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International Museum of Image
Terzocchio Meridiani di Luce - Sole di Mezzanotte
(ThirdEye Meridian of
Light - Midnight Sun)

Deadline: Ongoing

Call to Artist
October 2011
Although Melissa-Enders Bhatia came to Bahrain five years ago to join the Ministry of Culture from Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Department in New York, the German born curator, like many of today’s professional curators landed where she is today the traditional way - earning a master's degree in Modern and Contemporary Art and Connoisseurship from Christie's Art Institute, New York and advanced degrees in Economics from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics in the UK.

Melissa's wealth of experience and knowledge of contemporary art is an invaluable asset to Bahrain.
artBahrain in conversation with the kingdom's Curator du jour
What is the basic model that underlies your work as a curator?

At the Shaikh Ebrahim Center our mandate is to cover all the visual arts and to promote both local artists as well as bringing educational international projects to Bahrain.  This means that every year we will feature exhibitions on painting, sculpture, photography and architecture and design.  We try to bring exceptional international artists or exhibitions to Bahrain that will show current best and cutting edge practices to our audience.  As a curator, the key to my work is the choice of the right themes, artists and exhibits and to make sure they relate to who we are as a center.  The development of themes and strong research is key here.  As a center focused on culture and research, it is very important that strong publications accompany our exhibitions and we invest in research and even commission international experts to contribute to our brochures.

How do you combine the different spheres: research, choice of theme, realization, production and marketing?

I think the core of any exhibition or curatorial project lies in the development of a theme; this has to be relevant and topical and provides the basis for research etc.  The practical aspects of realization, production and marketing really follow on from this and are mainly a function of financial constraints.  As the Shaikh Ebrahim Center is a small and non-for-profit organisation, all these tasks are combined and executed by a small team of people.

What qualities does a curator need nowadays?

I think a curator should have a solid academic foundation and in addition needs to be fully informed of current developments in the art world globally.  Practically speaking, a curator needs to have the right sensitivity to work with and inspire artists to bring out the best in their work.

Since its opening, the Bin Matar House, the art gallery of Shaikh Ebrahim Center for Culture and Research showed several ambitious art exhibitions including the first regional exhibition of Zaha Hadid’s design work - Fluidity and Design in 2010.

About Bin Matar House

The Bin Matar House is one of a number of traditional Bahraini houses that were salvaged from complete destruction and beautifully restored by the Shaikh Ebrahim Center for Culture and Reseach.  It is dedicated to the memory of the prominent Bahraini pearl trading family, the Bin Matars, who used the building as a majlis since the early 20th century.  As small permanent exhibition details the history of this remarkable family and its scion, Salman bin Matar.  The large exhibition space in the same building is used for temporary exhibitions.  We have a varied program that aims to address all visual art forms from painting and sculpture to photography, design and architecture. 

Key to the future

I would say the key to the future lies in a development of a strong artistic scene here in Bahrain on the one hand and continuous international exchanges and exposure for local artists.
about her job, curating, and the Bin Matar House.