Art Season is upon us in the UAE. Considering the sheer volume of events simultaneously taking place, throughout March and even beyond, we put together a reliable guide to help you navigate the season's best events and ensure you get the most out of this celebration of regional talent.
Jameel Arts Centre
The season kicked off with the opening of three new Artist's Rooms at Jameel Arts Centre on 7 March. The capsule shows are curated in close collaboration with the artists themselves, the first showcasing work by duo Seher Shah and Randhir Singh. Shah exhibits a three-part graphite drawing and a collaborative series of works with Randhir Shah called Studies in Form, documenting Brutalist-style buildings in four cities around the world: Tokyo, New Delhi, London and Dhaka. Their pieces examine government housing projects with portrait-like depictions of the buildings’ different facets, according to Shah. The work exists at an intersection of architecture, drawing, printmaking and photography.
Installation view of Artist's Rooms, Seher Shah and Randhir Singh at Jameel Arts Centre. Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre
The second Artist's Room houses the work of installation artist Hemali Bhuta. Often working with recycled and repurposed materials to conceive her pieces, the works entitled Fold examine transitory spaces, across the floor of the gallery.
Installation view of Artist's Rooms, Hemali Bhuta at Jameel Arts Centre. Courtesy Jameel Arts Centre
The third Artist's Room is that of Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi, whose photographs document everything from glossy consumer culture and Dragon Mart to women inside the home. The works on display interrogate her own fascination with the stereotypes of Arab identity, which ultimately led her to produce a captivating series of candid shots of Arab men depicted in unusually vulnerable and passive states.
The new Artist's Rooms, open until 8 June, joins the current multi-disciplinary exhibition, Crude, delving into the region’s relationship with oil, which closes on 30 March. Also still on show (until 7 September) due to unanticipated popularity, the Departure installation by Chiharu Shiota is an immersive experience in which the viewer is surrounded by a web of red yarn hanging over a traditional abra boat.
Installation view of Artist's Rooms, Farah Al Qasimi at Jameel Arts Centre. Courtesy Jameel Arts Centre
The conglomeration of cutting-edge contemporary art galleries brings you exhibitions, installations, tours, artist talks, performances and film screenings this month, along with industry panels as part of the series of Majlis Talks - certain not to disappoint.
New exhibitions opening in March include: Rana Begum at the Third Line (5 March - 9 May), exploring light and colour; a group exhibition from Indian artists (18 March - 30 April), inspired by universal tales at 1X1 Gallery; a multimedia show from Iraqi artist Sadik Alfraji at Ayyam Gallery (4 March - 30 April); a Pac-Man-inspired exhibition examining the relationship between technology and reality from Bernhard Buhmann at Carbon 12 (18 March - 1 May), and a group exhibition from Bangladeshi, South Asian and Southeast Asian artists (9 - 23 March) entitled Fabric(ated) Fractures, which has been curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt, Artistic Director of the Samdani Art Foundation, exploring the conflict arising from blurred lines between nations, states and territories at Concrete.
Rana Begum, 'No.831 Reflector', 2018, Reflectors, H95 x W202 x D6 cm. Courtesy of The Third Line
Head to Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde from 18 March to 14 May for the experimental, colour-centred works of Emirati artist Hassan Sharif, or to Green Art Gallery from 18 March to 30 May for Kamrooz Aram’s paintings marrying Western modernism with Persian prints. Stéphanie Saadé’s works will take over Grey Noise from 18 March to 11 May, inspired by her experiences and by life more widely in Lebanon, whilst gouache paintings from iconic Surrealist-style Algerian artist Baya will be showcased at Elmarsa Gallery from 18 March to 2 May. Drop by Lawrie Shabibi from 5 March to 20 April to enjoy paintings and sculptures by Emirati artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, or Custot Gallery from 18 March to 30 May to view a group show from a variety of international artists. Catch Johan Creten’s clay pieces at Leila Heller from 18 March to 18 July, a nod to the notion of Mother Earth, along with Soraya Sharghi’s display inspired by power in today’s world. A well-known figure in the architecture field, Iraqi-British artist and architect Heitham Adjina combines his experience as an architect with experiments in figurative abstraction in Architecture of Being at Showcase Gallery from 18 March to 12 May.
Kamrooz Aram, 'Counterparade', 2018, Oil and Oil crayon on linen, 213 × 167 cm, Courtesy of Alserkal Avenue
Don’t miss the guest project housed at Atassi Foundation: a group exhibition from ground-breaking female Syrian artists, running from 9 March to 8 April, which also includes work by renowned Syrian Dubai-based fashion designer Rami Ali Ali. Lawrence Abu Hamdan also relocates his studio from Beirut to Dubai whilst preparing works for the Sharjah Biennial, and holds an open studio at Warehouse 58, between 18 - 23 March, where visitors can get an exclusive look at how he experiments with speech and silence in his photography, video and sound installations.
Leila Nseir, 'Untitled', Mixed Media on Carton, 37 x 27 cm, Courtesy Atassi Foundation
Visit the new and existing exhibitions, guest projects and open studios on Galleries Night on 18 March, when Alserkal’s galleries will be open from 6pm until 10pm. Ishara Art Foundation, which will be the UAE’s first not-for-profit institution dedicated to South Asian art, will also make its public debut on that night, its inaugural exhibition showcasing works by Shilpa Gupta and Zarina exploring geographical dislocation and the concept of home.
During Art Week (18 - 23 March), highlights at the Avenue include Cinema Akil’s screenings of ‘Kusama: Infinity’, tracing the prolific Japanese artist’s journey, on 18, 19, 21 and 22 March, as well as workshops and film screenings providing an introduction to the ancient Al-Qatt Al-Asiri art form, on the UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage list (22 and 23 March). For pop-art aficionados among you, head to the INKED space (every night 18 - 23 March) for an Andy Warhol-inspired concept dinner, recreating a party at his space and celebrating his relationship with food.
Kamruzzaman Shadhin, 'Haven is Elsewhere', 2017, discarded/worn clothes from migrants and Rohingya refugees. Courtesy of Alserkal Avenue
Majlis Talks highlights include: Johan Cretin in conversation with Harper’s Bazaar Art and Harper’s Bazaar Interiors editor-in-chief Rebecca Anne Proctor on 18 March; Soraya Sharghi in conversation with Canvas deputy editor, Nadine Khalil on 18 March; founder of the Parasol Unit London’s Ziba Ardalan’s introduction to the upcoming exhibition on 21 March and a talk with Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr on 21 March about his current body of work.
The third edition of the Art Book Fair, returning to Alserkal throughout Art Week, is another one to look out for. It will comprise a one-day symposium, on 20 March, before the three-day fair, 21 - 23 March.
Fully Booked Book Fair. Courtesy of Alserkal Avenue
Sikka Art Fair
Running from 16 March to 24 March in Dubai’s Al Fahidi Historical District, aimed at bringing to the fore local up-and-coming Emirati talent alongside other regional creatives. Celebrating the Emirates’ heritage in this unique location, events include exhibitions, installations, live music, film screenings, talks and workshops.
We’re immersed in Art Week at this point and we’ve only just reached the pinnacle. This year’s art fair, taking place from 20 to 23 March at Madinat Jumeirah, boasts a diverse line-up of international artists exhibiting in the contemporary and modern art galleries. Of note is the new Bawwaba section, giving a unique platform to artists from the Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia, Africa and Latin America, analysing identity and migration in the Global South. Other exhibitions to watch for in partnership with the art fair include the Piaget exhibition of jewellery and watches, the BMW Art Car showcase and the unveiling of Ithra Art Prize winner Daniah Al Saleh’s work Sawtam. This year's Global Art Forum, from 20 - 21 March and entitled School is a factory?, brings together some of art’s most prominent minds. 2019’s conference investigates the ever-important issues and challenges embroiled in education, learning and teaching within the art field - including the role of AI, R&D and automation. The Modern Symposium portion, featuring a cast of curators and scholars, explores the cultural transformations undergone in four key cities: Baghdad, Lahore, Dhaka and Beirut.
Baya, 'Jeune musicienne', 1975, Gouache on paper, 92 x 73 cm, Courtesy of Alserkal Avenue
Gate Village DIFC Art Nights
Elsewhere, DIFC’s vibrant bi-annual ‘Arts Nights’ series begins on 18 March, with a free programme of exhibitions at Gate Village’s galleries, installations and live performances celebrating art, design and music by night.
L’Ecole Van Cleef and Arpels
The school of jewellery arts will host workshops, courses, exhibitions (on jewellery collections and stones with Middle Eastern ties), film screenings and interactive talks for jewellery enthusiasts in Dubai’s D3 Design district from 28 March to 13 April. The events will provide an introduction to the history and savoir-faire of jewellery making and precious stones from industry experts.
An installation view of an exhibition by L'Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels, Courtesy Van Cleef & Arpels
Dubai International Calligraphy Exhibition
Art Season closes with a celebration of the calligraphy tradition and art form in Dubai and beyond. Exhibitors are a variety of calligraphers from around the Middle East, showcasing both modern and classical techniques. The 10th iteration of the biennial exhibition and its accompanying workshops, taking place from 27 April to 5 May at Wafi Mall, aim to engage a wider international audience and make the art form’s remarkable heritage and history accessible to all.
Press play for the highlights of Abu Dhabi Art 2018...