Shout out on social media enables Syrian refugee artist’s bronze to reach London

Alice Al Khatib’s work arrives from Beirut for group show while artist exiled in France


A Syrian-born artist who is now a refugee in France has been made a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors (RBS). A bronze by Alice Al Khatib, who was born in 1982 and is a graduate of the fine arts college at the University of Damascus, went on show in the society’s international, open-submission group show of young and emerging sculptors. Getting it to London from Beirut, where it is in a private collection, required ingenuity and social media. The president of the RBS, the sculptor Clare Burnett, described at the opening how fellow RBS member Briony Marshall among others used Facebook to ask if anyone who was travelling to London from Beirut would courier the contorted bronze figure, The Monster I (2012). By word of mouth, and via social media, Good Samaritans stepped forward. 

The artist, who escaped the ongoing civil war in Syria and now lives in exile in Bordeaux in France, was unable to travel for the show’s opening this week (until 4 August) at the RBS’s home in London’s South Kensington. In a statement, Al Khatib, says that her work reflects the “duality of [the] human psyche” and the contradiction between humanitarian standards and brutal behaviour “reveal[ed] in wars and conflicts”. She explains that her exile or “forced displacement” and lack of access to high quality material has forced her to experiment with new, unpredictable materials. Photographs of sculpture, which were not able to be transported to London, accompany her bronze. They include Child of Carnage (2012), a tiny, deformed figure made of gypsum. 

The exhibition and bursary awards are supported by the Gilbert Bayes Charitable Trust. Other award winners include Evy Jokhova, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths College, who is showing Sketch for a Failure of Budgets, an installation made of materials that cost £3 or under. The London and Tallinn-based artist is creating a performance work for a Brutalist church in Vienna in July. William Darrell’s broccoli-sprouting, wearable kinetic and sound sculptures also impress. The Edinburgh College of Art trained, London-based sculptor has shown at Camden Arts Centre and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Update: this story has been updated to clarify who in the RBS led the use of social media to bring Al Khatib's work to London.