Dubai’s Art Season Opens With A Bang: My Social Diary From Alserkal Avenue’s Art Night

9 September, Dubai. By some miracle, my two friends managed to make it through the industrial district of Al Quoz and find Alserkal Avenue for the first time in the dark. I stood on the street waiting for them in an 80’s dress I had picked up years ago in a thrift store in Brooklyn. When I left the house, my adorably preppy husband had shaken his head at the dress’ outrageous epaulet sleeves and the tiny Victorian handbag I had paired it with. We are completely different social creatures!

Art Night Openings by Alserkal Avenue

Art Night Openings by Alserkal Avenue

A snap of The Palestinauts from 'Science Faction' by Larissa Sansour. Courtesy of Lawrie Shabibi.

A snap of The Palestinauts from ‘Science Faction’ by Larissa Sansour. Courtesy of Lawrie Shabibi.

My friends followed me through the galleries in wonder, at this world within a world that is still becoming known to the general public. There was quite the crowd of culturati, and the hipster-watching was nearly as interesting as the art. I wish people were more talkative with strangers though as they tend instead to stand in tight circles of friends. We began at Lawrie Shabibi and marveled at the Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour’s ability to take the tired topic of identity and turn it on its head with an infusion of Science Fiction.

The Morgan Library USA, Christian Voigt, 2012. Courtesy of Salsali Private Museum

The Morgan Library USA, Christian Voigt, 2012. Courtesy of Salsali Private Museum

Next, the three of us fell under the spell of Christian Voigt’s solo show at Salsali Private Museum. I need to go back next week to learn more about the technique he used to transform his photographs into glossy, magical scenes from a fantasy world. We three bookworms loitered in front of his take on The Morgan Library, debating whether it was a film still, a photograph, or a painting, and plotting how we might manage to crawl into the scene and live curled up with books forever more. I ran into art consultant Dianne Brown who was looking thoughtful with her iPad in hand, undoubtedly taking notes for some intriguing private collector. 

Mother Daughter Doll, Boushra Almutawakel, 2010. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery

Mother Daughter Doll, Boushra Almutawakel, 2010. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery

In the next gallery we visited (which shall remain nameless), my Emirati friend was photographed without her permission (a social no-no), which led me to try to block her like a bodyguard for the rest of the evening, much to our mutual amusement. I bumped into all sorts of interesting people at Ayyam Gallery, which was featuring a preview of lots for its Young Collectors Auction to be held on the 16th of September.  Street Artist Ruben Sanchez (a resident at Tashkeel) is back from summer in Spain and I can’t wait to see what piece of public art he produces next. I also bumped into Farah Al-Qasimi who now has her own studio up and running. Weeding through a few too many pieces of art featuring skulls and clowns, I was thrilled to see work of note available by Boushra Almutawakel, Tammam Azzam, Ahmed Mater, and Abdulnasser Gharem.

I had a lot of names to take down at The Ayyam Gallery. Thank goodness by good friend N gave me this very appropriate notebook from Archie Grand.

I had a lot of names to take down at The Ayyam Gallery. Thank goodness my good friend N gave me this very appropriate notebook from Archie Grand.

We took a quick spin though The cArtel, a warehouse boutique presenting emerging designers, which was filled with gorgeous, photogenic young things modeling avante garde delights. I made a mental note to return for a quiet shopping trip the following week.  Our feet, which were cruelly bound in stilettos, began to revolt against all this walking and we ended our night at Green Art Gallery speaking with Korean artist Jung Lee about neon, poetry and love (my friends have been texting me all week, dreaming of installing one of Jung Lee’s pieces in their homes). Our night ended with decadent steaks at Center Cut in DIFC. There is nothing like a ladies night out ending with three famished women in dresses hungrily polishing off steaks. No carrot sticks and detox diets here!