Tributes paid to leading Arab artist, Ali Omar Ermes.

Renowned British Libyan artist and calligrapher Ali Omar Ermes has died aged 76. Born in 1945, in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, Ermes studied at the University of Plymouth in the UK. He returned to Libya after graduating in 1970, but later moved to London, where he completed a master’s degree at what later became Central Saint Martins.

Ermes' work, a thoughtful fusion of Arabic calligraphy and western styles, is held by art institutions around the world, including The British Museum in London, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and The National Gallery of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, as well as by several private collectors.

In 2014, the London-based artist gifted his 1993 piece, The Sixth Ode, to Philanthropy Age to aid in raising funds for charity. The painting was a representation of the verses of the warrior-poet Antar Ibn Shaddad from the Muallaqat Al Saba'a; a revered collection of early Arabic poetry.

Philanthropy Age auctioned the painting in partnership with Christie’s in Dubai, raising $195,750. At Ermes' request, $78,000 was donated to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, in support of its work with Syrian refugees.

image title

Waleed Gubura, CEO of Touchline, the Dubai-based publisher of Philanthropy Age, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear about the death of Mr Ali Omar Ermes. He was a mentor, a friend, and revered throughout the Arab world.

“Like his work, Mr Ermes was relevant and inspiring. His art provoked thought and discussion on identity and the power of the Arabic language. He was undoubtedly among the most important Arab artists of his generation.”

Touchline executive chairman Salem Al Sheikh added: "This is a loss for the Arab world. Mr Ermes was one of the most knowledgeable, humble and decent people I have had the pleasure to meet. His story will continue through the legacy of his work, which will influence generations to come."

Speaking at the time of the auction, Imran Riza, then UNHCR’s regional representative to the GCC, said: “UNHCR is very grateful for this generous gesture by such a renowned artist. This not only brings some proceeds to supporting humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees but also continues to bring focus on this continuing tragedy.” – PA