Dubai Lowdown: Exhibitions to See in 2021
Munem Wasif, Kheyal (2015–2018). Single channel video; 16:9, black-and-white, sound. 23 min 34 sec. Dimensions variable. © Munem Wasif. Courtesy the artist and Project 88, produced with support from Bengal Foundation.
With Art Dubai returning between 29 March and 3 April 2021 at the Dubai International Financial Centre, galleries and institutions in the city and neighbouring Sharjah are presenting the best of art from the Gulf and beyond. Find out more with this lowdown of shows to see.
Growing Like A Tree
Ishara Art Foundation, A3, Street 17, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
20 January–20 May 2021
Curated by New Delhi-based photographer Sohrab Hura, Growing Like A Tree is a 'visual and sonic excavation of place, memory and culture'. Spanning video, photography, and books, the exhibition presents 14 artists from across Nepal, Bangladesh, Singapore, Cambodia, Germany, India, Myanmar, and Pakistan, all of whom have collaborated with Hura in the past, including Munem Wasif, Katrin Koenning, Yu Yu Myint Than, and Sean Lee.
Warehouse 22 & Warehouse 40, Alserkal Avenue, Street 17, Al Quoz
22–27 March 2021
As part of Alserkal Art Week (22–27 March 2021), an exciting arts programme is taking place at Dubai's arts precinct Alserkal Avenue alongside gallery exhibitions. In Warehouse 40, Hazem Harb will construct a temporary studio, inviting visitors into his decades-long investigation of his homeland, Palestine, to provide a sense of his 'ever-evolving repertoire of artistic techniques to negotiate a space which has been carved up and re-drawn many times.'
Seher Shah: When Words Disappear into Trees
Green Art Gallery, Unit 28, Street 8, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
22 March–29 May 2021
In her latest works on paper, Seher Shah perceives New Delhi through its negative spaces, 'listening' to the city 'through the fragments it reveals.' Through social and political turbulence, Shah questions: 'What is a measure of violence between absence and deletion through architecture, language and history?' Like dust that has settled after a storm or ruinous event, the graphite dust in Shah's drawings offers planes for new forms to emerge.
Rayyane Tabet: Exquisite Corpse
Sharjah Art Foundation, Corniche St, Al Mareija, Sharjah
12 March–15 June 2021
Further to the ongoing exhibitions of sound installations by Tarek Atoui (Cycles in 11, 19 September 2020–10 April 2021) and seminal photographic and film works by Zarina Bhimji (Black Pocket, 2 October 2020–10 April 2021), Sharjah Art Foundation opens a group exhibition of major works from the Foundation's collection, along with Rayyane Tabet's first in-depth presentation in the Middle East. The stellar line-up accompanies this year's March Meeting—a ten-day forum of talks, performances, and screenings, happening online and in-person between 12 and 21 March 2021.
Ishmael Randall Weeks: Boundary Space
Lawrie Shabibi, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
Lima-based sculptor Ishmael Randall Weeks' wall-based, floor, and suspended sculptures are being presented in the Middle East for the first time at Lawrie Shabibi. Spanning references from anthropology, politics, and archaeology, with motifs from Mesoamerica and the Arab world, Weeks' structures interact with the human body, drawing from urbanist vocabulary through materials such as mud, glass, mineral substrates, and rattan screens.
Razed in Isolation
Carbon 12, Unit 37, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
22 March–10 May 2021
Curated by Marie-Charlotte Carrier, Razed in Isolation is an exhibition of Monika Grabuschnigg's latest ceramic works. Inspired by the 1815 volcanic eruption of Indonesia's Mount Tambora—the most powerful eruption recorded in human history—the exhibition speculates humanity's continuation after an event of such scale, offering different narrative possibilities through Grabuschnigg's descriptive ceramic surfaces.
Simrin Mehra Agarwal: Hortus Arcanus
1x1 Art Gallery, Unit 10, Street 8, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
22 March–30 April 2021
Simrin Mehra Agarwal is fascinated by processes of growth and regeneration. Hortus Arcanus expands on her long-term interest in nature's ability to overtake the manmade, which dates back to her childhood in the Jhargram district of West Bengal, where dense forest comes in contact with architectures including a Second World War air base. At 1x1 Art Gallery, the artist presents a series of large-scale wall works and immersive environments, where hyper-detailed renditions of plant life form complex surfaces.
Thaier Helal: Abyss
Ayyam Gallery, B11, Street 8, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
22 March–10 May 2021
Thaier Helal's most recent body of work at Ayyam Gallery is an interplay between light and dark, and figuration and abstraction. Interspersed between flat strokes of black paint are bursts of colour, with light generated by untouched canvas shining through. Helal's compositional experiments have in the past incorporated materials such as sand, glue, miniature toys, and plastic beads to create expressionist surfaces that have situated him as a central figure of abstraction in the Gulf.
Do You Remember What You Are Burning?
Jameel Arts Centre, Jaddaf Waterfront
16 December 2020–24 July 2021
Hiwa K's debut solo exhibition in the Middle East traces more than ten years of his practice, which spans video, performance, and installation. Presenting the artist's unique and highly personal approach to exploring themes of displacement and belonging, the exhibition includes major works such as One Room Apartment—a concrete stairwell supporting a twin bed that reflects on individualism in capitalist society, originally commissioned for documenta 14 in 2017.
Nabil Anani: In Pursuit of Utopia
Zawyeh Gallery, Unit 27, Street 8, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
20 January–29 April 2021
In Nabal Anani's brightly hued paintings, the Palestinian landscape is reimagined as perfectly manicured, harking back to Anani's memories of growing up in the hills of Halhoul. Now filled with roadblocks and watchtowers, the village—located in the occupied West Bank—is far from the renditions in his canvases, whose sensory elements are heightened with spices, dried flowers, herbs, and straw incorporated into their surfaces.
Charbel-joseph H. Boutros
Grey Noise, Unit 24, Street 8, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
22 March–22 May 2021
Following his first large-scale institutional solo exhibition at S.M.A.K. in Ghent (The Sun Is My Only Ally, 19 May–11 October 2020), Grey Noise present a selection of recent works by Lebanese artist Charbel-joseph H. Boutros, whose subtle installations, sculptures, and videos interweave political and historical reflections, carving empty space into layered narratives.
Asma M'Naouar: Horizons
Elmarsa Gallery, Unit 23, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
22 March–8 May 2021
Asma M'Naouar's unique approach to abstraction incorporates old master techniques in oil painting that she developed while studying fine art at the Rome Art Academy, before transitioning to art conservation at the Palazzo Spinelli in Florence. These years in Italy, between 1993 and 2002, informed the Tunisian painter's concerns with colour, space, and light, which come together in bold, gestural images.
Sacha Jafri: The Journey of Humanity and 18 Year Retrospective Collection
Leila Heller Gallery, I-87, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
21 January–31 May 2021
Painted over a period of seven months, Sacha Jafri's The Journey of Humanity (2020) holds the Guinness World Record title for the 'Largest Art Canvas' in the world. Over 1,400 gallons of paint and more than a thousand brushes were used for the painting, which has now been broken down into smaller segments, now showing at Leila Heller Gallery, and that will be sold at four auctions in 2021, with the aim to raise money for Humanity Inspired—the 'largest worldwide, social, artistic & philanthropic initiative in history.'
Out of Place
Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Unit 17, Alserkal Avenue Street 8, Al Quoz 1
22 March–22 May 2021
Featuring works by Vikram Divecha, Mohammed Kazem, :mentalKLINIK, Haleh Redjaian, Hassan Sharif, and Raed Yassin, Out of Place considers how human behaviour is informed by our relations to the material world. The exhibition 'proposes a moment of disjunction, suggesting a state of being out of joint with place, the way one is out of sync with time.'—[O]