Before a classic goodbye-Dubai post, I just wanted to return to the artsy vocation of this blog and say something about the art scene here, which, much like everything else, is exciting, fast-pacing and sparklingly modern.
First, a word about the foundation I’m interning with, the Farjam Foundation, a private, non-profit and non-governmental organisation. It is basically a space to display the impressive art collection owned by Farhad Farjam, which includes modern and contemporary pieces (Picasso, Matisse, Miro, just to mention a few) alongside Islamic and Middle Eastern works. The aim of the Foundation is to showcase selected artworks in exhibitions open to the public. The Foundation also promotes cultural and educational activities, which is where the Art Camp I’m helping with comes into the picture.
The Farjam Foundation (ready for its Art Camp)
The Farjam Foundation is located in DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre), the heart of Dubai’s finance, banking, and business services. The foundation is in a sub-area called Gate Village, where other art galleries have their headquarters too: Opera Gallery, Ayyam Gallery, Art Sawa, Cuadro Gallery, and Christie’s are only a few of them. I’ve had a good look around during my internship, and some of the works on display are tremendously contemporary, both Middle Eastern and international – I’ve found a couple of Damien Hirst’s! In general, bright colours are a recurrent feature, together with urban snapshots and reflections on the materialistic culture of the city, but there’s also room for abstraction. Many of the galleries sell the works on display, hence an overall understandable business-like atmosphere.
Gate Village in DIFC
Art Sawa in DIFC
Scattered across the city there are of course other galleries. Dubai’s first gallery was The Majlis Gallery, opened in 1989 – prehistory in Dubai time! Thanks to expat Alison Collins, the gallery aimed at being a ‘haven for artists and art lovers alike’; majlis itself means ‘a place of sitting’. Today, as well as hosting exhibitions and workshops, it has become a sort of tourist attraction, so much so that among the pricey artworks it also sells cheaper stuff serving as souvenirs. The atmosphere is more informal than at DIFC, but the quality of the works is just as fascinating. Interesting is also Pro Art Gallery, in Jumeirah, next to the Great Mosque. My guide claimed the gallery owned a lot of early 20th century works, but the exhibition on display focused on Pop Art.
The Majlis Gallery
Pro Art Gallery
Quite different from these classy places is the art-district of Alserkal Avenue, in the Al Quoz area. Imagine an industrial area full of warehouses, in what looks like the beginning of a desert. Here Alserkal Avenue was founded in 2007, as a hub for artists hosting around 20 art galleries, which burst with contemporary sculptures, paintings and photographs. Something I wasn’t expecting to find was the prominent presence of African artists, emerging just now in the contemporary art scenario. This is the last place you’d expect to find art it, and yet it’s planning to expand in the near future with new creatives opening their doors.
La Galerie Nationale in Aserkal Avenue
As you can see, the city has a lot to offer to art lovers, and it was great to have the chance to explore so much. I’m looking forward to come back in a few years and see what’s changed. I have to come back when the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi opens anyway.