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Hussain Mohammed Ali, Oman’s former ambassador to the UK, hosted a reception in honour of a visiting delegation of members of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA),

New York, and world-renowned art collectors, at his residence in Madinat as Sultan Qaboos, on Sunday.

An art collector and author of ‘Art through the Eyes of an Ambassador’ (2018), Ali described the evening as an attempt to open a door for the art aficionados and collectors for Omani artists and vice versa.

The International Council is a group of supporters and donors of MoMA started in 1953. The council visits galleries and views art collections in different parts of the world every year. Its itinerary in 2019 brought the council to the region with stops in Qatar, Bahrain and Oman following the opening of the Sharjah Biennial earlier this month.

“These are the who’s who of art collectors from Argentina, Chile, India, South Africa, the UK, the US and other countries. They now have exposure to Omani art. I hope our emerging artists are able to use this exposure to their advantage. The door is open on both sides,” Ali said.

He attends art lectures and auctions regularly and collects from London auction houses as well as directly from artists. Ali’s 40 year old collection includes not just art but a 300 year old edition of the Holy Q’uran, prayer beads, statues, rugs, books, ornaments and more which are of interest to the International Council of MoMA making the visit possible.

About the delegation’s visit to Oman, Jay A Levenson, director of MoMA’s International Program that is supported by the International Council, informed that they arrived on Friday and were scheduled to leave on Monday. The delegation visited Royal Opera House Muscat, Bait al Zubair, Stal Gallery and the National Museum, which he was impressed with.

According to Levenson, who has been director of the International Program for more than 22 years, Omani artists must exhibit at international fairs and exhibitions for exposure.

Asked how art can be further developed in the sultanate, Levenson said, “You already have the artists. What you need is more galleries. In the early stages of artist recognition, it is important to have private galleries.”

Among the Omani artists who attended the reception was Hassan Meer. He echoed Levenson’s opinion of the need for more museums and art galleries. Curator and artistic director of Stal Gallery, Meer said wealthy businessmen can help art grow in Oman by building foundations and supporting artists. Another artist present on the occasion, Anwar Sonya, who was introduced at the ‘Godfather of Omani artists’ by Ali to the visiting delegation, said there is considerable support for art in the country. “Everything is free. There’s even a department for youth affairs. More galleries will come in the future.”

Ali said, Oman was the first in the country where art was patronised. “In the mid-70s, or early-80s, an art centre was opened under the instructions of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said himself. There was nothing like that at the time in the whole region. But the authorities have not developed it further.”

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