Our major complaint about the art scene in Dubai over the past few years has been how spaced out and hard to find the galleries are (sorry, we know that sounds wet). But now that DIFC Gate Village has spawned over half a dozen galleries, as well as Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz, both evolving into artistic hubs, we really can’t complain.
Excitingly, as of last week, Al Serkal Avenue is home to two more world class gallery spaces. Time Out takes a closer look...
Lawrie Shabibi Gallery
USP: Run by the former director of contemporary art in the region for Christie’s, William Lawrie, and the former managing director of Art Dubai Asmaa Al-Shabibi (pictured), this gallery promises to be one with a calculated, educated and knowledgeable programme with works from Iran, the Arab world, North Africa, South Asia and Turkey.
The gallerist: Asmaa Al-Shabibi, 39, British (the former managing director of Art Dubai, she runs the gallery in partnership with William Lawrie)
First exhibition: ‘Palms and Stars’ from Lebanese artist Nabil Nahas, the artist is known for his textured canvases (he’ll sometimes add both pumice and acrylic to a piece). Until April 13. Al Serkal Ave (04 346 9906).
The lowdown: ‘William and I have known each other for a long time as part of the art scene here,’ explains Asmaa, ‘and we always talked about the artists that we loved who didn’t have representation in the region – so one day we just decided that we should be the ones to bring them here.’
They have decided to open the gallery with an exhibition by Lebanese painter Nabil Nahas, as he’s an established regional artist who’s never had a solo gallery show in the Middle East (when, in fact, he’s very celebrated in the States). This move indicates that solo shows may be the focus: ‘Our next show will be an Iranian artist called Shahpour Pouyan, whose works include painting and installation-style sculptures,’ says Asmaa. ‘Beyond that, our programme is diverse with artists from Turkey, Afghanistan and North Africa working in a variety of media such as video, photography and painting.’
USP: A prominent gallery already in Iran, Etemad will bring a range of regional artists to its 7,500 square foot space, as well as international artists that we’ve never seen before in the UAE.
The gallerist: Aly Afshar, 47, British/Iranian
First exhibition: ‘New Wave – British Art Today’ featuring Dan Perfect, Tasha Amini, Tom Ellis, Petroc Sesti and Mustafa Hulusi, until May 1.
Al Serkal Ave (04 346 8649).
The lowdown: ‘This is the work of a decade’s worth of artists who’ve come out post-Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst,’ explains honest (refreshingly so) Aly Ashfar of the first show in his new space. ‘They’re the first wave of 21st century Brit artists, and you can expect to see artists here at Etemad you won’t get to otherwise see in Dubai.’
Already an established gallery in Tehran (having opened in 2002), and one which is known for spearheading the young Iranian art wave, Etemad’s move to Dubai is a strategic one: ‘Yes, Dubai is saturated with galleries, but at the end of the day it’s the strength of the project that matters. Dubai is an important hub, what with the Qatar museum and the collectors in Saudi and Qatar: we’re in the most cosmopolitan city south of Spain to Singapore.’
When asked what his pick of artists to watch is, Aly says there are too many to mention, but that the exhibitions coming up (and the current one) are a good indication of his opinion. Of the artists on show in the current exhibition he’s very drawn to Dan Perfect’s work (who, interestingly, is the nephew of Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac). ‘I like his layered compositions and abstract expressions,’ he explains.