Faces of Dubai Art Season

Meet the fine artist, the watercolour painter and the mixed media artist


Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises have occurred annually for years; Dubai Food Festival recently returned for a hugely successful second edition; and now its art’s turn. The art season, that begins Art Week, the celebration of arts and culture that sees a plethora of events taking place across Dubai March 14 – 21, has blown up to become a phenomenon of its own and looks set to become a landmark event on the UAE’s calendar. Throughout March and April, international artists, curators and art enthusiasts will be rolling into town to view some of the world’s finest works and take part in workshops seminars and talks. With events such as Art Dubai (Wednesday March 18 to Saturday 21) at the season’s forefront, as well as Sikka Art Fair (Saturday March 14 to Saturday 21), Design Days Dubai (Monday March 16 to Friday 20) and World Art Dubai (Wednesday April 8 to Saturday 11) taking place, the emirate will be transformed into a creative realm for all those with a love of artistry.

Art Dubai is the leading international fair in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, and will take place at Madinat Jumeirah. This year’s fair features 92 galleries taking part from the UAE, the region and across the world. In fact this ninth edition of the fair is the most global to date, with galleries from more than 40 countries taking part. Madinat Jumeirah will be transformed into a hive of activity, with performances, music and a mini cinema. Eateries will be set up on the terrace, while artist Yazan Khalili has been commissioned to create the Art Bar, a large-scale bar installation on the property’s Fort Island.

While this world can seem intimidating to those who know little about it, the events are open to all and highly accessible. ‘We hope that our audience is enthusiastic about the subject, but the Global Art Forum [Wednesday March 18 to Friday 20] this year focuses on technology and its impact on our lives – something that affects us all. The programme of talks features artists, museum directors and writers, but also technologists, philosophers, thinkers, teachers and perhaps some robots,’ says Antonia Carver, fair director of Art Dubai.

The Global Art Forum is a platform for cultural debate. Visitors can also enjoy an extensive programme of events taking place across the city including gallery openings, talks and more. Now the focal point of the region’s cultural calendar, Art Week has established Dubai as a meeting point for the global art scene. We explore what the season is all about, talk to some of the artists involved and see if we have what it takes to become one of these full-time creatives.

Is it all paintings?
Contrary to popular belief Art Dubai isn’t just about paintings. Art takes many forms. You’ll be able to explore and experience paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, video and film.

Can I buy anything at Art Dubai and what are the price ranges?
If you’re thinking of starting a collection, this is the place to do it, since the range of works is huge and gallerists are on hand to help you. Pieces typically cost from around US$1,000 (Dhs3,672), and there are special tours for young collectors to help navigate the fair. Antonia Carver, fair director of Art Dubai, says, ‘The artworks are one-off pieces that can stay with you and potentially be in your family for generations to come, so they are well worth the investment.’

Will I be able to meet the artists?
Many of the galleries bring their artists with them to the fair; many others fly in from around the world to be part of the experience. One of the most exciting areas is the non-commercial commissioned artists’ projects – this year around 12 artists and artists’ groups have created special projects and installations and they’re on hand, together with the curators, to talk you through their ideas and works.

Will there be any workshops I can take part in and get creative with?
There will be a programme of talks taking place throughout the day, featuring artists, collectors, museum directors, thinkers and writers. On the practical side, the artist-led workshops for children and teenagers are hugely popular. The workshops are about teaming up with conceptual artists to create wholly imaginative projects. This year the workshop is being led by Colombian artist Nicolás Paris.

The mixed media artist

Emirati Hessa Al Awadhi talks graphic design, Sikka Art Fair and life as an artist

What can we expect from your works at Sikka Art Fair?
Last year I created ‘Sheikha in Desert Land’, a 4D installation project. It was an attempt to create an Emirati version of Alice in Wonderland. It involved photography, photo manipulation, space design and audio. This year I will continue the ‘Sheikha’ series, where she will be appearing in a different theme, and similar to last year, I plan on creating a complete environment instead of a single standing art piece.

How would you describe your style and work?
I’m a person who finds it hard to stick to one style of work. I started young as a painter and sketcher and then I completely moved into digital art and photography. One day I’m all for minimalism and the next I find pleasure in complicated work. One thing I find myself committing to is modesty and beauty.

What is the most difficult thing about being an artist?
Being completely satisfied about your final artwork. Even when there are hundreds of admirers of it, you still think it could have been better.

What surprises you most about being an artist?
I feel that there’s a certain respect for artists that it truly humbling. It always surprises me how people approach an artist and can immediately share thoughts and visions of what they see in you work and in you as a person too.
SIKKA Art Fair 2015. March 14-24. Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. www.dubaiculture.ae.

The watercolour painter

Since moving to Dubai, Laober Zhu, from China, has painted scenes well known to residents – from The Walk, JBR, to construction sites across the city

Tell us about your exhibition for Sikka.
It is called, ‘Father and son’ and it will show my father’s traditional Chinese painting and my watercolour painting. I want viewers to feel the inheritance and innovation of art from a father and his son, as well as the aspiration for art. It will give audiences a great chance to enjoy and compare Western art and traditional Chinese art forms.

How did you get noticed as an artist in Dubai?
I’ve participated in Sikka last year and art fairs such as Art Bazaar in Abu Dhabi. I also work with galleries such as Capsule Arts and Gallery One, so gradually people are beginning to discover my work.

What do you think of Dubai’s art scene?
It is rich and varied like Dubai itself. I find that some works by Middle Eastern artists are full of local characteristics, which are fantastic. But traditional art in Dubai is not flourishing like it is in China, America and Europe, and it’s hard to find galleries that represent traditional art.

What challenges come with being an artist?
It’s difficult finding a balance between art and reality and to be able to express yourself freely and make it readable. Art is an abstract language. I use this language to express the scene, a story and my mind, and I try to make everyone read it.
Sikka Art Fair 2015. March 14-24. Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. www.dubaiculture.ae.

The fine artist

Mohammed Hindash is an award-winning Jordanian self-taught artist from Dubai. His works include illustrations, paintings and photography

How would you describe your style and work?
My work is influenced by film noir, beauty editorials and contemporary minimalism. Old Hollywood starlets and modern-day celebrities influence me in that they hold a certain allure on society. My work taps into dissecting the origins of beauty and aesthetics in modern-day society.

What will you be doing during art season?
My first solo show will be held at FN Designs gallery in Alserkal Avenue, curated by Her Highness Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum. The show, titled ‘Beautopsy’, which opens on Monday March 16, consists of paintings and photographs. It revolves around society’s obsession with beauty and taps into insecurities that evolve during our pursuit of perfection.

Has anything shocked you as an artist?
Having people relate to your work, inspiring other people, and even making a living off it. I still get an overwhelming feeling of gratitude whenever my passion becomes my work. To me, I’m still 13 years old, sitting on the floor listening to punk-rock music and drawing X-Men characters in my sketchbook.

Where do you see your artwork taking you?
With time, my aim is to blur the lines between art and culture, proving that contemporary Arab artists do not need bold political statements to become recognised and established internationally, and my first solo exhibition with FN Designs in March is a step in that direction.
‘Beautopsy’. March 16. FN Designs, Alserkal Avenue (04 379 0490).

Bluff your way around an exhibition

Not an art expert by any stretch of the imagination? Use one of our blags and fool even the fiercest of chin-strokers

1Talk about being drawn to something. Make vague statements like, ‘I don’t know why I am so drawn to this.’

2 If things look messy, call it energetic. This makes it sound like you understand the artist’s intention behind the piece.

3 Comment on the use of colour, ‘The colour relationships within this work give it a real sense of visual energy.’

4 Ask questions to divert attention, ‘It’s interesting how he’s chosen to juxtapose these colours – what do you think about that?’

5 Offer your opinion, ‘This artist really engages with popular culture.’

Sylvain Gaillard, Opera Gallery’s general manager, analysed artworks created by the Time Out Dubai to see if each has what it takes to be exhibited

Sofia Vyas, Features Editor

‘Sofia has a very nice collage technique, reminiscent of Mimmo Rotella. It’s a very deep piece, I like the words highlighted and crossed. There is more to this piece than meets the eyes. She clearly has potential.’

Paul Clifford, Guides Editor

‘Van Gogh was told that his art was worthless. Either this piece will go down in history, or in Time Out’s paper basket. Regardless, the artist should keep his day job, just in case.’

Athina Simeonidou, Designer

‘This work is very similar to the open painting series from Sam Francis. Back then, Francis was going through heavy psychoanalysis, this employee is probably tormented, but is showing exceptional skills
with crayons.’

Mark Dinning, Editor

‘This is my favourite – very minimalistic. I see a bit of Rob Pruitt in it. I feel the anger yet adoration for Time Out. It’s very powerful. It clearly deserves a spot on my fridge, maybe later in the gallery.’

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