There’s no denying that Dubai’s art scene suffers during the summer months. In the lead up to Ramadan, many of our favourite venues batten down the hatches while residents flock to fairer climes and Dubai goes into sleepy mode until further notice. As a result, the majority of galleries also shut up shop in the lead up to and during Ramadan, due to low footfall. But what does this all mean for art lovers spending their summer in Dubai? Simple: don’t panic. We’ve found two interesting exhibitions that will be on display throughout the Holy Month, located just a short distance from one another in Al Quoz. Hamail Art Gallery, which opened in the hub two months ago, is displaying large-scale calligraphy works by Pakistani artists, while the relocated Showcase Gallery is exhibiting African artists Daryl Nero and the late Isaac Sithole. Here, the gallery directors tell us more about the exhibitions taking place and why you should see them if you’re staying put this summer.
Hamail Art Gallery
Pamela Bobal Gallery owner and director
Exhibition: ‘Treasure of Holy Koran’ until Friday August 31.
What separates this gallery from others already established in Alserkal Avenue?
We represent a more diverse range of artists, both emerging and established. We’re the first and only permanent gallery in Dubai which has Indian and Pakistani artworks, and we have a unique warehouse gallery space outside of Alserkal Avenue.
Why did you decide to show works during Ramadan?
A number of our Pakistani artists do amazing Qu’ranic calligraphy works so the Holy Month of Ramadan was an opportune period in which to showcase this selection of works.
Why would you encourage people to come along to see the show?
It provides an access point to Pakistani and Indian art which many people are unable to locate outside of these respective countries. The specific calligraphy works have taken years to prepare in some cases, such as the 18ft Zulfiqar Ali work, which will be the centrepiece. The calligraphy works are a modern and more abstract take on traditional calligraphy.
What’s the one artwork you would tell people to come and see?
The 18ft centerpiece. Zulfiqar Ali uses gold and silver leaves together in a distressed fashion to give the canvas an antique, aged feeling but also uses brighter shades of blue and red hues to create depth and life in his works. Ali has painstakingly written Qu’ranic verses in minute detail to form a background to the main part of his work.
Sharon Harvey Gallery owner and director
Exhibition: ‘Taste Binds the Tribe’ until Friday September 21.
What separates the gallery from others already established in Alserkal Avenue?
The main difference is that historically Showcase has been known as a source for original antiques from this area and I really want to keep that going while venturing strongly into the art scene; specifically African art. ‘Taste Binds the Tribe’ is our first exhibition along these lines, a sort of warm-up for exciting things to come from September [onwards]. In a way it solidifies my style and draws attention to the fact that we have two real layers to the gallery – downstairs is a fabulous big space to show art and upstairs is a space featuring an eclectic mix of antiques, tribal jewellery, collectables and prints.
Has there been an increase in footfall in the gallery since the re-opening in May 2012?
Yes definitely. Although on the other hand we do miss out on the passing trade that we had on Jumeirah Beach Road. It will take time for people to realise where we are.
Why did you decide to remain open during Ramadan?
I decided to keep the exhibition on throughout Ramadan as it is fitting with the link to local culture and heritage. Many people stay on in Dubai through the summer, although quite a few other galleries close.
Why would you encourage people to come along to see?
My ambition for the gallery is to make people feel comfortable about browsing, asking questions and learning about statements artists make through their work. There is little written about local antiques, so I’m hoping to bring more awareness to these beautiful collectable chests and doors. Isaac Sithole’s art on sale is owned by his family and proceeds will go towards supporting them. [The West African wood-cut print artist died of Aids in February 2012.] Wood-cut is time-consuming and not often seen in art today, but is a typical process used by artists in this part of Africa. Daryl Nero is one of Zimbabwe’s master painters. His work in contrast is a mix of architectural and seductive life drawings.
Is there one artwork you would tell people to come and see?
‘The Peace Museum’ (pictured left) by Daryl Nero.
Exhibitions: ‘Treasure of Holy Koran’ until August 31 at Hamail Art Gallery, 8th Street, Al Quoz 1 (04 380 6479); ‘Taste Binds the Tribe’ until September 1 at Showcase Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1 (04 379 0940).