UAE plows ahead with legions of construction projects in an aim to highlight arts and culture
On the opening of the 11th edition of Art Dubai, the Emirati artistic scene remains a mixed bag.
Whilst the Louvre Abu Dhabi — which was set to be inaugurated in 2012 — will finally open its doors later this year, the openings of the Zayed National Museum, (named after Sheikh Zayed, founding father of the United Arab Emirates) and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, slated to launch this year, might be rescheduled to a later date, as agreements with local constructors are yet to be reached.
A rendering of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, slated to open later this year.
In spite of this, the Guggenheim is hosting a temporary exhibition “The creative act: performance – process – presence”, running until July 29 in Manara, on the Saadiyat Island, bringing together a recent installation by Anish Kapoor and works by Julio Le Parc, Niki de Saint Phalle and fellow local artists.
To the north of the Persian Gulf, the Emirate of Sharjah is hosting the 13th edition of its biennial, running from March 10 through June 12. This year, 70 participating artists are exploring the themes of Tamawuj (waves) and exchange — resulting in what is a slightly perplexing presentation, reflecting the ambiguity of its theme. The buzz surrounding the biennial seems largely provoked by the construction works for Heart of Sharjah 2025, a long-term development project (the first of its kind in the region) that will see the construction of museum, galleries, restaurants, shops as well as the redevelopment of some of the region’s archeological sites. As of today, the Emirate of Sharjah is home to 22 of the 43 museums in the UAE.
From the opening of the Sharjah Biennial 13 on March 10.
In Dubai, Christie’s has considerably reduced the frequency and number of its sales, but rival Sotheby’s continues to strengthen its presence in the region, having recently announced the opening of a new local office as well as the launch of a gallery in the city.
But the region’s foremost arts hub remains Alserkal Avenue, which seems to be in perpetual expansion. In addition to galleries, artist studios and restaurants, the arts hub has also recently welcomed CONCRETE, a new, 1,000 square-meter museum designed by Rem Koolhaas’s architecture firm OMA, which will inaugurate with a show of work by Syrian artists.
Opening of "Syria Into the Light" at Concrete on Alserkal Avenue, photo credit Abby Kemp. Courtesy Alserkal Avenue.
An artist residency (Alserkal Residency) is set to launch in Autumn, hosting its first four artists: Mona Ayyash, Ali El Darsa, Franziska Pierwoss and Jaret Vadera. Dubai’s walls show off the region’s street art talents, with the initiative Dubai Walls bringing together artists including Roa, El Seed, Icy and Sot and Blek le Rat.
Furthermore, the project Brand Dubai, the creative arm of the Government of Dubai Media Office, has aims to convert Dubai into an open museum, (the Dubai Street Museum) in order to reflect its unique character as one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities. The first frescoes, curated by artists Rom Levy and Sanaz Askari, were inaugurated in late 2016. French artists Seth, Atlas and Zepha have also worked on the walls of the Satwa neighborhood.
This 11th edition of Art Dubai should be closely followed: promising sales from its 94 exhibitors could mean that the city is finally ready to enter the international art market, becoming one of its foremost economic centers.