With news of Art Dubai postponed and reformatted due to the coronavirus crisis and the fate of how Sharjah Art Foundation will hold its March Meeting still uncertain, the art season is off to a wobbly start.
In Abu Dhabi, Warehouse 421 has suspended its public programmes and NYU Abu Dhabi has announced a temporary shutdown of its public art spaces, including its art centre, art gallery and the auxiliary project space.
The closures at the university are in line with the Ministry of Education’s instructions for a four-week closure of schools and universities as a precautionary measure against Covid-19. NYU Abu Dhabi’s art spaces are scheduled to reopen after Saturday, April 4.
However, there are still shows and exhibitions to see, including Michael Rakowitz’s first solo show in the region at Jameel Arts Centre; an exhibition on Mohamed Melehi at the Casablanca Art School at Concrete in Alserkal Avenue; and Sharjah Art Foundation’s major exhibition curated by Omar Kholeif titled Art in the Age of Anxiety, which looks at the impact of digital technology on society.
Galleries Night in DIFC, scheduled for March 23 and 24 has been cancelled, according to the staff at Cuadro Fine Art Gallery and Opera Gallery, which are located in the financial district. The galleries will still open their shows to the public and follow their regular timings.
Galleries Day in Alserkal Avenue will also go ahead on Monday, March 23.
Here’s a look at the art events still happening in the UAE:
Visual elements from Byzantine and medieval tapestries are rendered with a modern eye in Timur D’Vatz’s figurative works. The artist, who studied at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, borrows inspiration from ancient legends and myths to paint the subjects in his canvas. There are also elements linked to textile art, specifically Chinese silk printing and the patterns from the Nabis school, a movement that influenced the transition from Impressionism to Abstract art.
D’Vatz’s interest in melding East and West comes from his upbringing. Raised in Tashkent, he was always aware of the historical significance and legends of the Silk Road.
Sikka Art Festival
Now in its 10th year, Sikka Art Festival will present the works of more than 60 artists responding to the theme Dreamers. Curator Giuseppe Moscatello, the co-founder of Sharjah’s Maraya Art Centre, has put together a programme that includes exhibitions, film screenings, workshops and performances.
Held in Dubai’s Al Fahidi Historical District, Sikka has become one of the city’s biggest platforms for young, emerging artists. The artists shown have been selected from an annual open call that invites cultural practitioners living in the Gulf to submit their project proposals in the realms of film, music, performing and visual arts.
The 14th Art Dubai, which takes place from Wednesday to Saturday, March 25 to 28, has been reformatted to only include local exhibitions, such as Campus Art Dubai, and talks for the Global Art Forum. International galleries will no longer be flying in to showcase works. Highlighting Africa, the Residents programme will go ahead with commissioned works by four invited African artists who arrived in Dubai in February.
“We have made the decision to stage a programme tailored to the local cultural community instead, including existing fair programme contributors and thought-leaders,” organisers said, adding that “the goals and ambitions for this re-configured programme maintain our objective to deliver commercial, institutional and critical engagement with Dubai’s art ecosystem, a commitment of support to our local community that we felt an imperative to uphold.”
Art Dubai says further details of the new “Dubai-focused” programme will be announced soon.
Every year, Sharjah Art Foundation organises its March Meeting, bringing together leading artists, curators and art practitioners from around the world to discuss a selected theme. This year, the event’s topic, Unravelling the Present, look inwards, examining the evolution of the Sharjah Biennial and past March Meetings in the lead up to the biennial’s 30th anniversary in 2021.
In these meetings, participants will investigate the role of the Sharjah Biennial as a catalyst for dialogue about exhibition making and cultural exchange. Speakers include curators Tarek Abou El Fetouh, Reem Fadda and Yuko Hasegawa, Sharjah Art Foundation president and director Hoor Al Qasimi, founding director of NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore Ute Meta Bauer, and academics Iftikhar Dadi, Nada Shabout and Thembinkosi Goniwe.
Exhibitions – Michael Rakowitz
In one of the biggest highlights of the season, Jameel Arts Centre will present a major survey exhibition of Michael Rakowitz. The renowned Iraqi-American artist is known for his large-scale installations that address the complex histories and politics of the Middle East.
The exhibition will mark Rakowitz’s first solo show in Asia and the Middle East, and an artist talk will place on Saturday, March 14, during which Rakowitz will discuss cultural influences on his work with Shumon Basar.
New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School
From 1964 to 1974, Mohamed Melehi and a group of artists spearheaded a radical movement that influenced art education in Morocco, encouraging students to look beyond western art history and focus on local art production.
New Waves tells the story of the Casablanca Art School, the group’s moniker, and traces Melehi’s career through paintings and archival photography. It will reveal the artist’s crucial role in developing postcolonial Moroccan art and Arab Modernist art.
Curated by Morad Montazami and Madeleine de Colnet, the show will present previously unseen works from Melehi, including a collection of his documentary photography from 30 years of travel. Works by Farid Belkahia, Mohamed Chaba and Hossein Miloudi will also be on display.
Art in the Age of Anxiety
Featuring more than 30 artists, this exhibition considers how the internet and the rise of digital technology have affected our lives. Confronting critical issues such as digital surveillance, privacy, data mining, artificial intelligence and social media, the exhibition will feature more than 60 works across various mediums including sculpture, print, video, virtual reality and algorithmic programmes.
Participating artists include those who have been tackling these issues in their practice for years – Trevor Paglen, Cao Fei, Guan Xiao, Cory Arcangel, Jeremy Bailey, Jon Rafman and Lawrence Abu Hamdan, to name a few.
Curated by Omar Kholeif, the exhibition will be designed like a maze, which visitors will have to learn how to navigate to see the works. Kholeif has been researching the subject for more than a decade, and, in a statement, has described Art in the Age of Anxiety as “an exhibition that grew out of my own anxiety about the future”.
Maryam Hoseini: Solo Exhibition
In Maryam Hoseini’s paintings, fragmented bodies appear scattered in strange landscapes, evoking violence and tension in their semi-abstracted forms. The artist, who was born in Tehran, examines the relationship between the human body to physical space as she distorts perspective and scale in these flat compositions.
Now based in New York, Hoseini embeds personal experiences in her work while allowing viewers to project several interpretations on to her canvases. Though she considers her subjects as female nudes, their deconstructed anatomical shapes often obscure that fact and instead present a critique of the censorship of the female figure in various cultural contexts.
Plastic – Updated
Though Tashkeel has suspended its Spring Camp and After school Arts Club for children on Thursday, March 5, its exhibitions, adult workshops and talks will continue as normal.
Their latest group show is dedicated to a man-made material that has transformed our lives in many ways: plastic. Can we consider sustainability in the face of mass production and consumption? What awaits future generations?
Featuring more than 30 artists from the UAE, the show explores the social, economic and cultural dimensions of the issue, while proposing alternative solutions. A series of workshops and seminars on the topic will accompany the exhibition.
Homebound: A Journey in Photography
This is the first of a two-part exhibition curated by Salah M Hassan and Aida Muluneh, with associate curator Sataan Al Hassan. It chronicles Muluneh’s progress as an artist and photojournalist, showcasing images that explore issues of identity and race.
Muluneh was born in Ethiopia in 1974 and spent her childhood between Yemen and England. She has also studied and lived in Cyprus, the US and Canada. In her art, she often paints her subjects in various colours and creates symbolic visuals that blend the surreal with the fantastical.
The Cup and The Saucer – Updated
Warehouse 421 has suspended its opening receptions, public programmes and events for the month of March. The Exhibition The Cup and The Saucer by Hashel Al Lamki will still open to the public on Saturday, March 7, but without a reception.
“The decision comes after careful consideration of our responsibility to our community and is in line with the local precautionary measures being taken to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus,” the organisation said in a statement on their website.
Al Lamki’s first solo exhibition explores the concept of unity, separation and individualism. What happens when you remove the individual from its collective unit?
Using the imagery of a cup being lifted from the saucer as a metaphor for separation, the artist considers the importance of individualism as a condition for change.
Curated by Munira Al Sayegh, who has also put together this year’s Gulf Now at Art Dubai, the exhibition will showcase works made from a variety of mediums, including an installation comprised of 52 paintings.
There will also be sculptures, video and a sound piece. Artist and curator have collaborated closely on the show, which has been two years in the making.