For Tabari Artspace founder, Maliha Tabari, art is a guiding principle and constant source of enrichment. A collector and tremendous creative in her own right, the Palestinian national spent her childhood in motion, moving across the Middle East, before deep immersion into the American cultural scene during the 1990s. The culmination of these cross-cultural experiences was a longstanding and far-reaching engagement with the arts.
While formally studying art at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles and later the Ringling School of Art, Florida Maliha developed her own artistic practice, working predominantly in sculpture. As an artist, producing in America, there was an opportunity for Maliha to make sense of her hybrid identities as she negotiated her place and space as a female, Arab, in an unprecedented social context. She concentrated on the dualities that she witnessed within her culture of origin while foregrounding her philosophy that art should embody both fine art quality and the trace of the human touch. This notion continues to reverberate through the artwork that she collects and the artists that she represents.
Bearing witness to a lack of international understanding and representation of Middle Eastern culture, Maliha returned to the UAE in 2002 to carve out a space as one of the first gallerists; determined to stimulate cross-cultural dialogue and dismantle social divisions through her work. This mission gave birth to an eighteen-year trajectory which saw her gallery, Tabari Artspace, become a fresh space where local and international communities could connect with the artists of the region and where intellects and art appreciators might convene.
Central to Maliha’s engagement with art is the identification and nurturing of emerging talent which she approaches as a passionate mentor, developing artists and their practice from the point of conceptualisation to curation and beyond. A friend to the artists, she spent the formative years of her journey as a gallerist frequenting the studios of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, befriending the likes of Adam Henin and discovering the lesser-known talents that became the first generation of Middle Eastern artists that are now celebrated and collected, internationally. Maliha has significantly shaped the careers of such masters as Khaled Zaki, Adel El-Siwi and Hussein Madi who are, today, collected by international institutions including Guggenheim, British Museum, and LACMA.
Maliha remains closely tied to the ever-evolving roster of artists which the gallery represents while keeping her gaze fixed firmly on the emerging generation. Spanning cultures and generations, and varying formatively and conceptually, they remain united by their attention to fine art quality. Offering unwavering mentorship, financial support and international exposure to the artists that she represents, Maliha’s has succeeded in cultivating a culture and appreciation for Middle Eastern art from a place where there was nothing.
In parallel to her engagement with the gallery, Maliha supports regional artists through her personal collection which includes more than 200 modern and contemporary pieces that provide a window into the important moments and socio-political evolution of the MENA region.