SAFIR proudly launched its first workshop TA’AROF which took place from  March 9-20th 2017 as part of the Sharjah Art Biennial 2016/2017. The workshop provided a select group of young artists from Syria with a unique opportunity to both develop their capacities and artistic networks by visiting the Sharjah Art Biennial 13 Tamawuj, attending workshop sessions relating to key aspects of their development and outreach by key curators and artists from the MENA region, and also visiting Art Dubai 2017 and other art galleries.

Through the lectures, interactive tours and key SB13 events, the workshop aimed to provide an initial catalyst to expand the horizons of the participants and  to help them experience the full spectrum of the art world, and form a better understanding of the role of biennials, art centers and artist residencies in the development of their practice.

The workshop lectures focused on developing key skills, including creating value, refining technique, and communicating ideas.  Facilitated by a number of prominent artists and art experts, including Hala Khayat, one of the founders of MASSYR and Director of Sales at Christie’s Dubai, Christine Tohme Curator of SAF 13, Lord David Snowdon, renowned artists Safwan Dahoul and Thaier Helal, and curators Reem Fadda, Tarek Abou El Fetouh and Fawz Kabra.

Objectives of the Workshop:

  • Develop capacity and skills and see their application in practice.
  • Introduce the artists to two prominent events.
  • Sow the seeds of a network of artists and mentors.

TA’AROF Workshop Schedule March 9-20th 2017

Participating SAFIR Artists: Noor Bahjat Al Masri, Mohamed Khayata, Abdallah Omari, Yamen Yousef, Alaa Sharabi, Juhayda Al Bitar, Anas Albraehe. 


Tarek Abou El Fetouh is an independent curator lives and works in Brussels. His curatorial work includes “It’s Happening in the Garage”, Alexandria ; DisOrientation, House of World Cultures, Berlin (2003); Roaming Inner Landscapes, Alexandria (2004) and Sharjah biennale (2009), Durub Al Tawaya in Abu Dhabi (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016). He initiated the Meeting Points -Festival for Contemporary Arts and curated the first four editions that took place in several cities in the Arab World, worked as the artistic directors of the event with curators, Frie Leysen for MP5 and Okwui Enwezor for MP6 and the Zagreb based collective WHW for MP7. Abou El Fetouh curatorial works include the exhibition of Home Works 6 organized by Ashkal Alwan in Beirut 2013. The exhibition was selected in the 2013 top ten lists of Art Forum, “Lest the Two Seas Meet” at MoMA Warsaw in 2015 and “The time is out of joint” in Sharjah and Gwangju 2016.

Fawz Kabra is a curator and writer. She earned her MA in curatorial studies at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (2013) and her BFA in studio arts at Concordia University in Montreal (2004). Previously, Fawz initiated and administered the Arts Grant Program at the Emirates Foundation, Art and Culture (2007) and went on to curate public programs at the Cultural Department, TDIC, Abu Dhabi (2008–2011). She co-curated the special project Brief Histories: Winter/Spring 2011 in Sharjah and Dubai, UAE (2011) and was Curator of Projects at Art Dubai in 2014. In New York, Fawz was Assistant Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Abu Dhabi Project, and curatorial assistant for WS: Paul McCarthy at the Park Avenue Armory (2013). She curated the video program at ArteEast, Arts and Culture in Transformative Times (2013), co-curated the BRIC Biennial: Volume I, Downtown Edition at BRIC Arts and Media, Brooklyn (2014), and curated The Way Things Can Go a two-day symposium at the Armory Show (2015). Since 2012 she has been an editorial correspondent at Ibraaz, the online journal on contemporary visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East.

Hala Khayat,one of the founders of MASSYR. Hala Khayat is Director and Head of Sales at Christie’s Dubai since 2007, plays a key role in the development of the Middle Eastern art market. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communications from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus, and a Master’s degree in Design Studies from Central Saint Martin, University of the Arts, London. Khayat was listed as number 70 on the Arabian Business News list of the 100 most powerful Arabs under 40. In addition to her senior role at Christie’s, Khayat lectures on Art History and the art market in the region. She is currently preparing a catalogue Raisonné on Syrian artist LouayKayyali (1934-1977).

Christine Tohmé, selected as the curator of Sharjah Biennial 13 by the Sharjah Art Foundation, Beirut-based curator, Christine Tohmé is the founding Director of Ashkal Alwan, the Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, established in 1993. Ashkal Alwan is a non-profit organisation that supports contemporary art through numerous initiatives including the multidisciplinary platform Home Works: A Forum of Cultural Practices, initiated by Tohmé in 2001. Other initiatives include Video Works, a grant and screening platform supporting the development, production and diffusion of projects by artists and filmmakers residing in Lebanon, created in 2006, and Home Workspace Program, a tuition-free, interdisciplinary study programme founded in 2011.

David Linley (Earl of Snowdon) is an English furniture maker and chairman of the auction house Christie’s UK.  Snowdon opened a workshop where he designed and made furniture for three years before setting up his own company, David Linley Furniture Ltd (now known as LINLEY) where he makes bespoke furniture, upholstery, and interior design products known for their neoclassical appearance and use of inlaid woods. The son of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, he has written numerous books and lectured around the world. His work is sold in retail stores in Belgravia, Harrods and overseas including the Bespoke Collection. In December 2006, Snowdon took up the post of chairman of Christie’s UK, having joined the board in 2005 as a non-executive director.

Safwan Dahoul is a Syrian artist and one of the foremost painters in the Arab world, Safwan Dahoul has repeatedly demonstrated how contemporary modes of figuration can describe the psychic terrain of a region that is in constant flux. Dahoul’s paintings are held in numerous private and public collections, including the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; National Museum, Damascus; The Samawi Collection, Dubai; The Farjam Collection, Dubai; the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Kuwait.

Thaeir Hilal is a Syrian artist and graduate of Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Damascus. As a longtime resident of the Gulf, Helal has contributed to the regional art scene with an extensive exhibition history that includes solo exhibitions at such venues as the Sharjah Art Museum (2000), in addition to awards from Tehran’s Contemporary Painting Biennial (2005) and the Sharjah Biennial (1997). Helal has also influenced the development of local painting as a Senior Member of the Sharjah Arts Institute, and a Professor at the Fine Arts College, University of Sharjah, where he has encouraged emerging artists. Helal’s works are housed in private and public collections throughout the Arab world, including the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Collection, U.A.E.

Ismail al-Rifai  Al-Rifai was born in Raqqa, Syria in 1967. He obtained his B.A in Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts at Damascus University. He is a member of the Syrian Fine Arts Syndicate as well as the UAE Fine Arts Society. Al-Rifai works as a researcher in the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah and participated in many exhibitions in Syria, UAE and other Arab and foreign countries and has won many awards including the award of Fine Arts Syndicate Chief in Syria in 2002, as well as the distinguished Painting Prize in the Sharjah Open Art Exhibition, and the UAE Fine Arts Society in 2004.

Reem Fadda is an independent curator, based in Ramallah. Previously, Fadda worked at the Guggenheim from 2010-2016 as Associate Curator, Middle Eastern Art, Abu Dhabi Project. From 2005 to 2007, Fadda was Director of the Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA) and worked as Academic Director for the International Academy of Art Palestine, which she helped found in 2006. She has been involved in many international exhibitions, including Liminal Spaces, a four-year artistic and political project consisting of conferences, tours, art residencies, and exhibitions in Palestine, Israel, and Germany; Ramallah Syndrome, part of the Venice Biennale in 2009; and Tarjama/Translation, organized by ArteEast, which featured 30 artists from the Middle East and Central Asia at the Queens Museum of Art, New York, and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. In 2009, she curated the Riwaq Biennale, Ramallah, with Charles Esche. Fadda is on the general assembly of the International Academy of Art and Kamandjati Association, the selection jury of the Young Arab Theatre Fund, and the steering committee of Decolonizing Architecture. She was granted a Fulbright scholarship to pursue her PhD at the History of Art and Visual Studies Department at Cornell University.

Many thanks to the Sharjah Art Foundation and SB13’s Curator Christine Tohmé for sponsoring SAFIR’s Artist Workshop TA’AROF 2017.


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