, with a new vision, this year.
Manama's Yateem Centre – Bahrain's oldest mall – will be its new home, and extensive redevelopment work at the shopping complex is ongoing and nearing completion.
Al Riwaq owner Bayan Kanoo, in partnership with A M Yateem Brothers, has plans to drive the transformation of Manama, turning the city into a destination for arts and culture, locally and internationally.
The area chosen for the new development, close to the Bahrain capital's souq, is in the middle of an ambitious regeneration project that aims to regain its status as a cultural and commercial centre of the island. This scheme has already given rise to the opening of The Merchant House boutique hotel and the rejuvenation of the historical Bab Al Bahrain building.
"My hope is that the new Al Riwaq will be a place where creativity in all its forms can thrive – for all people, not only artists," Kanoo tells The National. "The goal is for art enthusiasts to further their interests, aspiring artists to develop new skills and established creators to launch careers."
The venue, which will encompass a ground floor and mezzanine area across 1,400 square metres, will open in September, with a co-working space, a 3D-printing and fabrication lab, a studio, gallery and cafe. Al Riwaq's notable concept store will also make a return, once again giving local artists a chance to sell their work to the public. There are also plans to repurpose the rooftop of Yateem Centre as a garden and park for events and pop-up markets.
Overall, it will take up a quarter of the space in the renovated mall, and will be its flagship tenant.
Al Riwaq Art Space's inaugural exhibition, Post-Fiction, will spotlight Manama's fictional narratives that have created a lasting impression on the kingdom. Tracing dominant narratives that shaped the capital, such as the British imperial legacy, trade history and urban planning, it will allow certain versions of history to be scrutinised by participating artists, which includes Abu Dhabi's Nasser Alzayani, Bahraini architects Ali Karimi and Hamed Bukhamseen, and artist and designer Mariam Alnoaimi, also from Bahrain.
Ahead of its official launch, the centre will begin a soft opening in August and introduce in-person events. These will include sessions on art appreciation and history, portfolio preparation for a variety of disciplines, film screenings and some skills-based workshops.
Giving local artists and creatives a platform through which to hone and improve their skills is what Al Riwaq Art Space is all about. “Nurturing a creative ecosystem is one of the most important ways we can make the world a better place,” says Kanoo.