United Arab Emirates began its art season with a bang on March 7, 2019, starting with Sharjah Art Biennale. This edition of the biennale is showcasing three unique exhibitions, curated by Vietnamese author Zoe Butt, Egyptian independent curator and author Omar Kholeif; and American art historian Claire Tancons across various arts and heritage locations in Sharjah. This edition explores the possibilities for creating art when history is increasingly fictionalized, when ideas of ‘society’ are invariably displaced, when borders and beliefs are under constant renegotiation, and our material culture is under constant threat of human destruction.
Rohini Devasher, an Indian artist is participating in Zoe Bhatt’s exhibition, ‘Journey Beyond the Arrow’. Encompassing video, print and large site-specific drawings, Rohini’s work is a collection of ‘strange’ terrains, constructed by observing, recording, fictionalizing and reimagining objects and spaces that exist at the interface between nature, science, culture, perception and production.
Artist Seher Shah’s drawings, prints and sculptures are displayed in collaborative body of work with photographer Randhir Singh at the Artist’s Room in Jameel Arts Centre. Both the artists are based in Delhi.
Sharjah Biennale is closely followed by Art Dubai, beginning March 20, 2019, which is Middle East’s premier art fair. Featuring more than 90 galleries from around 40 countries the fair returns to Madinat Jumeirah with a revamped structure, new sections, performances, talks and new local initiatives. There is a special focus on Latin America, the ‘Global South’. The non-commercial programme consists of the Global Art Forum, art activities for children and commissioned performances.
Chloe Vaitsou, the new international director of Art Dubai has worked along with the artistic director, Pablo del Val to put together Middle East’s largest fair both in commercial and non-commercial activities. The fair has been broadly divided into four zones: Contemporary, Modern, Bawwaba and Residents.
India is represented by six galleries at this year’s art fair giving them a opportunity to interact with collectors and museum representatives from across the world.
Contemporary, the largest of Art Dubai’s section, portrays work mainly produced in the last ten years from across the Global South: Middle East, North Africa, Latin America and South Asia. The booths in this section have been arranged to help visitors notice links between them all and have greater access to art from these non-Western geographies.
The Modern section, presents museum-quality works by Modern masters of the Middle East, South Asia and North America in the 20th century. Interestingly, India’s oldest gallery Dhoomimal Gallery has made its debut at Art Dubai with some of the biggest names in Indian Modernism: F.N. Souza, Krishen Khanna, Abdur Rahman and Jamini Roy. The famous DAG is displaying Lalit Kala Academy’s three times award winner Shanti Dave’s artworks at the fair.
Gallery Akar Prakar of Kolkata is showcasing the work of SH Raza, Ganesh Haloi, Jayashree Chakravarty, Manu Mrittak, Manish Pushkale and Debanjan Roy. Also on display is the work of artist Kanishka Raja who passed away last year. Another gallery from Kolkata, Experimenter Gallery presents a group show of Praneet Soi, Ayesha Sultana, Prabhakar Pachpute, Rathin Barman, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Bani Abidi and Julien Segard.
Mumbai based Jhaveri Contemporary is showcasing Shezad Dawood’s work at Art Dubai. The artist is also participating in the Sharjah Biennale. New Delhi’s Sanchit Art Gallery returns to the fair with display of work of modern masters like Satish Gujral, Ram Kumar, MF Husain, Paresh Maity, G.R. Santosh, Ganesh Pyne and Neeraj Goswami.
The Bawwaba Section in Art Dubai, is the new gallery section introduced in the thirteenth edition. Bawwaba (means gateway in Arabic) exhibits artworks of the artists either living in or inspired by the Global South. It consists of 10 solo shows from a diverse line-up of artists. This section is curated by French-Cameroonian curator Elise Atangana.
The Residents zone this year focusses on Latin America. Curated by Brazilian Fernanda Brenner and Emirati Munira Al Sayegh, exhibits work by 12 artists from the leading galleries in Latin America who have lived in six to eight week residency in UAE. They have produced work inspired by the UAE.
‘Mirror Mirror on the Wall’ is an exhibition by participants of Campus Art Dubai 7.0, an intensive six-month seminar and residency programme.
‘Tolerance, Has History’, is an exhibition featuring rare photographs from the private collection of HH Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council. It presents a compelling visual narrative of the region in the 1960s and 1970s and the values on which UAE was built.
Brazilian artistic collective, SOLAROCA is an interactive installation with beach-like environment, made up of a large structure covered with brightly-coloured, Rio-style beach parasols with beach chairs underneath, is a must stop for photo opportunities and encourages interaction between people.
The theme of this edition’s Sheikha Manal little Artists Programme led by American artist Sally Curcio is ‘Creating New Worlds’. It includes interactive workshops for children to make cities shiny glass beads, tours of the fair and on campus workshops at selected schools.
BMW Group Middle East is exhibiting a car painted by Australian artist Ken Done for its Art Car project along with miniature versions of the art cars painted by artists such as Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder and Roy Lichtenstein.
Dubai Art Season is supported by several art-related activities and exhibitions around Dubai and the UAE including Sikka Art Fair in the Al Fahidi Historic District and Alserkal Avenue.
Ishara Art Foundation, founded by Smita Prabhakar was launched recently during the art season with a focus on South Asia and ex-Tate curator Nada Raza as artistic director. Raza puts the work of Shilpa Gupta into dialogue with that of Zarina Hashmi in the inaugural exhibition, ‘Altered Inheritances: Home is a Foreign Place’.
Indian artist Michelle Poonawala’s multimedia installation, Introspection is on view at Al Serkel Avenue as a guest project where she experiments with digital technology.
Sikka Art Fair, an annual cultural event by the Dubai Culture & Art Authority is ongoing from March 16-24 in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. This vibrant 9-day programme includes various art exhibitions and installations, visual and performing artists, music, film screenings and workshops. Artist and sculptor, Shabir Ahmed’s illuminating installation adorning a majestic tree with his handcrafted calligraphy letters is a show stopper in Bastakiya. Visit to Sikka Art Fair is incomplete without a peep into Mawaheb from Beautiful People, an art studio for adults with special needs.
No wonder the who’s who in the Art World is headed to UAE to catch the ongoing action. After a small breather, it will be time for the fifth edition of World Art Dubai beginning April 3 at World Trade Centre. WAD is the region’s largest affordable art fair.