This may be the 30th edition of Carre D’Artistes but it is something very new for Qatar,” explains Martha Blanco as she shows us around her new gallery. “Over here, art has always been monumental and we are aiming to make it a little more... accessible.” And this accessibility manifests itself in what might be described as big art on a small scale. Where most galleries offer large paintings, limiting their customer base to those with enough space to actually accommodate such mammoth works, Carre D’Artistes does something a little different. They offer artworks in fixed sizes, with fixed prices, aiming to take art out of traditional buying circles and open it up to new people.
The smallest of their ‘petit format’ paintings are only 13cmx13cm and the price tag is proportionally reduced. As Martha explains, for QR450 it is possible to own an original work of art.
The concept seems to be catching on. Originating in the south of France, there are now 30 Carre D’Artiste galleries.
Martha smiles as she explains that more than 600 artists currently earn their livings making works for the brand.
Doha’s new gallery features large art works in what might be described as a ‘traditional’ gallery layout, but non-traditionally Carre D’Artistes also has a selection of racks reminiscent of those found in old-fashioned record shops. Patrons can buy the larger works on the walls or browse the smaller ones as they see fit. The overall effect is easy, unimposing and inviting.
As time goes on, the plan is to blend the work of the established foreign artists with that of more local artists. “We are in the process of negotiating with two Qatari artists and hope, in the near future, to be offering some work by them. There is quite a buzz around Ali Al-Mulla, who recently had his first solo exhibition at Katara.”
So Colin Merrin’s London-inspired cityscapes will share gallery space with Al-Mulla’s pictures here in Doha and then cycle round to sit next to each other in New York or Barcelona. “The way we can cycle artists is one of the appeals of working with us,” Martha explains.
But as well as helping the world learn about their artists, Carre D’Artistes hopes their artists will help the world learn about art. There are plans for a variety of educational endeavours once the gallery has found its feet and Martha hopes to initiate a series of projects with schools. Artists like Al-Mulla and perhaps even François Poulat, whose fixation with African animals and striking colours are normally found on the other side of the world, may end up working with school children in Doha. The hope is to use paint as a means of blurring boundaries between cultures.
Eric Munsch’s moody pictures of boats, created with a knife using horizontal and vertical slashes are a case in point. Evocative of cold and winter, making use of lots of greys and whites, these pictures could not be further away in a meteorological sense from the Gulf. Yet, somehow, they manage to seem right at home in Qatar.
Andy Warhol did something much more extreme and succeeded in sharing his works with new audiences in new places. If Carre D’Artistes’ own attempts to break out of traditional markets are half as successful, they will introduce painting as a medium to an entirely new generation and take Qatar’s creativity to the world.
Open Sun-Thu 10am-10pm; Fri 2pm-10pm. The Gate Mall, West Bay (4407 7247).
Three talents on show
Acrylic and oil on wood with textured paper, QR4,250
A self-taught artist, François Poulet draws inspiration from his travels and his works are exotic. In this example, he pays tribute to African wildlife in an attempt to encourage their protection.
Number 23, mixed medium, QR4,250
Hampshire-based painter Colin Merrin works with oils and watercolours and focuses on the landscapes of many beautiful English areas but also explores urban-based themes.
Vol de nuit, oils on canvas, QR10,250
Eric Munsch began with portrait painting and then moved to impressionism before settling on abstraction back in 1999. Since then, he has mastered his technique of painting in oils and acrylics on canvas and offers visions of the seascape.