Art Season in the UAE
Author: Andrea Seehusen
Dubai as well as the UAE in general, is developing a taste for art and culture at a rapid pace. This week in Dubai there were a wide range of new exhibitions and events including „Art Week“, SIKKA 2016, Design Days Dubai and Art Dubai plus Galleries Night in Alserkal Avenue and Art Night at DIFC. It was a whirlwind week and even though I was on my feet from morning till (late) night, I was not able to see everything. Here are some of my personal highlights in the growing and vivid UAE art scene.
Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Sesam Rahmanian form an Iranian art collective that has lived and worked together in the delirious atmosphere of their Dubai home for the past ten years. Painted floors, assemblage, unique collaboratively created objects, their own artworks as well as their own Art Collection of MENA Artists fill each room. Their films, paintings and objects have been exhibited in the Kunsthalle Zurich, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston. The trio will also participate at this year’s National Pavilion of the UAE at the Venice Biennale.
Art Dubai is the preeminent platform for the regional art scene. This year’s 11th edition is under the new leadership of Fair Director Myrna Ayad and International Director Pablo del Val. It is the largest and most international to date. New Galleries and first-time participating countries, as well as ambitious new elements to the social program, accompany the fair such as „Dubai Modern“ or the Global Art Forum and provide a lot to see and learn for the visitors of the fair. Dubai Modern is in its fourth year and continues to be the platform dedicated to showcasing museum-quality works by Modern masters from the MENA countries. Bangladeshi artist, Rana Begum’s winning work for the 2017 Abraaj Group Art Prize was unveiled alongside those of the shortlisted artists Do a Aly from Egypt, Abu Abdallah from Saudi Arabia and Raha Raissnia from Iran. Many artists were present such as Sara Rahbar, who was born in Iran and now lives and works in New York.
Sara Rahbar in front of her artwork: "Flag No. 52 Shelter Me"
2016, Mixed Media
Art Dubai was bustling with activity. As part of the Fair Program Christo gave a talk and captivated the audience for over two hours in the Global Art Forum Tent. He spoke about his projects and the realization of the „Mastaba“ project in the desert near Abu Dhabi. Then Christo asked who has the courage to ask questions and after a modest beginning, some fascinating questions were asked: One woman wanted to know why he does his large installations which sometimes take years to realize. He said: „because I enjoy it.“ He spoke about that Jean-Claude was his biggest critique and how he loved and valued that and how his mother recognized his talent for art and put him in a drawing class at age 9. He is an inspiring speaker who is and very open and very honest with no time to discuss politics, religion and other artists.
Christo talking about his "Mastaba" Project
Another personal highlight was the installation by Mohammed Kazem and the exhibition curated by Cristiana di Marchi in the Julius Baer Lounge. The exhibition „Homage Without An Homage" is a special tribute to the late Emirati artist Hassan Sharif celebrating the life and legacy of the father of UAE Conceptual Art. He was the friend and mentor of many Emirati artists including Mohammed Kazem to whom he was especially close. Last Year I had the privilege to do a commission with Mohammed Kazem - a sculpture which was realized in collaboration with the Sitterwerk in Sankt Gallen. It will be presented in London at the end of March as part of the Rolls-Royce Art Program.
A walkthrough of Alserkal Avenue is a must during Art Dubai and at any time of the year. Since it was established in 2000, Al Quoz, the Dubai Art District, has grown to become an essential platform for the development of regional artistic and cultural initiatives, supporting a vibrant community of contemporary art galleries and alternative art spaces, together with design, media and industrial studios. This March the project space, „Concrete“ designed by Rem Koolhaas with its flexible wall concept was launched.
Architecture by Rem Koolhaas
The artists Iván Argote and Pauline Bastard created the humorous and informative performance „Born to Collect“ which is a one-night „collectors’ battle“ presented as a live game show where a panel of collectors are invited to confront each other in a friendly, fun and challenging atmosphere. The public is the Grand Jury of this competition and will vote for the teams of collectors that will go on to the final to win the „Born to Collect" „ trophy. The four questions were: 1) What art would you exhibit in 100 years 2) „Think Big“ - describe a large-scale commission you would like to do. 3) Curate an exhibition on love 3) Do a performance on the subject of „mystic experiences.“ Complex questions to which the collectors had 2 minutes to prepare. The results were amazing and a cool way to lead a discussion on collecting motives. Two of my dear friends with whom I was visiting the fair for consulting them on buying new pieces for their collection, won the golden level.
Despite all the art activities, I was also able to visit the newly opened Etihad Museum. The story of the UAE is told through this 21st-century museum which is located at the very place where the UAE was founded in 1971. The building has an amazing architecture and the interactive programs explore the chronology of events that culminated in the unification. It was a great learning experience.
I had such an inspiring week at Art Dubai where I met new artists and was able to see the new developments of the UAE Art Scene. I can only encourage you to visit Al Quoz to see the vivid art scene whenever you are in Dubai.