Phoenix artist Bassim Al-Shaker is closing his Babylon Gallery in Roosevelt Row after Third Friday, February 16.
Al-Shaker opened the gallery in August 2016. He’s moving because the property owner has yet-unannounced plans for the space. “I don’t know what the space will become,” Al-Shaker says.
Moving forward, he’ll have a studio located west of downtown Phoenix, and patrons will be able to make appointments to see his work.
“I feel very sad closing the gallery, because there aren’t that many galleries in Roosevelt Row,” Al-Shaker says. “I wish I could do something to open a new gallery downtown.”
For now, he’s planning to focus on his newest body of work, a series of large-scale paintings that focus on music. His previous work comprises mainly abstracts and figurative work that often references his Iraqi roots.
Al-Shaker first came to Phoenix in 2013, as part of the ASU Art Museum’s International Artist Residency at Combine Studios. Gordon Knox, then director for the museum, invited Al-Shaker to Phoenix after seeing his art exhibited at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
Al-Shaker was eager to leave Iraq, after being violently attacked by men who found his work offensive. And he decided to make Phoenix his new home.
But things haven't always gone smoothly for him here.
In August 2014, 10 of Al-Shaker's paintings were stolen from the studio space he was using at the time, which was located at Fourth and McKinley streets. The paintings were never recovered.
Before Babylon Gallery closes, people will have one more chance to see his art on view there. Al-Shaker is having a gallery closing party from 6:30 to 11 p.m. on Friday, February 16.
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“I want to invite everyone to celebrate my last Friday in the gallery,” he wrote on Facebook. The lineup that night will include baklava, music, and hookah.
Although he’s leaving the gallery space behind, Al-Shaker plans to stay involved in the downtown arts scene. He’s already in talks to paint a mural in Roosevelt Row this spring.
For now, he’s feeling grateful for his gallery time.
“I was always so happy when people came by the gallery, and I got to talk with them about art.”