Bahrain’s “Renaissance Man” Rashid Al Khalifa

Robert Alexander Boyle, Art Antiques Design, July 16, 2016

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.