Monday, February 26, 2024



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Art Dubai 2024 Contemporary Curated

For this year’s edition of Art Dubai 2024 we requested from a selection of galleries from the Contemporary section to share a work from their booth accompanied by a short paragraph. This is what they had to say: Efie Gallery: El Anatsui, The Bend in The River, 2022. 125 cm x 343 cm. Tropical hardwood and aluminium bottlecaps. The Bend in the River is a work from El Anatsui’s newest series of wooden sculptures that marry his widely recognisable use of bottlecaps with his earlier practice in wood. The Bend in the River is completed by saturated fields of acrylic paint and bottlecaps seen in a vertical burst on the right side of work, interrupting the otherwise natural tones and blurring the lines between painting and sculpture. The different colours of the chosen slabs of wood recall the diversity of the continent, while the power tools used represent the violence that African people have endured, symbolism further enhanced by the blow torch or acetylene torch used to literally scorch the surface of the piece. El Anatsui, The Bend In The River, 2022. 125 cm x 343 cm. Tropical hardwood and aluminium bottlecaps. Courtesy of Efie Gallery and Artist. Mario Mauroner Contemporary Art Salzburg: Rashid Al Khalifa, Reality is Timeless, 2024, Steel Frame cladded with aluminium, Enamel based paint with gold leaf, 206 x 202 x 104 cm Rashid Al Khalifa creates fragments of a labyrinth, relics that emerge from the ground, tilted at varying angles. Is this the discovery of a lost labyrinth or the materialisation of hauntingly futuristic artifacts? Rashid plays on this concept of time and discovery, of the modern and ancient through these fragments, whereby each piece is reminiscent of ancient mythology and yet, they are strikingly contemporary. Furthermore, upon each fragment are different motifs adopted from the diagram of the Egyptian labyrinth presented by the 17th century Jesuit scholar Anthanasius Kircher in his book Turris Babel (1679). Kircher’s labyrinth is largely derived from the description of Herodotos who described a similar structure in Faiyum. The perforated motifs on the copper and brass exterior, beautifully oxidise and cast shadows of light on the ground around the visitors, as they traverse the installation. This work shown at Art Dubai, is a miniature version of the large-scale installation that was displayed at Forever is Now III at the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt in 2023. Rashid Al Khalifa “Reality is timeless”, 2024, Steel Frame cladded with aluminium, Enamel based paint with gold leaf, 206 x 202 x 104 cm. Sabrina Amrani: Jorge Tacla, Identidad Oculta 69 (Hidden Identity 69) Identidad Oculta 69 represents a vision of the Gaza strip; on the canvas a dense layer of cold wax and pigments is applied and gradually removed, as looking for the “bones” of the painting, similar to Ferlini’s explorations. Tacla’s paintings are in the joints of new architectures arising in the wake of catastrophe—natural or man-made. Tacla illuminates the variability of identity for victim and aggressor – disassociated from his own – and the complexity of the assessment of guilt. Jorge Tacla, Identidad Oculta 69 (Hidden Identity 69) Galerie Tanit: Adel Abidin, Tire, 2024, Resin Sculpture Reinforced with Fiberglass, 64.5 x 28.5 x 12.5 cm, Edition of 3. Tire (2024) showcases an everted car tire turned inside out, offering a reflection on our contemporary political world. The work prompts us to question the authenticity of our observations—does it truly represent itself, or is it merely an illusion projected onto an object? The inspiration for this concept is drawn from a common Iraqi saying that implies life is a continual process of turning inside out, where nothing strictly adheres to the logic of appearances. Adel Abidin, Tire, 2024, Resin Sculpture Reinforced with Fiberglass, 64.5 x 28.5 x 12.5 cm, Edition of 3. Image courtesy of Adel Abidin and Galerie Tanit Beyrouth/Munich. Saleh Barakat Gallery: Nabil Nahas, Acrylic on canvas, 135 x 113 cm, 2023. The Fractals series is perhaps the best-known work of acclaimed Lebanese painter Nabil Nahas. Developing from a fascination with the optical phenomena derived from his close observation of the natural world, the work moves towards a vision of pantheism as life that is one with multiple manifestations. To this end Nahas’s fractal series is deeply engaged with the push and pull of the natural world, the forces of the tides, for example, where he first discovered his fascination with the the theme. This complex and enduring work is extraordinarily rich in its employ of texture and colour, but carries within that optical view a deeper meditation, a sense in which the forms that comprise the images are but a sample, and a continuation, of the oneness and synchronicity that is inherent to the order and meaning of the pantheistic worldview. Nabil Nahas, Acrylic on canvas, 135 x 113 cm, 2023. Carbon 12: Sarah Almehairi, Off Centered Control, 2024, Acrylic on wood and canvas, 150 x 100 cm. Sarah Almehairi’s overarching body of work unfolds a discourse on themes of materiality, systems & interrelations, memory, and language through the intuitive and poetic examination of narrative and abstraction. By engaging with geometric forms, she extracts and defines a structural language read time and time again to suggest a form other than its own – a map, a sentence, a puzzle piece. Through the process, they are broken down, built, and reassembled as continuous iterations of themselves. These elements towards telling a story are not so explicit, lines and layers are used throughout her pieces as a means of exploring clarity and organisation of collected information. Working primarily with investigative range of media, she explores the push and pull of material to evoke a story that both conceals and reveals itself. Sarah Almehairi, Off Centered Control , 2024, Acrylic on wood and canvas, 150 x 100 cm. Courtesy of CARBON 12. Abarran Bourdais Gallery: Riots on the Moon 03, Carlos Amorales, 2023.  Riots on the Moon 03″ is part of a series of large-format paintings created using a word-to-image artificial intelligence program. Inspired by French poet Henri Michaux’s calligraphic works from the 1960s and clashes between protesters and riot police, they depict different moments of the riots: the gathering of the mass of protesters, the march, the shouting, the confrontation with the police, the charges, the clashes, the repression and the escape. Riots on the Moon 03, Carlos Amorales, 2023. Courtesy of Albarrán Bourdais Gallery 1957: Nadia Waheed, Orchestra, Oil on canvas, 182.9 x 213.4 cm In a kind of post-apocalyptic realm that defies geographical categorisation, Waheed’s landscapes are not so much places, but states of existence-beyond space, time, and definition. In the painting titled ‘Orchestra,’ Waheed uses many shades of black and a self-portrait female figure embracing the universe. The canvas is alluring in its representation of celestial space as the artist depicts the grand and intricate architecture of the Wazir Khan Mosque in northern Pakistan. Waheed layers the architectural elements of the famous Mosque with abstract and illegible Arabic onto the canvas, the globe beneath being encompassed by a figure who gazes downwards in a place of suspension, warm like the sun. Nadia Waheed, Orchestra, Oil on canvas, 182.9 x 213.4 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957. Athr Gallery: Ayman Yossri Daydban, Distortion 13, 2011, Stainless steel, 150 x 39 x 20 cm. Stainless steel sheets serve as frozen individual identities, mirroring the evolving world without influencing it. Yet, as they unfold, they symbolise humanity’s struggle to escape imposed stereotypes, embracing a multicultural mindset. The process of shaping these sheets, with its patience and repetition, parallels the arduous journey of personal formation. Each hammer blow and fold reflects the violent, sometimes painful, yet transformative process of becoming a unique individual in the universe. Ayman Yossri Daydban, Distortion 13, 2011, Stainless steel, 150 x 39 x 20 cm. Giorgio Persano Gallery: Taus Makhacheva Roundtable of Fictives, 2021 toy set, wood, brass 59 x 48,5 x 53 cm. Taus Makhacheva creates works that explore the restless connections between historical narratives and fictions of cultural authenticity. Her art considers the resilience of images, objects and bodies emerging out of stories and personal experiences. Makhacheva’s artworks have been exhibited in major art institutions worldwide and appear in the collections of prestigious museums such as the Centre Pompidou – Paris, Kadist Art Foundation – Paris and San Francisco, Moscow Museum of Modern Art – Moscow, Museum of Modern Art – Antwerp, P. S. Gamzatova Dagestan Museum of Fine Arts – Makhachkala, Sharjah Art Foundation – Sharjah, Tate Modern – London, Van Abbemuseum – Eindhoven. A wooden box unfolds into a toy set revealing a roundtable of 8 characters that include Text, the World Elephant, Hocus-Pocus, Fungus Prosaicus, Hans and Sophie, Apple on a Plate, a Holy Fool and Glass, Lead, Paper, Water. The set is accompanied by a monologue card for each one, and all members of this peculiar ensemble serve as emotional, psychological and imaginative support structures for anyone who plays with them. However, the act of playing also crumbles the support they stand to offer. The work is a playful attempt to toy with the idea of coping mechanisms, bend support structures when they become too rigid, explore new footings one can rely on and at the same time expose the malleability of existing foundations. Taus Makhacheva Roundtable of Fictives, 2021 toy set, wood, brass 59 x 48,5 x 53 cm. Tabari Artspace: Samah Shihadi, Cloudhead, 2022, charcoal on paper, 70 x 50 cm. Shihadi uses metaphorical symbols to enshroud other – visibly independent – female figures in her work in surreal atmospheres. In part inspired by classical tarot cards and astrology, Shihadi mythologises the woman in a series of mystical self-portraits. The artist portrays herself as Lady Justice, a high priestess or an empress. Stately and powerful. With attributes such as a sword and scales, borrowed from Western legal symbology dating back to Roman times. Or with a Coptic cross, the sign of life stemming from ancient Egypt. The woman here has an inviolable, almost supernatural status. She has a magical identity, which transcends religion and background. Samah Shihadi, Cloudhead, 2022, charcoal on paper, 70 x 50 cm. Experimenter: Radhika Khimji, Diamonds in the sky with diamonds, Oil and gesso on photo transfer and birch plywood, 72 x 48 x 2 in, 2024.  Traversing the macrocosm through one’s body as a way of seeing and experiencing, Radhika Khimji (b. 1979; lives and works between Muscat, Oman and London, United Kingdom) draws on an array of mediums and a layered technique of mark-making to reimagine geographies and abstract aspects of the environment. Khimji’s visual language searches for a place between architecture and gesture through a collaged way of working. Informed by the physicality and materiality of the making process, Khimji’s work navigates the perpetual displacements of the transitory and fluid body moving across a space fragmented by many polarities. Radhika Khimji, Diamonds in the sky with diamonds, Oil and gesso on photo transfer and birch plywood, 72 x 48 x 2 in, 2024. Courtesy The Artist and Experimenter. Gallery Isabelle: Abdelkader Benchamma, Trees, Ashes, 2023 Ink and acrylic on paper 114 x 150.5 cm In light of Abdelkader Benchamma’s recent nomination for the 2024 Prix Marcel Duchamp, we would like to highlight his work Trees – Ashes (2023), which is an example of his series Book of Miracles – Vanishing Trees.  We are incredibly excited to have received this work for our artist Abdelkader Benchamma, who we have been showing in this region since 2012. Benchamma’s Book of Miracles series assumes the form of highly detailed drawings, reflecting on the challenges of a process with one overarching constraint: creating a colourful drawing utilising only black or dark tones. Benchamma takes cues from the 17th century Book of Miracles, delving into mythologies and cosmic observations. Conjuring otherworldly landscapes filled with trees and shrubs, he suggests the cycle of life in transformation, rebirth, and renewal. He also references hoax modern miracles circulating on the internet. With the use of photo manipulation, visuals from the natural world are reworked by people so to spell the name of Allah or verses from the Quran onto branches or reflected on bodies of water, driven by a need to project spiritual qualities onto nature. In this particular work, the word ‘Ash-hadu’, as recited in Muslim prayers, simultaneously appears and disappears, and which suggests that the energy of nature is divine. Abdelkader Benchamma, Trees – Ashes, 2023 Ink and acrylic on paper 114 x 150.5 cm Dastan Gallery: Pooya Aryanpour, Untitled, 2024, Kiln-fired dyed glass, mirror fragment, and plaster on fiberglass structure with Styrofoam core, 140 x 161 x 38 cm Pooya Aryanpour has shown keen interest in waves and curves throughout his career. In his Untitled 140 x 161 x 38 cm sculpture (2024), Aryanpour is showing us a protean three-dimensional form imbued with a fluidity derived not only from its form but in association with the tiny coloured mirrors pieced together to refract light. It is a flag that strives to free itself of the bounds of matter. The kiln-fired dyed glass, mirror fragments shapeshift with the viewer, who moves around it to see what the form presents in its different facets. Pooya Aryanpour, Untitled, 2024, Kiln-fired dyed glass, mirror fragment, and plaster on fiberglass structure with Styrofoam core, 140 x 161 x 38 cm Galerie Krinzinger: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, Hesam Rahmanian HHR/S 6, Alluvium (Climate Protestors), 2023 – 2024, acrylic, gesso, ink, watercolour, gouache, collage on clay plates and iron (selenium toned of 7 plates), 237 x 115 x 70 cm Each molecule is comprised of multiple dangling metal bars acting as bonds between the clay plates. The temporal recordings on plates are a retelling of stories of our times influenced by our daily living environment and the socio-political news and the state of world. The pre-existing media images are defamiliarised, decentralised as we each set out to work on them through collage and painting. The final images are no longer readily recognisable, but they may trigger the collective memory of a familiar event on topics that concern us: transhumanism, natural disasters, chaos, power, technical advancement, migration, media and political propaganda. They also include thought fragments, emotions, learnings, observation and influences from our daily lives – whether it be a piece of poetry, a picture, a piece of music, a line in a book or an encounter. Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, Hesam Rahmanian HHR/S 6. Alluvium (Climate Protestors), 2023 – 2024, acrylic, gesso, ink, watercolour, gouache, collage on clay plates and iron (selenium toned of 7 plates), 237 x 115 x 70 cm Comptoir des Mines: Sara Ouahaddou, Izoul Zman Ighzif – Time is Still Long, Beyond Our Perception, 2024, Cedar wood, Iraqi glass, Moorish glass, transparent glass, brass and copper, Diam. 170 cm, Depth 7 cm, With the participation of artisans Mohamed Maaroufi and his team.  Another sterile opposition, that which since colonial times has distinguished supposedly Western modernity from traditions confined to the reproduction of vernacular craft techniques, has also been shattered. The invention of her own alphabets goes hand in hand with a constant construction of forms, the know-how of which she shares with the craftsmen who accompany her. The aim is not to reproduce a few hackneyed techniques, but to give free rein to a shared imagination. The artist is no longer a demiurge locked away in her ivory tower, but she establishes a creative process that is always collaborative. The uniqueness of the pieces she creates is endowed with a strong poetic element. From the embroidery that gives life to unprecedented forms of constellation, to the circular stained-glass windows that let the shimmering effects of light shine through, to the ceramics that assemble graphic signs of rare inventiveness, the works are often linked to a form of lyrical abstraction that is entirely musical. Her current work is like an intimate, nostalgic score. Music is omnipresent through personal references to childhood. In hi s stained-glass windows, made of copper, brass, wood and Iraqi glass of Arabo-Moorish inspiration, reminiscent of the installation of two circular stained-glass windows, “Deux astres, au déséquilibre, se brûlent” ( Two stars, off balance, burn each other), presented in 2020 at the Palais de Tokyo as part of the exhibition curated by Abdellah Karroum, “Notre monde brûle” (Our world is burning), the lyrics of legendary songs slip in […]. A free verse is written using various red or green enamels emblematic of the regions of the High Atlas that she often surveys.  Sara Ouahaddou, Izoul Zman Ighzif – Time is Still Long, Beyond Our Perception, 2024, Cedar wood, Iraqi glass, Moorish glass, transparent glass, brass and copper, Diam. 170 cm, Depth 7 cm, With the participation of artisans Mohamed Maaroufi and his team. No Newer Articles

Mati Diop’s documentary ‘Dahomey’ on looted African art wins top prize at Berlin film festival

"Dahomey", a documentary by Franco-Senegalese director Mati Diop probing the thorny issues surrounding Europe's return of looted antiquities to Africa, won the Berlin film festival's top prize Saturday. Issued on: 25/02/2024 - 11:05 3 min Advertising Read more Kenyan-Mexican Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, the first black jury president at the 74th annual event, announced the seven-member panel's choice among 20 contenders for the Golden Bear award at a gala ceremony.Diop said the prize "not only honours me but the entire visible and invisible community that the film represents."To rebuild we must first restitute, and what does restitution mean? To restitute is to do justice," she added.South Korean arthouse favourite Hong Sang-soo captured the runner-up Grand Jury Prize for "A Traveller's Needs", his third collaboration with French screen legend Isabelle Huppert.Hong, a frequent guest at the 11-day festival, thanked the jury, joking "I don't know what you saw in this film".French auteur Bruno Dumont accepted the third-place Jury Prize for "The Empire", an intergalactic battle of good and evil set in a French fishing village.Dominican filmmaker Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias won best director for "Pepe", his enigmatic docudrama conjuring the ghost of a hippopotamus owned by the late Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar. 11:49 arts24 © FRANCE 24 'Collusion'Marvel movie star Sebastian Stan picked up the best performance Silver Bear for his appearance in US satire "A Different Man".Stan plays an actor with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease causing disfiguring tumours, who is cured with a groundbreaking medical treatment.The Romanian-American heartthrob called it "a story that's not only about acceptance, identity and self truth but about disfigurement and disability -- a subject matter that's been long overlooked by our own bias".Britain's Emily Watson clinched the best supporting performance Silver Bear for her turn as a cruel mother superior in "Small Things Like These".The film starring Cillian Murphy is about one of modern Ireland's biggest scandals: the Magdalene laundries network of Roman Catholic penitentiary workhouses for "fallen women".She paid tribute to the "thousands and thousands of young women whose lives were devastated by the collusion between the Catholic church and the state in Ireland".German writer-director Matthias Glasner took the Silver Bear for best screenplay for his semi-autobiographical tragicomedy "Dying", a three-hour tour de force by some of the country's top actors depicting a dysfunctional family.The Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution was awarded to cinematographer Martin Gschlacht for the chilling Austrian historical horror movie "The Devil's Bath", about depressed women in the 18th century who murdered in order to be executed.A separate Berlinale Documentary Award went to a Palestinian-Israeli activist collective for "No Other Land" about Palestinians displaced by Israeli troops and settlers in the West Bank.Many of the award winners including Diop criticised the war in Gaza from the stage and called for an immediate ceasefire.'Some kind of miracle'Diop's taut, dreamlike film traces the 2021 journey home of 26 precious artifacts of the Dahomey kingdom to Benin from a Paris museum.In the movie, Diop has one of the statues recount in a haunting Fon-language voice-over his land being pillaged by the French, the circumstances of his own exile and his ultimate repatriation in Cotonou museum.Upon the collection's arrival, local students debate in fascinating, unscripted scenes the historic importance of the restitution gesture and whether it is cause for rejoice or outrage.The New York Times called the documentary "some kind of miracle, packing an extraordinary amount of information, inquiry and wild, persuasive imagination into a slim, 68-minute runtime".Variety said "Dahomey" was a "striking, stirring example of the poetry that can result when the dead and the dispossessed speak to and through the living".Diop's supernatural Netflix drama "Atlantics" made her the first black woman to compete in Cannes in 2019, when she picked up the runner-up Grand Prix award.While acknowledging restitution's importance, Diop told AFP during the festival she had no intention of "celebrating" the gesture by French President Emmanuel Macron/Only 26 artefacts were returned "against the more than 7,000 works still held captive" in Paris, she noted.(AFP)

Artistic Unity: Art in the UAE: Interview with Art Dubai’s Hala Khayat

Rima Nasser: Hala, your extensive expertise in Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary art was integral to your role at your previous job at Christie’s Dubai. Can you share your experiences and insights into how the art scene in the UAE has evolved and developed? Hala Khayat: I think the best way for me to answer this question is by focusing on the excitement surrounding the UAE art scene in the present moment. There are three key words that come to my mind: ‘stability’, ‘continuity’ and ‘growth’, which are in line with the government’s commitment and support for the creative industries here. The truth is the UAE art scene has evolved considerably since the early 2000s. With the UAE being located geographically at the crossroads between the East and West, combined with the region’s openness to doing business, it has solidified its position on the global cultural map. A brilliant example of this is the success of ArtDubai, which will hold its 17th edition in 2024. The fair’s modus operandi is to showcase art and artists which have been historically underrepresented on the global art stage, through its rich programme consisting of four main sections: Bawwaba, Art Dubai Digital, Art Dubai Modern and the main contemporary section. Art Dubai has been contributing to the internationalisation of many artists from the global south, who were first discovered and presented to international audiences in the UAE. Another example is the ever-growing local gallery scene and the maturing of the collector and institutional scenes, and the number of diverse art businesses that sustain active, year-long programmes. Right now, there is a Calligraphy Biennale in Dubai and the city has big plans for a series of public art commissions that will be unveiled in the coming months. RN: As someone who has played a key role in the expansion and globalisation of the Middle East’s art market, could you highlight some milestones or key moments that stand out in your journey of contributing to the growth of the art scene in the UAE? Art Dubai 2023. Courtesy of Art Dubai. HK: In my time working in the Middle Eastern art market I have experienced many personal milestones, but there are a few which stand out – for example, I was the head of sales for the first ever international auction to offer works by UAE artists. It was also important to shed light on the region’s younger generation of artists, many of whom had no gallery representation at that stage. I recall speaking to prominent collectors and asking them to lend works just for the sake of creating awareness of the scene. Back in 2011, I introduced, for the first time, a small section at the auction which included works by Lamya Gargash, Saeed Khalifa, Lateefa Bint Maktoom, Noor Al Suwaidi and Meera Huraiz. Happily, by that stage, there was a collective desire to promote them by both the collectors and the international auction houses. Another important milestone was launching Noor Dubai, an initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, which comprised a series of charitable auctions entitled Art 4 Sight, where the proceeds went to support the prevention of blindness globally. I curated the auctions for Noor Dubai, with a focus on UAE artists, and it was great to introduce them to the wider arts community in the UAE. I must also mention being at the opening of the first UAE pavilion at the Venice Biennale back in 2011 – it was a defining moment, as it was the first time any country from the Gulf had ever participated. In recent times, being part of the amazing team at Art Dubai, the only fair to take place in 2021 midway through the Covid-19 pandemic, proved how the UAE helped sustain the cultural economy at the time and develop public trust in the region as a safe destination to experience and enjoy cultural events. Last but by no means least, witnessing the introduction of Art Dubai’s pioneering digital section in 2022 was a real highlight. It was like stepping into the future. RN: Your work at Christie’s involved working closely with collectors on an international scale and overseeing the production of catalogues. Can you share any memorable experiences or collaborations with collectors that have made a significant impact on the local art community in Dubai and the UAE? HK: What a timely question! I’m currently an advisor to the Dubai Collection, Dubai’s first institutional art collection, and this requires me to liaise with regional collectors to select works that we feel are worthy of belonging to this institutional collection and digital museum. I love rediscovering pieces I first came across many years ago, some of which have changed hands since. RN: You’ve been an advocate for Syria’s art community and founded SAFIR in 2014. Could you tell us more about your work with this NGO and how it has supported young Syrian artists in the UAE and the broader region? HK: SAFIR is a project close to my heart, and I’m proud to have co-founded it. It is important to support artists from Syria but in recent times we have expanded this to the Levant. The initiative is focused on two main goals: capacity building and connectivity. Last summer, we were able to connect two artists living and working in the UAE with a summer residency programme in Germany. Another artist is spending time at a residency in Brazil and, just a few days ago, we supported an artist’s participation in an upcoming show in Korea. Furthermore, we hosted a workshop to empower artists in public speaking, which took place in Dubai. Dubai Culture has helped to provide talent visas to many Syrian artists over the last two years, which has enabled many to settle in this great country and establish their studios. Syrian artists feel welcome and appreciated in the UAE, which is something that all artists need. RN: You’ve also been involved in documenting the collections of key Syrian collectors. What has this documentation process revealed about the diversity and richness of art collections in the UAE and their contribution to the art scene? HK: Yes, this includes the notable Khair Collection of the late Fateh Moudarres. I am constantly on a quest to advise collectors of all nationalities and support with documenting collections wherever I can. As an example, there are many patrons of the arts who are Syrian collectors as part of the Dubai Collection. RN: Your contributions to art education in the region are notable and include the development of curriculum on Modern and Contemporary Arab art. How has this educational initiative impacted the understanding and appreciation of Arab art in the UAE? HK: Scholarship around Modern and Contemporary Arab art is very important to me and, fortunately, there are a number of institutions that are finally responding. In my current role at Art Dubai, I have been able to put together a talks series presenting Modern Arab art histories to the public. We also put together a day of educational activities on the same subject as part of our Art Salon programming, which supports the next generation of collectors through a series of events. We invited key artists to talk about their own experiences – it was well received and, hopefully, we will introduce more of these lectures soon. RN: Since your arrival in Dubai in 2002, there have been other individuals who arrived around the same time and contributed to the UAE’s art scene. Are there any stories or collaborations you can share about your experiences with fellow art enthusiasts or professionals who arrived in the UAE during that period? General view, Art Dubai 2023, Madinat Jumeirah. Photo by Spark Media for Art Dubai. Courtesy of Art Dubai. HK: There are many of us! We sometimes get tagged as the ‘O.G.s’! We all know each other and it’s great to see that so many of us have remained loyal and committed to the scene. Many of us meet on different panels, at exhibitions or on trips, and we ask each other to make connections and introductions – it’s all a form of collaboration. For a long time, I think the international community has looked at the UAE as a place of transit, but this is definitely changing. People are settling, investing in properties and sending their children to schools and universities here. I think what unites most of us is that we have now been involved in the cultural scene for almost two decades. Despite the fact that we all come from different backgrounds, the very fabric of the UAE, which welcomes everyone, is what leads you to develop such a personal connection with the region. I believe that the UAE is a land of opportunities that may not be available to people in their home countries. That creates a very positive energy. I particularly remember the first day of the very first edition of Art Dubai in 2007, where I met people who are still involved in the UAE art scene today. These people include Rami Farook, Asmaa Al Shabibi, Paula Al Askari, Hanane Al Sayyed, Ahmed Eldabaa, Nada Boulos and Judith Greer, to name just a few. RN: As the regional director for Art Dubai, how do you envision leveraging your extensive experience and networks in the UAE and the Middle East to further enhance the engagement of local and regional collectors with the art world? HK: I think this would be my work with the amazing team behind Art Salon, which is a growing community of curious people with a keen interest in the arts. The Art Salon programme introduces bespoke experiences, amazing speakers and artists to new audiences through events and international cultural trips. We are tapping into a magic formula which keeps our community engaged all year long, and it’s been nothing but an enriching experience so far. RN: Art Dubai aims to foster regional relationships and sustainable long-term engagement. What strategies or initiatives do you plan to implement to achieve these goals and further enrich the art ecosystem in the region? HK: Innovation has always been key to Art Dubai’s success – as an independent art fair that is well into its second decade, we have licence to try things that the bigger international fairs may not. A good example of this is Art Dubai Digital, which we launched two years ago as the first dedicated digital section of any international art fair, providing an annual snapshot of the digital art landscape. The response has been fantastic, opening up many new audiences and conversations. We also have a strong connection to the regions and art scenes we seek to spotlight, in particular the Global South. For many of these geographies, where the institutional infrastructure is often underdeveloped, we are also the primary marketplace and meeting point. The 2023 Art Dubai Commissions presented 11 new works by a range of artists from South Asia – these were developed in partnership with several participating galleries and leading South Asian institutions, including the Kochi Biennale and the Dubai-based Ishara Foundation. We also have the most extensive talks and thought leadership programme of any international art fair – last year we hosted more than 50 sessions, all fully booked, clearly demonstrating the appetite for cultural experience and knowledge that there is here. We are also lucky to count on the support of a range of long-term partners, including A.R.M. Holding, with whom we have developed an extensive children’s programme, bringing art and cultural programming to more than 9,000 children each year across all seven Emirates. RN: Can you provide examples of artists or art projects that you believe symbolise the growth and vibrancy of the UAE’s art scene, and how they reflect the collaborative efforts of individuals like yourself who have contributed to its development? HK: The Dubai Collection is a perfect example, and I believe tapping into this large inventory of amazing art from Dubai and the UAE has come as a surprise to many in the wider art community. Many collectors buy because they love art and they believe in its value as a good investment. Historically, these works have seldom been shared with the public. The Dubai Collection is offering regional collectors the chance to meet one another and learn about collecting while promoting the idea that art is to be seen and shared. Warehouses around the world are full of forgotten artefacts, which is a huge pity. By exposing these works digitally, and making them available for loan, the Dubai Collection highlights the importance of art patronage and of the UAE as a hub for art and culture. Today, the UAE is home to some incredible artistic gems from the region and abroad. About Hala Khayat Appointed as Art Dubai’s Regional Director in 2020, Hala Khayat is a renowned expert in Arab and Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary Art, who brings profound expertise to enhance local and regional collector engagement. With a notable career at Christie’s Dubai since 2007, specialising in Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, Khayat has expanded the Middle East’s Art market globally. Beyond her role as a Regional Director, she founded Safir in 2014, an NGO supporting young Syrian artists, showcasing her commitment to fostering artistic growth and advocating for Syria’s art community. Caption featured image: Hala Khayat, Regional Director, Art Dubai, Image Courtesy Aasiya Jagadeesh.

Artistic Unity: Art in the UAE: Interview with Art Dubai’s Pablo Del Val

This article appeared in The Artistic Unity Issue #67 that was dedicated to the art scene in the UAE in which we unravel the threads of unity by exploring the perspectives of various stakeholders within the UAE’s art community. Through insightful interviews with galleries, art institutions, and auction houses, a vivid mosaic emerged, depicting how unity has been woven into the fabric of the art scene. Rima Nasser: Pablo, as the Artistic Director at Art Dubai since 2015, could you share some key initiatives or strategies you’ve implemented to contribute to the growth and international prominence of the fair? Avafstudio, Parada Vertical, 2023, Acrylic on duplex corrugated kraft paper, 203 x 172 x 4 cm. © avafstudio. Pablo Del Val: I have always thought that providing the visitor with a structured fair helps them navigate it in a more comprehensive way. Creating sections where you give visitors a certain focus allows them not to get lost in the immense gallery halls. For example, at Art Dubai 2019 we introduced Bawwaba, meaning ‘gateway’ in Arabic, which is a section devoted to solo presentations of artists from the Global South. Each year, we invite a curator from one of the regions that are part of the Global South to make the selection and each time, the curator’s sensibility, knowledge and geographical origin shapes the selection in beautiful ways. In 2024, Emiliano Valdes, who is the Chief Curator at the Medellín Museum of Modern Art (MAMM) in Medellín, Colombia since 2015, is curating the section. Titled Sanación, it will be an exciting dialogue between Latin America and South Asia, exploring the concept of healing and fostering hope in navigating these challenging times. Dia al- Azzawi, Figures in Red, 1968. Copyright of the artist. Courtesy of Meem Gallery. This year, we also decided to turn Art Dubai Modern into a more thematically curated section. Brought together under the scholarly eye of Dr. Christianna Bonin, the focus for this year is a clear example of how we can highlight lesser-known connections and revisit historical readings of modernism. Thirdly, was the addition of a first-of-its-kind section devoted to digital art – Art Dubai Digital. It’s now in its third year and is being curated by Auronda Scalera and Alfredo Cramerotti, who promise to bring curation and conversation around art and advanced technologies. In some ways, this evolution is a culmination of the work we’ve been doing over the past eight years— promoting, raising and bringing on board a very specific profile of galleries. The ultimate goal has always been to differentiate ourselves from other fairs and to bring together artists and energies not commonly seen in the main Western forums. In other fairs, art from these places makes up 5%, for Art Dubai, it’s over 60%. This year, we are proud to say that we’re come closest to this goal. We are the window to the Global South. Now, how do we define the Global South? Where is it? This is an exciting question that the presence of proposals from artists in cities spanning Cairo, Tehran, Beirut, New Delhi, and cultural minorities and diasporic communities in centres like New York, Paris, Los Angeles, and London will help to answer.” RN: In your role at Art Dubai, how have you worked to expand gallery exhibitions and collector programmes? What impact has this had on the fair’s global recognition within the art community? Debashish Paul, Me with My Pet, 2022-23, 9 Archival print on 350 gsm Hahnemuhle paper, 20 x 30.5 cm, Varanasi Unsigned Edition 1 of 10 + 1 AP. Courtesy of the artist and Emami Art. PV: Art fairs have a much larger social responsibility; we are more than just marketplaces. What is exhibited, seen and acquired shapes different communities of collectors, institutions and artists. The quality of the collections in a city reflects the nature of the art fair held there. Our VIP team has a distinct approach to caring for our galleries and collectors. Our manageable size enables us to cultivate close relationships, facilitating personal introductions and providing everyone with a unique and special experience. We go beyond renting floor space, we ensure that galleries connect with the right people and vice versa. Each year, we extend invitations to collectors, curators, and museum directors from around the world. It’s incredibly satisfying for us when we witness young artists showcased at Art Dubai being discovered and subsequently featured in major biennales, solo exhibitions and museum shows. We take pride in being a platform for discoveries and success stories. RN: Coming from ZONA MACO, known as a significant meeting point in Latin America, how have you applied your experience to enhance Art Dubai’s outreach across various global markets? PV: Mexico and Latin America have more in common with the Middle East than people might think, from social and cultural structures, sensibilities, as well as migrations and displacements. My most significant lesson has been that a fair’s identity must be unique. Judging its quality based on the number of well-known Western galleries doesn’t necessarily reflect its excellence. It’s possible to build a high-quality fair without relying on the usual suspects. Why visit Mexico City or Dubai to see the same exhibitors as in London, Paris, Basel, or Los Angeles? Plus, our commitment extends beyond hosting a once-a-year event. Art Dubai has an extensive and dedicated educational non-profit programme, from the Global Art Forum and Campus Art Dubai, to the ever- expanding Children’s Programme we have developed in partnership with A.R.M. Holding to working with the government on the Dubai Collection and Public Art Strategy, all aimed at providing a continuous and enriching experience. RN: During your tenure at ‘La Conservera’ Centre of Contemporary Art in Murcia, Spain, from 2009 to 2012, how did your curation of solo exhibitions shape the Centre’s identity and standing in the contemporary art scene? Farhad Khalilov, Evening in the Buzovny, 1979-2000, Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 140 cm. Courtesy of Gazelli Art House. PV: La Conservera was a unique experience and place— an old canned food factory converted into a thematic dinosaur park and later transformed into an exhibition production Centre. Every three months, a new cycle of four exhibitions was curated to illustrate a specific subject. Renowned artists such as Lily van Der Stocker, Elena del Rivero, Xavier Veilhan, Valentin Carron, Eva Rothschild and Diana Al Hadid held impressive exhibitions there. Reflecting on your directorship at Expoarte Guadalajara from 1994 to 1998, how did this early experience influence your later roles, particularly at ZONA MACO and Art Dubai?This was the beginning of everything—not only the internationalisation of the Mexican art scene but also the first instance where various initiatives converged simultaneously. Expoarte Guadalajara hosted FITAC (International Forum on Contemporary Art Theory), similar to the Global Art Forum we host at Art Dubai, but in the 90s. I’ll never forget the passionate discussions among participants, including the ‘fight’ between Achile Bonito Oliva and Catherine David, with microphones flying! We also pioneered the first proper collectors’ programme, inviting enthusiasts from all over the world. The generosity of local collectors remains unforgettable, with sophisticated dinners and parties in the most amazing locations. In the short life of Expoarte Guadalajara, we set the stage for many fairs to come. About Pablo Del Val Pablo Del Val the Artistic Director at Art Dubai brings decades of experience as a cultural manager, curator and director of contemporary art galleries worldwide. Since joining Art Dubai in 2015, he oversees the curatorial vision of the fair and the international collectors programme, contributing significantly to Dubai’s prominence in the global contemporary art scene.  Del Val’s extensive career includes founding, directing, and curating at La Conservera, managing international Art fairs such as Expoarte Guadalajara, and serving as the Artistic Director at Zona Maco for five years. Caption featured image: Pablo del Val, Artistic Director, Art Dubai, Image Courtesy Augustine Paredes.

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