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Young upstarts plotting Mid East art revolution


Lara Zankoul and Lara Atallah are both young Lebanese photographers taking their first steps in promising artistic careers.

Their work, however, could hardly be more different. While Atallah focuses on the gritty reality of life in urban Beirut, Zankoul's images are whimsical and surreal, created from her imagination.
This article was featured on the CNN’s website ( on May the 18th, 2012, written by Catriona Davies.

They are both among the latest emerging artists to be featured in the Young Collectors Auction run by Ayyam Gallery in Dubai.
The auction, held on Tuesday (May 15), featured 75 lots from 63 emerging and established Middle Eastern artists, 10 of them aged 30 or under.
Ayyam Gallery has been running Young Collectors Auctions since 2008, aimed at supporting emerging artists and opening the art market to new collectors. Almost all the works had estimates well below $10,000, with most in the region of $2,000 to $3,000.
"The art market here is quite young and people are interested in buying art, but intimidated by the gallery scene and auctions," said Hisham Samawi, Ayyam's auctioneer.
"We wanted to start something with a relaxed atmosphere, lower estimates and young emerging artists."
The recipe has been a success and Ayyam has just run its 13th Young Collectors' Auction. The latest raised a total of $550,000.
Samawi believes Middle Eastern art could be on the verge of an explosion similar to that seen in the Chinese and Indian art markets in recent years.
"There's great art in this region and internationally it's undervalued," he said. "There has been a steady increase in prices and this is just the beginning. Politically there's so much going on and that's reflected by artists."
Here we feature 10 emerging Middle Eastern artists aged 30 or under from the Ayyam Young Collectors Auction who could be names to watch out for in the future.
Lara Zankoul, Lebanon, born 1987
Zankoul, 24, studied economics at university and only began photography as a hobby in 2009.
"Over time the hobby grew and grew and became an obsession," she said. "I promoted my work through social media and gradually started to gain more followers and feedback and eventually freelance projects."

This photograph, "Excess," shows the irrelevance of the water in the watering can compared to the sea.
She held her first exhibition collective two years ago and is part of Ayyam's incubator program. Zankoul's photography consists of surreal compositions she creates from her imagination, rather than an attempt to capture reality.
"I like to create worlds of my own. A lot of work goes into setting up the scene," said Zankoul, who once dragged a bed into the sea for a photograph. For now, she still works full time as an economic researcher alongside her photography.
Lara Atallah, Lebanon, born 1989
Atallah, 22, captures the gritty reality of urban Beirut in her photography, aiming to tackle social problems.

This photograph is from a series on an abandoned school building, a comment on Beirut's diminishing architectural heritage.
She had just graduated in graphic design from the University of Beirut last year when she got her break entering a competition organized by Ayyam Gallery. Her entry was a series of photographs of an abandoned school building.
"Photography is a means, not an end," said Atallah. "The ideas I like to get across do not get much attention from artists and people in general."
Other subjects she has tackled include the destruction of Beirut's architectural heritage, and street vendors and their makeshift shelters.
"There's no such thing as the right time to start out as an artist, it takes a lot of determination," said Atallah. "But since I've started I've discovered a lot of different artists from this region. There's a very rich art scene."
Rhea Karam, Lebanon, born 1982
Rhea Karam was born in Beirut, grew up in France and is now based in New York, where she graduated from the International Center of Photography.

This picture, "Rockheads," is one of a series of photographs taken in Lebanon, called "Breathing Walls."
She has exhibited internationally and won awards including the Best of Show at the 2011 Colorado Photographic Arts Center juried exhibition.

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