A gallerist, collector and tremendous creative in her own right, art is a guiding principle and constant source of enrichment for Maliha Tabari. A Palestinian national raised between Saudi Arabia and Jordan, her move to the US in 1999 to study art at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles and later at the Ringling School of Art, Florida served as the defining leap.
Maliha’s artistic practice, predominantly sculpture, concentrated on the dualities that she witnessed within her culture. Her early artworks were an opportunity to make sense of who she was, negotiating her hybrid identities as a female, Arab, establishing herself in a new context as an artist in the US. Maliha, operating against a backdrop of global conflict that polarized the East and the West, in-line with an increasingly negative media portrayal, became concerned that there was a gap, not only in the Western understanding of Middle Eastern culture, but also in the representation of the artists from her region. This pivotal time, significantly shaped Maliha’s ambitions to create cross-cultural bridges and understanding through her work.
This realisation fuelled a sixteen year trajectory that saw Maliha return to the UAE in 2002 and carve out a space as one of the region’s first gallerists. Her gallery, known today as Tabari Artspace, formed an international platform that presented a pioneering programme founded upon her belief that artistic practice plays a powerful role in stimulating cultural dialogue while providing greater understanding of personal and social identity. Tabari Artspace became an unprecedented space where local and international communities could connect with the artists of the region and where intellects and art appreciators could convene.
Maliha has spent years frequenting the studios of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, identifying the lesser-known talents that became the first generation of Middle Eastern artists to be celebrated and collected internationally. Maliha has significantly shaped the careers of such masters as Khaled Zaki, Adel Siwi and Hussein Madi who are, today, collected by international institutions including Guggenheim, British Museum, and LACMA. Offering unwavering mentorship, financial support and international exposure to the artists she represents, Maliha has succeeded in cultivating a culture and appreciation for Middle Eastern art in a place where there was nothing. In parallel to her work with the gallery, Maliha supports regional artists through her personal collection that includes more than 200 artworks, tracing the evolution of modern and contemporary art in the Middle East across several mediums.