It all starts off ground, my friend was flipping plane’s magazine and saw a full-page of Art Week advertisement, she smiled and said “Gosh it is all over the place… Art is even in the air”.
What is so special about Dubai in March is not only Art Dubai, the entire city and country celebrate culture and art in a way you feel you are taking a harmless over dose of it… Yes! Every time I travel to Dubai in March I feel high on art! I still feel over whelmed so I had to share my journals, ready for up close and personal?
April 18, 2013: Art Nights
I arrived a day before Art Dubai Press tour + Collectors Private preview to see how two prominent art hubs celebrate Art Week: Alserkal Avenue & DIFC. Got the car, switch the engine and off to Al Qouz Industrial Area, home of Alserkal Avenue where galleries were celebrating art & culture in the middle of manufactures and warehouses.
Alserkal Avenue Art Night combined international art and a flavour of local culture; there was open bazaar of Emirati food and handmade goods. The moment you walk in and before entering any gallery you find a booth of Art Week guide providing information on events’ timeline in Dubai, Abu dhabi and Sharjah.
My first stop was Ayyam Gallery to see Kuwaiti artist Shurooq Amin show. Just a small reminder, Amin’s solo show “Its A Man’s World” was shutdown by policemen on the opening night March 2012. Ironically, her latest series “Popconography” was held a year later of the shameful incident and no one – of course – dared to shut it down, making Dubai “a safe place for unsafe artist”.
As I looked around the exhibition, I realized that Amin responded to ‘shutdown’ and everything happened since harder and more daring. The artworks were more direct, less symbolic as if she was putting any ugly truths “in your face!”. I am sure that many people came to the opening to see how she managed to stand strong after all; and although Amin’s straight-forward art is not everyone’s flavor, what matters is “did the message reach everyone?” … I think she succeeded heavily in it.
The expansive space of Ayyam Gallery held alongside Amin’s “Popcornography” a video art by acclaimed Iraqi artist Sadik Alfraji titled “Godot to Come Yesterday” , which sees two textured grey figures moving and interacting against a black void-like backdrop in a reconstructed vision of Samuel Beckett’s famous absurdist play, Waiting for Godot (1952). There was also an ambitious interactive octagonal installation by Iranian artist Ahmad Morshedloo who presents the viewer with drawings showing a split view of a crowd of people, dividing heads and torsos from legs and feet. Separating these two layers is a mirrored section running the length of the drawings, reflecting the viewer’s own body and thereby absorbing them into the fragmented composition.
There was something greeny lightening in the back, a notorious question… but I will keep it for Day 4 in my trip 🙂
My next & last gallery stop in Alserkal Avenue Art Night was Isabelle Van den Eynde where British artist Idris Khan held his first solo exhibition “Beginning at the End” in Dubai… You already know how I love “surprising” artworks, and Khan’s work is all about breathtaking surprises! From techniques to final production, every time I look at his shown works it feels like the first time. The work is a combination of calligraphy, poems & philosophy written by Khan who depicts it in an abstract shape.
Using oil base black and blue relief ink on gesso, Khan created a unique 590×500 cm mural for the space. “The Essence of Existence” from distance looked like a brush paint thrid, but the closer you get the fascinated you are with imprinted Arabic poem in shades of black, gray and blue, leaving viewers stunned with its beauty and tremendous details.
Day one was not over… I had to leave AlSerkal Avenue to catch up DIFC Art Night as both events were happening same time, talking about driving one crazy?! Anyways, as I arrived to DIFC and head to Village Gate where all galleries and art spaces are located, I can hear the loud live music & vibrant crowd.
I had the chance to see notorious women of Afshim Perhashemi “The Wrong Women” at Ayyam Gallery, group show of Saudi artists in “A Line in the Sand” at ArtSpace in collaboration with Jeddah-based Athr Gallery featuring : Ahmed Angawi, Musaed Al-Hulis, Rashed Al-Shashai, Basma Felemban, Sara Khoja, Eyad Maghazel, and Shaweesh.
Long-waited Halim Karim showed his latest artworks and installation from “Eternal Love” at XVA and I also passed by Zena Assi’s BUG SOLDIERS at Art Sawa and. The Farjam Foundation presented an exhibition honoring Farideh Lashai, one of Iran’s leading female artist, and paved the way for a global appreciation of an Iranian cultural aesthetic.
One of things I love about Dubai’s art scene is it brings together many artists from different backgrounds and countries in one place, and you get to see them over and over during Art Week… In DIFC I ran into Emirati artist Ammar Al Attar who was kind enough to walk around the galleries with me – some he already been to – and before I leave, I spotted inspiring and encouraging Abdulnasser Gharem and had a very quick chit-chat.
April 19, 2013: Art Dubai Press Conference and Collectors Private Perview:
After a rock n roll night, it was time to get so serious! Woke up at 9 AM and off to Madinat Jumierah to attend Art Dubai Press Conference, where they prepared a pre-opening tour for the press included: Abraaj Capital Art Prize, Dubai Projects, Sculpture on the Beach, Galleries’ Hall A – B and a preview on winners in Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed International Photography Awards… It feels good to see everything, quietly, before anyone else 🙂
After the preview and press tour, had to go back and get ready for Collectors Private preview at Art Dubai which was a oppertunity to socialize in glam with artists, collectors, patrons and galleries.
I was very happy with the amount of attention young Emirati talents were taking in such international fair; you can see them around the fair as interns or artists, it proves the importance of involving local art scene with multinational one. If you missed my review on Art Dubai, you can check it out here
April 20, 2013: Closer look at Art Dubai
Before starting an in-depth tour around Art Dubai, I had to grab the chance to visit Sawan Dahoul’s studio in Dubai which surprisingly was just across the road from my hotel 🙂
A great morning coffee.. sneak peek on work from Dahoul’s upcoming solo exhibition in London.. beautiful talk… what more can I ask to start my day?
There was over 70 galleries, 200 international & regional participating artists plus the events and programs held under Art Dubai umbrella, so I dedicated two days to check exhibiting artworks. Officially, today was the opening of Art Dubai which means running into more artists and greater opportunity for discussions and talks with them..
April 21, 2013: AlSerkal Avenue Take Two:
It was unfair to visit AlSerkal Avenure ‘in a rush’ specially when it is DUBAI’s ARTS DISTRICT a home to 20 art galleries, creative studios and private museums.
First stop was Satellite, a large & open space warehouse, invites visitors to view both finished works and the artistic process; a unique opportunity to engage with the artist before the works are known to the ‘art world’.
A second look into Shurooq Amins’ was necessary. Popcornography featured a series of 15 paintings all of which challenge conventional perceptions of what it is to be a woman and a Muslim in 21st-Century Kuwait. The series depicted Amin’s critique of social restrictions far away from logic in a sense of bittersweet humor; from handcuff to sealed mouth, covered eyes or hypocrite smile and a ‘tattoed’ identity of lost.
My favorite was ‘A Man of No Importance’ (shown below) with Amin’s signature vibrant red background portraying a powerful crowned woman holding clipper of men. Must note here that artwork title is based on Oscar Wilde’s book A Woman Of No Importance. When I saw Shurroq I told her:
AlMahha: Do you know you kept the best of Popcornography in Dubai?
Shurooq Amin smiling: I know!
So in case you missed the show & thought you’ve seen enough through social media or website, you’ve got it wrong 🙂
As I said previously, there were 3 installations in Ayyam Gallery alongside Amin’s exhibition: video art by Sadik Alfraji, interactive installation by Ahemd Mershedloo and neon-green piece asking viewers a provocative question “Inta Shu? Sunni Aw Shei’e?” – “Are You Sunni or Shei’e?” by Pierre Koukjian; reflecting a reality scene in the Arab – Middle East where some people relate with others according to the religious group they follow, or fall under.
Third stop at Alserkal Avenue was Etemad Art Gallery which held “Defaced” a solo exhibition by Iranian artist Shohreh Mehran. The paintings are portraits of anonymous people who the artist produced over the last three years, based on studies of the gestures of resistance and defiance. They are permanent records of the ‘faceless’ individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
From distance, Mehran large paintings seemed an out-of focus picture, but actually the closer you get to it the more details you see. Using the soft focus with oil paints and calm tone of colors lessen the harmful reality these people live. The beauty of his work lays in contradiction between the figure & colors.
Final stop at Alserkal Avenue was to visit acclaimed artist Reza Derakshani show at Salsali Private Museum – running until 9 July 2013 – The show feature a selection of Derakshani’s renowned abstract-representational paintings beside new works and installations, specially commissioned by SPM.
Derakshani’s story of Iran reveals subtle, symbolic shades of the social, philosophical and humanistic complexity of a tumultuous region, yet the songs of the nightingale and invigorating scent of rose shine through in his work, ensuring there in no dark without light. A master of challenging techniques, Derakshani’s dynamic and versatile artistic practice is inextricably linked to his sensory experience of the world.
I guess 2000+ words in one post is enough! Posting Part II of my journal in Dubai sooner today … More to come: Youssef Nabil Sign-in , The Best Artworks in Art Dubai and a day in SIKKA