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Bahrain’s “Renaissance Man” Rashid Al Khalifa


01PORTRAITRKKATWORKShaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa

 - Digging Deeper In the Desert Sands of Bahrain, AAD’s Alex Boyle rediscovers the Talents of the Indefatigable Shaikh as they extend Beyond Art - To Architecture, Design and Beyond -

When I interviewed the gracious artist, Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa in the Summer of 2014, I was drawn to his prodigious talent as a contemporary artist. I was introduced to his work by Laura Stewart, who showed me his recent paintings, startlingly original, in enamel on aluminum. As a result of recent conversations I consequently had with Ms. Stewart, I felt I had to re-connect with Khalifa, especially when the article from last year ranked as one of the most popular on AAD.

02Untitled2015blueperfShaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa, Untitled 2015 (Blue Perforations)

 In a recent conversation I learned more about the small desert island Kingdom of Bahrain, where toils a restless, inventive and supremely talented person - in short, a Renaissance Man. There are few living “Renaissance” men left. In today’s world of increasing specialization in vocation; the waning of the Humanities, and a dearth of unabashed aesthetes. To find one as multi-layered, talented and sophisticated - and in Bahrain to boot - is a rare find. 

02Untitledapplegreen2015Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa, Untitled Apple Green 2015 

This article, based on a recent interview, is an attempt (albeit inadequate and incomplete) to illustrate how Khalifa has interwoven his passions and talents in art, architecture and design in projects in his personal life and via his professional and governmental roles. Once one realizes that his multi-layered interests and talents suffuse Bahrain and beyond - one begins to see his unique “eye” everywhere.

00001z7RashidandShaikhaMaiShaikh Rashid tours an Art Fair with Bahrain’s Minister of Culture, Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa. Rashid Khalifa’s role as Patron of the Arts in Bahrain makes him a tireless attendee at both Bahraini and international art events.

Evidence of the Rashid Khalifa "hand" is there at the Ritz Carlton Bahrain and Spa -It is there in the Bahrain National Museum. Is is there in his private homes. Increasingly it is spreading, from the Park Lane Hotel in London, to the Venice Biennial and now to Rio's TRIO, venues around the globe have displayed his work. The reason is that it's unique. As a teenager his artistic prodigy prompted the Emir at the time to encourage and fund his fine art education in the U.K. and he has not stopped since.

02tbShaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa on left with the Bahrain Art Society, no date

Currently, (take a breath) in addition to being a prodigious artist, Khalifa is also: Bahrains Minister, a father of six, a grandfather, a world traveler, a patron of the arts, an architectural innovator and a first-rate designer (graphic, landscape and interior). One throws up ones hands when one hears that at any given time Khalifa may be simultaneously planning an exhibition of his artwork in Venice; overseeing a full-scale renovation of the vast Ritz property; overseeing the complete renovation of an exquisite and not inconsequential private residence.

03ShaikhRashidindarkcoloredThobeSpeakingwithOldFriendsCo FoundersofTheBahrainArtSocietyPhotoinCourtyardShaikh Rashid Speaking with Old Friends and Founders of The Bahrain Art Society in Courtyard

Yet when one speaks with him it is as if he has all the time in the world. And reportedly when one meets with him, it is the same. He is soft-spoken, takes time with people and will sit in a meeting or a lunch talking proudly about his children, joking with his many friends of many years, and never making his guests feel that he is hurried or under stress. 

04IMG 2901Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa, Hearts 2014

05IMG 6035cShaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa

06IMG 6035bShaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa

07IMG 2865Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa

09a06DSC 0572Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa al Khalifa

0001althaniqatarvisitsshaikhcousinShaikh Rashid Explains his Convex Works to a Visitor to his Studio in Jasra, Bahrain


003rkk2015DSC00207This bold residence on Khalifa’s property in the tiny village of Jasra appears unapologetically modern and stark from afar. However the home again reflects his skill as an artist is evident as one gets closer to the entrance where a blend of textures - layered in stone, wood and metal inlay add warmth to the structure.

14PrivateResidenceRiffaBahrainShaikh Rashid, Design of a Courtyard, Private Residence, Riffa, Bahrain

In a recent conversation this writer had with his excellency, Shaikh Rashid mentioned a particular appreciation of ancient architecture, especially geometric latticework, found on porches for courtyards. The latter to him was an ancient way of insuring privacy.

16yCourtyardShaikh Rashid, Latticework brought into a Modern Design

17ReflectingPoolCourtyardPrivateResidenceRiffaBahrainShaikh Rashid, Modern Latticework with Reflecting Pool Courtyard, Private Residence, Riffa, Bahrain

Shaikh Rashid wants to transform a private homes courtyard with latticework, updated and more modern emphatic with geometric forms, contemporary design with the latticework to be made of wood or wrought iron.

26ShaikhRashidexplainshisdesignideas combiningtraditionalandcontemporaryPrivateResidenceRiffaBahrainShaikh Rashid Explains his Design Ideas Combining Traditional and Contemporary, Private Residence, Riffa, Bahrain

27aerialritz34extraAerial Ritz Carlton, Bahrain, photo by Andrew Weaver, PictureArabia

28RCBAHRA 00206 1280x720Shaikh Rashid, Seaside Designs, Ritz Carlton, Bahrain

30RCBAHRA 00190 1280x720Shaikh Rashid, Seaside Designs, Ritz Carlton, Bahrain

32RCBAHRA 00269 1280x720Shaikh Rashid, Seaside Designs, Ritz Carlton, Bahrain, also known as Paradise

A forthcoming project Shaikh Rashid mentioned was that he is working with a lighting artist for night time displays at the Ritz which will be installed by late November. The Shaikh made a point of saying, November, when the weather is much nicer in fact.

33RCBAHRA 00282 1280x720Shaikh Rashid, Interior with Paintings, Ritz Carlton, Bahrain

A forthcoming project Shaikh Rashid mentioned was that he is working with a lighting artist for night time displays at the Ritz which will be installed by late November. The Shaikh made a point of saying, November is the best time to visit Bahrain, when the weather is much nicer. The photos below are samples of similar lighting efforts on a private residence in Bahrain.

 001rkk2015IMG 9159Private residence, Courtyard at Riffa. In the evening the space is transformed by a spray of tiny white lights in the geometric design, a chandelier in the entranceway and a sculpture, also backlit by white lights atop metal torches


Screen Shot 2015 11 14 at 20.15.56

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About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...