The project leader behind SIKKA Art Fair explains the concept behind the local culture and heritage exhibition and what to expect from this year’s edition.
Over the past four years, SIKKA Art Fair as become one of the country’s most pioneering platforms for emerging artists in the region, giving them the opportunity to create artwork and realise projects that may not have been possible in the past. Now one of Art Season’s main events, it continues to give the month-long season a more local focus and gives visitors the opportunity to explore local culture and heritage from a variety of different perspectives. We spoke to project leader of the fair, Lubna Al Shamsie, to find out more.
Dubai has really come into its own in terms of art. How would you describe its artistic identity and where do you see it going?
I think the city has matured a lot throughout the years, and at the same time we have grown from having just regional attention to getting more international attention. People fly in from all over the world to attend Art Week and the activations that are happening throughout Art Season as well. I see that all of this is also building up towards Expo 2020. By that point, what we are aiming for is to have an international level Art Season that could be put on the same place as Art Miami or any of the other big art fairs around the world. That’s our aim.
Tell us a little bit about SIKKA. Where did the idea come from and what’s the concept behind it? How does it fit in with the rest of Art Season?
SIKKA has been going on for a couple of years now. It grew out of the need for a platform to give to emerging artists who maybe have not exhibited before. Artists who maybe have ideas but who have never had the support to produce their pieces, we commission these artists – so they come up with the proposals and we commission them to produce these pieces for the exhibition. It’s actually two birds with one stone for us: Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is one of the most important historical areas in Dubai, so we wanted something to kind of revive the area and draw people to it. At the same time, we wanted to offer these artists a chance to exhibit so that’s how it became this fusion of contemporary art with a traditional setting.
So what’s the process of putting the show together? How do you select artists or work?
There is an open call for the artists, and we don’t restrict them because we don’t want to limit their creativity. However, the fair is curated so the pieces are curated according to the theme – this year it’s all about bridging cultures. We started curating the fair from last year, and this year we have Jalal Luqman as our curator. He’s a sculptor by trade but he also produces all kinds of visual art and installations.
And what kinds of events will be running alongside this year’s fair in addition to the work being exhibited?
We have workshops, and every day we have several talks. We also have music performances and some theatre performances happening on the stage throughout the days and into the evenings. SIKKA is a representation of the city, and Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, so you’ll see bilingual performances and artists from all nationalities.
What’s your favourite part of the fair and what are you looking forward to most this year?
I think that over the years SIKKA has grown to be more than an art fair – it’s more of a celebration of arts and music and food. Last year, for the first time, we saw lots of families and women pushing carriages; it has become a hangout place. It’s brewing with creativity and the networking that happens between artists, and the potential projects that come from that – that is what we look for.
Are there any artists that you would say we should be looking out for in the region? Or any local galleries that you particularly love?
I don’t want to highlight or pinpoint one thing, because I think that all of our events are worth going for. Whether it’s the events of Art Week, or whether it’s something else that will be happening later on in the season – all the highlighted events are worth visiting. We will also have lots of activations happening throughout the city, which are worth visiting because obviously there are artists that have flown in from abroad for them. Some unique activations will be happening within the art night and the gallery night too, so definitely check that out.
Describe Art Season to us in one sentence.
Let me tell you the thought process first: basically, this year, we didn’t want to have static art pieces that people can’t interact with so we set out with experimental art in mind. So I would say that this year Art Season is very experimental, interactive and definitely out of the norm.
SIKKA Art Fair runs from March 14-24, Sat 4pm-10pm, Sun-Wed 2pm-10pm, Thu 2pm-midnight, Fri 4pm-midnight. Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, www.sikka.ae.