Image: Chris Nurse’s Cold Iron Art
This year was an incredible one for art in Dubai. Not only did we have exciting international street and graffiti artists such as Seen and Gully in town, but there were also more free art fairs and festivals than ever before in the city’s creative hubs of Alserkal Avenue, JBR and DIFC.
Highlights include exhibitions from award-winning international photographer Steve McCurry, whose 7 Princesses was on The Empty Quarter in DIFC. The exhibition featured a selection of photographs that the artist captured across the seven emirates of the UAE and celebrated the lives and achievements of modern Emirati women. A snapshot of scenes across the UAE is portrayed in each image, from fishing harbours and creeks to the barren landscape of the desert, the beauty of the mountains and the vibrant Dubai cityscape.
Image: Nicolas Mingasson’s Arctic Sentinels
Other notable works came from Iranian artist Afshin Pirhashemi and his exhibition Femafia, which opened at Ayyam Gallery on Alserkal Avenue in March. In light of recent terrorist attacks abroad, Pirhashemi’s canvas paintings of women bearing arms and soaked in what appears to be blood, speaks volumes about conflict in our society. We see hints of his views on various societies and hints of a darker lifestyle that he has witnessed in places around the world.
Image: Steve McCurry’s 7 Princesses
Other captivating paintings came from artist Gully. After spending a decade of painting anonymously in the streets of Paris, Gully – who still remains incognito – displayed a number of vibrant, contemporary works at Opera Gallery in DIFC for his first major solo exhibition in the city Beyond the Canvas. The colourful paintings include various images of Americana and comic illustrations. Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell and Alexander Calder are just a few iconic artists referenced in his works. He says he uses this technique to tell stories with existing characters and paintings.
Image: Gully’s Beyond the Canvas
We’ve seen many artists travel the globe in search of the perfect photograph this year. Beirut-born photographer Christian Ghammachi travelled across 16 African countries, from Cape Town to Djibouti, by motorbike, to put together Mzungu, The Aimless Wanderer. Photographer Matilde Gattoni visited 35 countries and four continents over a 15-year period and showcased her searing images at Gulf Photo Plus in a show titled Her. Gattoni’s pictures are of women affected by war, poverty and natural disasters: tsunami survivors, cluster bomb victims, war refugees and victims of domestic violence.
Image: Afshin Pirhashemi’s Femafia
But it was French photographer Nicolas Mingasson who captured life in the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia and the Nenets Autonomous region in his exhibition Arctic Sentinels that impressed us the most. Having spent the past ten years travelling, Mingasson gave his life to the Arctic. For six months in 2008, the Frenchman worked on a series of portraits that showcased the stories of populations living in the Russian part of the region. For instance, an image of 17 year-old Katya shows her at ease with the herd. She represents the younger generation of Nenets herders, a generation that moves between different worlds, but Mingasson says she is fully aware of the modern world – the internet and mobile phones – and she has the same dreams as many young women across Russia.
When it comes to sculpture, Dubai-based artist Chris Nurse’s horseshoe creations can be seen across the city – on the roundabout near Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa and in Jumeirah Creekside Hotel.
The Zimbabwean native is a farrier for the royal family, shoeing horses. In his spare time, he makes unique sculptures from recycled horseshoes for his business, Cold Iron Art. These giant sculptures can take ten to 15 days to make and are a real work of art.