As Bait Muzna approaches its fifteenth anniversary, Oman's first established private art gallery has exciting plans for the next phase in its development. International Consultant, Christine O'Donnell, is in town to suggest a new look for the Gallery and provide fresh impetus for its programs and activities. Christine began her work by considering the character and history of Bait Muzna, a traditional Omani house that was once a royal residence and made its début as an art gallery in the year 2000.
Bait Muzna's strategic location in what is now a cultural hub forms part of its special appeal. The Gallery occupies a privileged place near the centre of the centuries-old harbour city of Muscat, just a few blocks from Al Alam Palace and the shimmering waters of Muscat Bay. Bait Muzna was built earlier last century in the traditional Omani style centred in an open courtyard with an inner balcony on the first floor. When, at the dawn of the new millennium, the house became a gallery, the courtyard had been roofed in, but the interior architecture was little altered.
Sayyida Susan Al Said, the visionary owner and creator of the Gallery, expanded Bait Muzna's reach by renting a nearby traditional house to serve as a space for workshops and a residence for visiting artists.
With the two authentic traditional houses in atmospheric old Muscat, Bait Muzna offered the city something very special and helped generate an exciting new era in the history of art in Muscat. The Gallery was incredibly active with exhibitions, events and workshops by international artists that attracted a great deal of public interest and sparked creativity as well as camaraderie among the artists of Muscat.
Right from its inception, Bait Muzna supported Omani artists, dedicating a large gallery room for exhibiting their work. Bait Muzna also had an impact on young & emerging international artists who were invited to give workshops and exhibit. For instance, Stephen Stapleton who is now famous in the global art world for his immensely successful art initiative, Edge of Arabia, was encouraged and supported in an exhibition at Bait Muzna Gallery in 2001 when his career was just beginning.
As the city's first private art gallery, Bait Muzna, along with the Omani Society for Fine Arts, the Cultural Club, and later, Bait Al Zubair, pioneered what we now know as "The Art Scene' in Muscat. With the arrival of the new Gallery and the spirit of excitement that it created, art aficionados, art lovers and the interested public came out of the woodwork and Bait Muzna was the catalyst for new stream of energy in cultural participation.
Breaking new ground
As Bait Muzna began to focus on contemporary Arab art in the latter part of its first decade in operation, the time came to renovate the space and give the Gallery a contemporary identity, while preserving the essence of its traditional character. The change was nothing short of spectacular - the interior courtyard area and its balconies were transformed into soaring spaces crowned with a ceiling of glass. Filled with light, the Gallery could then accommodate many large canvasses on expansive white walls.
Bait Muzna has always moved ahead with visionary strategies and it broke new ground, as no other Muscat gallery has, by exhibiting Muscat artists at important international fairs - ArtParis AbuDhabi, Art Abu Dhabi and Art Dubai. The Gallery now has a strong regional presence and is known internationally. The international dimension is a special interest of HH Sayyida Muzna Kais Al Said, co-owner of the Gallery, who travels abroad and is linked in with global trends in art. HH Sayyida Muzna adds an outside perspective with fresh and inventive ideas.
Over the past several years, the Gallery has developed
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