Litehouse Gallery was founded in London in 2017 by Raghad Mardini in order to nurture, represent and promote emerging Syrian contemporary artists, to create a hub for Syrian artists in the UK, and encourage new forms of cultural exchange between Syrian and British artists.
Although Syrian art features in the collections of many public institutions and is highly appreciated in auction houses, it is underrepresented in private galleries in the UK. We aim to fill this gap. As well as operating as a commercial pop-up art gallery, we organise talks, workshops, and non-commercial exhibitions, where artists can voice their beliefs and concerns, and impact the British art scene. We use our extensive network and relationships with contemporary Syrian artists to engage new ideas, perspectives, and audiences.
Litehouse Gallery evolved from the Art Residence Aley (ARA), an NGO founded by Raghad Mardini in 2012 in Beirut. Many Syrian artists who had fled to Lebanon were unable to continue their practice due to trauma and financial hardship. At ARA they were given bed and board for a month, alongwith space, freedom, and all the materials to enable them to make art again. Litehouse Gallery continues the work and ethos of the residency by serving displaced Syrian artists.
ARA received praise from multiple national and international organisations, such as the UNHCR United Nations Refugee Agency, the CKU Centre for Culture and Development, the AFAC Arab Fund for Arts and Culture and The British Council. Works created by the artists-in-residence were shown in exhibitions in Lebanon, Kuwait, Germany and the United States. In 2014 a documentary movie about ARA titled Art of Resilience was released, and is available from the Arab Film Distribution company. In 2015 Mr. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations visited ARA and supported the publication of the book Syrian Art in Hard Times: 2012-2015 (ISBN: 9789953033051).
In 2017 Raghad Mardini left Art Residence Aley to found Litehouse Gallery in London, though she remains in close contact with ARA. Since then, Mardini has participated in and spoken at numerous events worldwide to showcase contemporary Syrian art. These include the Arab Women Artists Now festival at Rich Mix, London, UK, the Arab Refugee Crisis in the 21st Century conference at Duke University, USA, the World Day for Peace exhibition at CapKuwait, Kuwait and the Curate Syria event in Nara, Japan.