Out of an array of hopefuls starting about five years ago, only two privately run galleries for modern art remain in Abu Dhabi, the Salwa Zeidan Gallery and the Ghaf Gallery, and at the moment, since the Zeidan Gallery mainly operates as a sales point from Selwa Zeidan’s home, only the Ghaf gallery is functioning as an open art gallery.
Established in 2006, the Ghaf Gallery is run by Mohammed Kanoo, entrepreneur, art patron and artist, originally from Bahrain, together with Jalal Luqman, an Emirati artist. The Gallery has a 1500 square feet exhibition space in a house in the Khalidiya area, close to the original Salwa Zeidan gallery’s venue. The gallery has the ambition to actively nurture an appreciation for fine art and to regularly showcase contemporary local, regional and international artists. Apart from smaller-scale photography and calligraphy exhibitions, it participates in the Abu Dhabi Festival, providing an exhibition facility if the festival has an artist in residence. Outside its activities in the Abu Dhabi Festival, the general impression is that the gallery is still not performing according to its full potential, which is reflected in the absence of a full-grown contemporary art gallery scene in Abu Dhabi in general. Hopefully this can change the huge developments that are expected to ensue come to when the large museum projects will materialize. The Ghaf gallery is situated in a very quiet, pleasant area, and while it is located centrally enough in Abu Dhabi, its area is relatively free from the traffic hassles that mark other parts of Abu Dhabi.