The Sultan Gallery was founded in 1969 by Ghazi and Najat Sultan. The Sultan family had moved from Kuwait to India after the pearl industry crashed in the 1930s. They returned during the oil boom in 1959, the children finished their schooling abroad, and opened what must have been the Gulf’s first gallery in what was then a small but buoyant cultural scene. The gallery exclusively showed emerging Arab artists and Indian handicrafts. Ghazi, who had studied in Harvard, also brought famous architects like I.M. Pei to Kuwait, and he was later responsible for designing the Arabian Gulf street waterfront between Kuwait Towers and Salmiyya (with its leisure areas, an artificial island et al). The Sultan siblings were instrumental in bringing Andy Warhol to Kuwait in 1977, and fostered a culture of private collecting.
The gallery closed in 1990 during the invasion of Iraq, and only reopened, under the guidance of Farida Sultan (younger sister of the founders), in 2006. She states that, due to the priority of reconstruction and the general mood in the country after the invasion, it would have been inappropriate to open it before. It is now located in a warehouse in an industrial area opposite the airport. The exhibitions in the gallery are of high quality, and focus on artists from all over the Middle East and North Africa. Farida Sultan does her best to contribute to the revival of the Kuwaiti arts scene, occasionally offering the gallery space to younger artists to set up their own exhibitions for a few days, organizing events and contributing part of the sales to charities.
The Sultan Gallery is thus definitely the dean among Kuwait’s private art galleries, and it continues setting the standards. One of the interesting things about a visit to the gallery is the amount of information that Farida has about arts in Kuwait, and all the people she can introduce to you. The Sultans also have an amazing private collection.
- The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture – Open Calls as of March 2015
- Meanwhile in Kuwait, RENDEZ-VOUS MASASAM//CAP KUWAIT
- The Arab Unbound: Tareq de Montfort exhibition in London
- New article by Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi on the modernity movement in the Gulf states.
- Nat Muller on the Arab pavillions in Venice, from the Majalla magazine