Abu Dhabi: When Salwa Zeidan first arrived to the UAE armed with a relentless passion for art; the capital was still a quiet place where exhibitions were usually held in private apartments or hotels, a far cry from the high profile exhibitions that are being staged nowadays.
"I arrived in the UAE from Lebanon in 1976, when I was just 16 years old. Several years later, I realised that there wasn't a place for artists to gather and exhibit their work, I began to organise exhibitions in various hotels…one of the exhibitions that is close to my heart is the one I organised in 1989 where Lebanese artists created pieces dedicated to peace that were shown in Abu Dhabi…the civil war was still raging at that point and I wanted to do something to give people hope," Salwa said.
Salwa's dedication to finding a venue that would allow fellow artists to find a place to exhibit their pieces led her to open her gallery, one of the few that are available for artists based in the capital.
"The first time I opened my gallery in 1994, it was difficult to keep it open because of all the associated costs so I had to close it down, which was very hard for me. Last year, I reopened the gallery after receiving a lot of encouragement …this time, the gallery is more successful because not only are there more artists but also people who are hungry for art," Salwa said.
Salwa also said that the Abu Dhabi government has been very active in strengthening the emirate's cultural image.
"What is being done to highlight art here is really great and gallery owners should not complain that the government isn't helping to support us. At the end of the day, a gallery is a business and how successful it is depends on the passion and perseverance of its owner," she added.
Salwa, who is a self taught artist, began to exhibit her work in 1989, and has won many international art awards. She has also been invited to speak at several events around the world.
In recognition of her efforts, the Global organisation, World Peace Marker Project (WPMP) named Salwa the Peace Ambassador and Love Ambassador to Lebanon in 2006.
"I'm grateful to my family for always supporting me through everything…even though I've faced many challenges both as an artist a and gallery owner, I'm happy with everything I've achieved," Salwa said.
Salwa has hosted and participated in several exhibitions in the UAE and Lebanon and founded the Abu Dhabi Sculpture Symposium.
On now: Contemporary Romanian Art
The Salwa Zeidan Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of Contemporary Romanian Art, which will run until October 10. It is being held under the patronage of Dr Zaki Nusseibeh, Advisor Ministry of Presendential Affairs and Deputy Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.
For more information and location details, please visit www.salwazeidangallery.com