“Thru the Looking Glass”: Middle Eastern Mix of Artworks

By Shabari Shankar and Yara Nasif


“Thru the Looking Glass” is a weeklong art exhibit showcasing a selection of some of Palestine and Jordan’s most talented artists. The exhibit presents the exclusive work of a series of Middle Eastern artists and was curated by a team of three business women: Basma, Randa and Tamara. Tempo interviewed two of the visionaries, Basma and Randa, about their goals, aspirations and drive that brought this exhibition to existence…

Basma (right) and Randa (Left), the curators behind “Thru the Looking Glass”


TEMPO: Describe the people behind “Thru the Looking Glass”?


BASMA: Our team consists of myself, Randa and Tamara. The nice thing about this partnership is each one of us has their own style. We came together and picked different artists that cater to our likings. Not to mention, each one of us has different expertise. Randa definitely takes care of the public relations and social media. This is our first time trying something like this which involves different styles and tastes of art. We are hoping to get a good response!



TEMPO: How did you come up with the idea of the gallery?


BASMA: We all love art! All three of us are art collectors. We meet the artists and we get to know them. We decided since it’s something that we enjoy and love that it might be fun to do. Art is supposed to be affordable and this is what we’re trying to convey.


RANDA: I’m personally a graphic designer and I’m really into art. Art is my passion. Our vision with this gallery was instead of going out and buying just a poster or something, we could actually invest in art which is a great investment for the future. It’s educational too!


TEMPO: What are you hoping to achieve with this gallery?


RANDA: Of course to sell them all! (I’m just joking) J


We are hoping to encourage people to get into art in Abu Dhabi. We would like to see a lot of young couples investing and buying art. It’s good to start from a young age.


BASMA: Not only that, you can see the evolution of an artist. Let’s say you love the work of an artist, you can grow with them. You can buy the painting now and ten years down the line, you can go back and see how they have changed or evolved. It’s not just for business, but artists are still struggling. They give us such beauty. And of course, while the definition of “beauty” is different for everyone, art is still a medium that pleases the eye of those who see it. Spread the art! Spread the love!

(From L-R: Abdel Al-Raouf Al-Ajouri, Acrylic on Canvas, 100cm x 100cm.; Bader Mahaseh, Acrylic on Canvas, 150cm x 150cm; Ali Al-Shaikh Ahmad, Acrylic on Canvas, 100cm x 100cm.;


TEMPO: How did you select these pieces?


BASMA: It started slowly when we started to collect for ourselves. We approached the artists that we liked and enjoyed seeing and asked if they were interested in exhibiting abroad. We are partnering with all the artists here. It started out with a few and then word spread out. We try to research and find emerging artists. They start out with lower prices and they are just as beautiful. You see them grow and you grow with them as well.


RANDA: We have around 23 to 24 artists featured here in the exhibit.



TEMPO: Why art from Palestine and Jordan?


RANDA: Basma is from Palestine, and I am from Jordan as well our other partner Tamara. So we have easier access to the art, to start with.


BASMA: We do have access to art from Lebanon and Syria, but this is our first time so we are getting a feel for things and hopefully we can do more of these pop-up exhibits.


TEMPO: What have you learned from this gallery?


BASMA: I guess we need to find out ways to get to the people and tell them that there are things like this gallery and these artists; I think this is one of the hardest things. We did try social media but somehow it wasn’t enough. Maybe more publications next time.


RANDA: We would especially love for the locals to come in and view this selection but it seems difficult to reach them.


TEMPO: Is there anything that you would do differently next time?


RANDA: More advertising definitely.


BASMA: We did get a very good response and a lot of people came in and loved the work and the variety. I’m not discouraged but it certainly is a slow process and we have to keep working on this but the problem is that we’re approaching the end of the summer and a lot of people are leaving so this is the cutoff time. We will have to start again in September. Maybe next time we will start earlier.

Irina Naji, Acrylic on Canvas, 95cm x 157cm
Irina Naji, Acrylic on Canvas, 95cm x 157cm


TEMPO: Are you witnessing a changing trend in the field of art?


BASMA: Absolutely. Art is the only sector in the market that did not go down and the whole economy noticed a slight decrease except art believe it or not. Now with Al Manara and all the upcoming museums constantly bringing up things about art through major exhibits, people are noticing that it’s nicer to have a painting rather than a poster. Art is a more elegant way of expression. A lot of people are getting into art including me. I always consider myself to be a newcomer; it’s only a few years since I’ve started collecting art. Randa has always been an art collector. I’ve always thought it was expensive to collect art, so we do want to change the misconception that art is expensive or you cannot afford it. You can always find artwork that fits your price range.





You can find the “Thru the Looking Glass” exhibit at The Space in twofour54 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until this Thursday, 7th of May.


You can look forward to seeing a website from Basma, Randa and Tamara sometime in the near future. Keep an eye out for more pop-up art exhibits around Abu Dhabi!











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