BAIT 15 Welcomes New Member Zuhoor Al Sayegh


By Global Art Daily Editorial Board

Published on September 27th, 2020

        A fourth member joins the family. BAIT 15, Abu Dhabi’s artist-run studio and exhibition space welcomes Zuhoor Al Sayegh. The new member joins a collective that in almost three years has become a center of gravity for Abu Dhabi’s independent artmaking. Al Sayegh, an interdisciplinary artist, first joined BAIT 15 as an artist-in-residence this past spring. Following her residency, co-founders Hashel Al Lamki, Maitha Abdalla, and Afra Al Dhaheri, today welcome Zuhoor Al Sayegh to their artist home.

Zuhoor Al Sayegh. Headshot courtesy of the artist. 

Afra Al Dhaheri, Maitha Abdalla, and Hashel Al Lamki. Co-founders of BAIT 15. Image courtesy of BAIT 15.

BAIT 15, located in Abu Dhabi’s Al Muroor area, first opened in late 2017. The space houses each member’s studio as well as an exhibition space. The house, while large enough for its members’ paintings, sculptures, and performance experiments, is also condensed enough to foster the sense of community, family and collaboration at its core. Usually open by appointment, BAIT 15 has little by little opened its doors for the public to interact with artworks, makers, and build community. This very place is where Hashel Al Lamki incubated ‘The Cup and The Saucer’ on view at Warehouse 421. BAIT 15 also housed 101’s first art sale recently featuring non-gallery represented artists in the UAE. Simply said, BAIT 15 is the beating heart of Abu Dhabi’s emerging art scene.




Images courtesy of BAIT 15. 

This self-labeled “crossing point between production and exhibition” today celebrates Al Sayegh’s full membership. The twenty-three-year-old artist is growing roots in the community very much in line with her short yet substantial trajectory. An active maker since high school time in Abu Dhabi, Al Sayegh received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago followed by a selective residency at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn, New York. With recent mentorship from world-renowned Yto Barrada, Al Sayegh’s practice embraces textile as a medium to question, reinterpret and critically analyze the constructions of place, memory and gender in the UAE.



Zuhoor Al Sayegh. Beit al mina, 2018. Cotton hand woven cloth, hand dyed warp. Image courtesy of 101, Noor Al Thehli and Zuhoor Al Sayegh.

The artist first reached out to co-founder Hashel Al Lamki about finding a space in Abu Dhabi to continue her practice following her pandemic-instigated return from New York. Al Lamki notes that “BAIT 15 was empty, I had just de-installed a show and I told her to come over. We gave her the residency space, she was there almost everyday. She was a day person, I was a night person. We just overlapped the last half an hour before the curfew.” Al Sayegh confirms and adds: “Initially, the house was very much quiet and I was very much alone. In the very first months of lockdown, Hashel and I would barely overlap. When the curfew became later my schedule shifted. We went from thirty minutes to two hours of overlap. We would sit, talk, and order food. That became what sustained me during my time in quarantine. My only connection with the outside world was Hashel, then Afra and Maitha once they joined.”



“My only connection with the outside world was Hashel, then Afra and Maitha once they joined.”


- Zuhoor Al Sayegh



Zuhoor Al Sayegh’s studio at BAIT 15. Image courtesy of the artist. 

Being an artist-in-residence involved many learning moments for Al Sayegh. In her own words, “As a resident, I found out that I am extremely malleable. I went from having access to a full-fledged textile facility in New York to just having me, my walls in Abu Dhabi, and the few things that I was able to bring. Having to adapt to that was a discovery. I also didn’t know much about the art community of Abu Dhabi. I had a lot to learn about the members of BAIT 15.”



“I found out that I am extremely malleable.”


- Zuhoor Al Sayegh


Al Sayegh is now BAIT 15’s youngest member, bearing the torch of a new generation of makers. BAIT 15 had begun as a reflection of the time in which Al Lamki, Abdalla, and Al Dhaheri materialized the idea. As alumni of the SEAF Fellowship who witnessed the artist communities of the US and the UK, their return to Abu Dhabi instigated them to create a community of their own. Co-founder Afra Al Dhaheri mentions that “We started it, we brought this to life but it’s also for the community. It doesn’t feel like we own BAIT 15 anymore, it’s for the community. It has to exist.” She goes onto add that “When we started we never thought we would be just three. We had started with five members and then scaled down. We came to an understanding that when the right person will come, they’ll come. It was very important for us to have someone who shares the same passion, the same values  not only about work but also about the community, and about BAIT 15.”




Images courtesy of BAIT 15. 



“We brought this to life but it’s also for the community.”


- Afra Al Dhaheri


Al Sayegh’s much anticipated arrival to the team speaks to BAIT 15’s collective now attaining the maturity, support, and presence capable of incubating and further launching young artists’ careers. When asked about her reaction when joining the collective, Al Sayegh shares “I was excited and also honored. This very much felt like an endorsement from my peers. I’ve followed their work for years. I knew about BAIT 15 from its inception. I felt like I came back to Abu Dhabi quite quickly and suddenly, BAIT 15 was the soft landing that I didn't know I needed.”

Image courtesy of BAIT 15. 



“BAIT 15 was the soft landing that I didn't know I needed.”

- Zuhoor Al Sayegh


Al Lamki shares more about Al Sayegh’s impact in the collective prior to joining: “Since March till today she has been a very valuable addition to the BAIT 15 community. Zuhoor really started taking these initiatives without us asking her. She repainted the walls, she cleaned the kitchen, she prepared the library.” He further adds that “We have exciting projects. We are thinking of a comeback show once restrictions are lifted for galleries. We are thinking about building the library. She is in discussion with Afra to acquire some ceramic tools and a loom. There is a lot that we can expand on for this common space.”


Image courtesy of BAIT 15. 

Al Dhaheri further validates Al Sayegh’s timely presence at BAIT 15: “We are a family at BAIT 15. We all have to take care of each other as well as the space. Zuhoor came in and did that naturally. She has brought so much, taking care of the space but also engaging in conversation, being there. Her background is super interesting to us. We have had endless conversations and have lots of overlaps in our practice. One of the things that I was discussing with Hashel and Maitha prior to inviting Zuhoor to join us is that we’ve been looking around into bringing someone who would bring a fresh voice and a different group of the community into BAIT 15. Diversity is very important and Zuhoor brings that. She has a strong voice. From now on we would probably call her the manager of BAIT 15 [laughs], she is a boss lady.”



“Diversity is very important and Zuhoor brings that.”


- Afra Al Dhaheri



Artworks by Zuhoor Al Sayegh. Image courtesy of the artist.


About supporting the artist in Abu Dhabi, Al Lamki highlights that “We all felt at some point that her voice has been really helpful.  We’ve been working as founders for three years and we needed someone with fresh eyes who could come and point out things.” He then shares that “Zuhoor and I also enjoyed the NYUAD Art Gallery ‘TRACE’ series. One of them which was important to us was  ‘Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965’. Attending that lecture together made us realize that we can do more with BAIT 15.” 



“We needed someone with fresh eyes who could come and point out things.”



- Hashel Al Lamki



Artworks by Zuhoor Al Sayegh. Image courtesy of the artist.

Al Sayegh’s career holds ongoing milestones. She was part of the first cohort of artists featured in 101’s art sale last month. Through her ‘Zaatar Studies’ and ‘Beit Al Mina’ pieces now acquired by emerging collectors, she employs her craft to reignite the nostalgia of the Abu Dhabi she grew up in.




Zaatar Studies. Hand-woven and hand-dyend pieces by Zuhoor Al Sayegh. Image courtesy of 101, Noor Althehli and Zuhoor Al Sayegh.

Just last week, Al Sayegh’s video piece ‘ترقص بلا صروال كيف مصرولة’ [the artist has chosen not to translate the artwork title] was part of the closing show of the Textile Arts Center in New York: ‘Subtle Speaks’, part of the 11th cycle of artists in residence.



Still’s from Zuhoor Al Sayegh’s video piece. Courtesy of the artist. 

Zuhoor shares that “I found myself looking to BAIT 15 for sustenance. I found myself excited about developing a piece for a show in New York. I was receiving feedback from two sets of peers, the people in New York and at BAIT 15. The work was allowed to grow and got to be very playful.” In parallel to this, four weeks from now, the artist will join more than ten young artists in the UAE for the second edition of the two-week-long Youth Takeover at Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai. Al Sayegh was commissioned by curator and GAD Managing Editor Daniel H. Rey to respond to the intersection of beliefs and science in our contemporary landscape.



“I found myself looking to BAIT 15 for sustenance.” 


- Zuhoor Al Sayegh




‘Don’t Laugh Too Loud You May Fall Through The Clouds’, Zuhoor Al Sayegh. Images courtesy of the artist.

‘Don’t Laugh Too Loud You May Fall Through The Clouds’, Zuhoor Al Sayegh. Images courtesy of the artist. 


About the new chapter as a core member of BAIT 15, excitement intersects with careful planning. The artist is transforming her resident studio into a permanent studio for her textile, ceramics, and video work. New projects with BAIT 15 include cataloguing its vast library, designing upcoming collections and preparings artist shows that will follow soon. For now, we celebrate Al Sayegh’s journey ahead with BAIT 15 and look forward to more stories featuring her work. “I want to become BAIT 15’s extra arm, support what is needed, push, be an extra set of eyes, bring about an extra set of questions. The biggest thing is connection to a new generation of up-and-coming artists. I hope to become this middle ground between Afra, Hashel, and Maitha’s generation of extremely established artists, and the younger generation who are just trying to find their footing. I want to see how at BAIT 15 we can engage those people,” she adds.



“I want to become BAIT 15’s extra arm, support what is needed, push, be an extra set of eyes, bring about an extra set of questions.” 


- Zuhoor Al Sayegh


To close with Al Sayegh’s own words, “By becoming a member I am learning that when like-minded people come together, it just works. Other members would agree that our new relationship doesn't feel forced, it just feels like what was right.”

 

“When like-minded people come together, it just works.”


- Zuhoor Al Sayegh




Zuhoor Al Sayegh is an interdisciplinary artist based in the United Arab Emirates. Al Sayegh graduated with a BFA from the fine arts department of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 2019 specialising in textile. Following her graduation Al Sayegh participated in a residency program at The Textile Arts Center in New York, with Yto Barrada as her mentor. Al Sayegh finds herself mostly inspired by movement and stories. She explores these foundations through her work in fibers and ceramics.

Follow Zuhoor Al Sayegh on Instagram

BAIT 15 is an artist run studio and exhibition space located in a residential neighborhood of downtown Abu Dhabi founded in late 2017 by Afra Al Dhaheri, Hashel Al Lamki, and Maitha Abdalla. The villa housing BAIT includes: studios, one for each of the members, a dedicated studio for the use of visiting artists, and an exhibition space. The founders have disparate studio practices encompassing a variety of media including painting, sculpture, digital media, and performance.

Follow BAIT 15 on Instagram