Aisha Alabbar’s father had one of the first fine art framing businesses in the region, which he opened in 1972, the same year the seven Emirates came together to form the UAE. Commissioning artists such as Abdul Qader al Rais for prints to be used in the growing number of hotel and governmental offices, her father and brother brought customized German and Italian frames and glass into the UAE. While the family business has grown well beyond the bounds of the framing shop, it was here that Aisha was first exposed to art, sparking her own creative practice and life-long interest.
What began as an interest in photography through camera-phones, taking photos on family trips abroad, quickly turned into a professionalised undertaking. When her father passed away, she wished she had better photos documenting family trips together. So, Aisha bought a professional camera, started taking classes and educating herself about photography. As she became more engrossed in photography, developing her own skills as an artist, she equally felt the need to learn more about the history of art, visiting museums and attending art fairs.
At the same time, Aisha and her friends found little opportunity to exhibit their conceptual works. Noticing that many galleries focused on artists outside the region and that Emirati-owned galleries focused on traditional practices rather than participating in an international discourse, she saw an opportunity. She decided to open a gallery focused on artists in her community, providing mentorship and exposure to emerging and established local artists eager for opportunities in their local market.
Aisha Alabbar Gallery now takes pioneering Emirati artists as its central focus, while also providing a platform for young, emerging local artists based in the Gulf. Working with a diverse range of contemporary artists and creating a multi-faceted programme, Aisha Alabbar seeks to contribute to a local arts ecosystem that is open and welcoming, prioritising engagement of diverse audiences with rigorous and timely exhibitions. In the future, she looks forward to promoting the work of the gallery’s represented artists internationally.