In February 2014, I received an email from the then curator of London’s Whitechapel Gallery, Cairo-born Omar Kholeif. Mr. Kholeif inquired about the possibility of organizing an exhibition in London from the Barjeel Art Foundation collection of Arab art. Eighteen months later, Imperfect Chronology, the name chosen for the landmark exhibition that with over 100 artworks is the most comprehensive display of art from the Arab world ever in the West, was inaugurated in London. When I asked Mr. Kholeif why he specifically picked Barjeel from among all other collections he replied, “It was the only one I could view and study online.” It was only then that I realized how essential it was to have an online presence for Arab art.
At the outset, it is important to first acknowledge what is perhaps the very first Arab art collection online belonging to respected Saudi businessman Adel al-Mandil whose Kinda Foundation held a historically important exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in 2002. The very next year a website was launched that despite its closure is a major milestone in the modern history of the online presence of Arab art. Today, Mr. Mandil’s son Fahad has created the most extensive online portal of Arab art on Pinterest titled the Arab Modern & Contemporary Art Project (The AMCA Project for short) with over 2,200 “pins” including images of artworks and of the artists themselves.