Bait Al Zubair to bring CoBrA modern art to Oman
March 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM
CoBrA Museum for Modern Art Director Els Ottenhof, with Project Manager Nienke van der Wal. Photo – Supplied

Muscat: Bait Al Zubair has been busy this week working with the curator of the CoBrA Museum for Modern Art from the Netherlands to install what can only be called a ground breaking exhibition of modern art in Oman.

For the first time, highlights of the international CoBrA art movement will be presented in Oman, from March 11 to May 7, 2015, at Bait Al Zubair.  

Bait Al Zubair, in partnership with the Netherlands embassy, has been working with the CoBrA Museum of Modern Art near Amsterdam for the past six months to develop an exhibition of vivid colour and curiosity that showcases one of the most dynamic European art movements of the twentieth century.

Cobra was founded in Paris (France) in 1948 and lasted until 1951. CoBrA  is an acronym for the three capital cities where the artists lived and worked - Copenhagen (Denmark), Brussels (Belgium) and Amsterdam (the Netherlands).

In an interview, Nienke van der Wal, project manager of the CoBrA Museum, in the Netherlands talks of the upcoming exhibition.

How did you come up with the idea for this exhibition?
The exhibition is part of Cobra Global, the international programme of the Cobra Museum in the Amsterdam region. It is part of our mission to secure the legacy of CoBrA and raise awareness and appreciation for the works of the movement. We first brought CoBrA to the Sakip Sebanci Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, which was very well received. The next step for us was to explore the interest in the Gulf region, and Oman felt like a good fit. The Cobra collection is highly relevant to the art scene in Oman since the visual arts in Oman are relatively young with many self-taught artists who have not had the benefit of studies in a local or overseas college of art.

Could you please explain the context of holding the showcase in a reputed Museum as Bait Al Zubair?
Bait Al Zubair's international ambitions are a good match for us. Their dedication to the local art scene as well as their focus on art education is something that resonates in our mission as a museum. And of course, the museum is very beautiful and attracts a very diverse audience, including Omanis, tourists and expatriates.

What do you see as the visual and conceptual strengths of the artworks to be displayed?
CoBrA art is very colourful and playful. The artists were literally inspired by the spontaneous art of children, as well as folk art and tribal art. It was their goal to liberate the creativity of mankind. The CoBrA artists looked to unleash their own unfettered imagination and experimentation by impulsive and spontaneous expression. They wanted to create art that transcends national, cultural, and intellectual boundaries that embraces people rather than excludes them, in effect, a new folk art for and by everyone.

Painting was not the only art discipline in CoBrA. The brush and the pen were closely aligned. They were also interested in all sorts of disciplines that allowed them to experiment with materials, such as ceramics. You will see examples of that as well at the exhibition.

What are the benefits and challenges of being involved in an exercise such as this?
For the Cobra Museum, it is extremely interesting to see how other art professionals view our collection, and it is very beneficial to our artistic staff to be able to have this dialogue. Luckily, the only challenges have been practical, since the distance between the countries sometimes makes it difficult.

Were there themes or requirements part of your selection process? If yes, what were these?
We wanted to show many CoBrA artists in all their diversity, and the idea was to let all these works together tell the story of this innovative art movement. We are bringing some of the key works of the movement.

Are the artworks to be displayed related in any particular way with each other?
Absolutely! CoBrA only existed for three years so all of the works relate to each other. We have created

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