My September Art Diary: Essential UAE Openings And Exhibitions Not To Miss

After a long, dusty summer Dubai’s art scene reopens with a bang in September (cue gold confetti, jazz fingers, and the POP POP POP of bottles of date champagne being uncorked). I’ll be the one in vintage polka dots scribbling zooming thoughts into a little red notebook in the corner at gallery and museum exhibition openings. Prepare yourself for a long post. You might even need to break for a downward dog, a snooze, or a cookie halfway through. Here in no particular order is a curated selection of the openings, exhibitions, and events I’ve got marked in Sharpie in my little blue diary for the opening of Dubai’s art season:

Alserkal Avenue Galleries Night


My scuffed Al Quoz shoes (I keep them reserved for long walks down dark alleyways in pursuit of breakout art exhibitions) are dusted and ready to go for 15th September from 7pm onwards. The re-opening of Dubai’s art season will debut at Alserkal Avenue with intriguing shows at a number of participating galleries. Come first for the art (and please don’t be afraid to ask questions or say what you really think of it…we need to cultivate a culture of critique around here), and then for the people watching; the very best of the city’s street style will be in full affect. Poets, painters, babies, and fashionistas are expected.

Deets: Alserkal Avenue

We’ll Build This City on Art and Love

Courtesy of Shurooq Amin and Ayyam Gallery

Courtesy of Shurooq Amin and Ayyam Gallery

Ayyam Gallery in DIFC presents Kuwaiti artist Shurooq Amin’s latest solo show to an adoring Dubai with an opening reception to be held 14th September from 7-9pm and the exhibition running through 23 October. The controversial painter who has always placed the role of Arab women in society front and center (even when her own life was threatened for doing so), debuts a new series of work that brings back her trademark reds, pinks, and obsession with fashion while also incorporating an arson of fresh materials and influences. Expect braille, Lewis Caroll, and a nod to Arabic poetry. I’ve been Tweeting back and forth with Shurooq for months and can’t wait to meet her in person and share my support for her vivacious, brave work.

Deets: Ayyam Gallery

Silk Rose and Sneakers


An exhibition by photographers Billy & Hells and Susan Barnett opens at The Empty Quarter in Dubai’s DIFC with a reception Sunday, 14th September (7-10pm) and the show running through 23rd October. I was already hooked by the name of the show alone, which promises an ironic deep dive into pop culture. I’ve been an admirer of Billy & Hells’ work for some time typically portraits that play off of clichés. The duo’s name is a pseudonym rumored to originate from billing hotels, a cheap motel. I’m curious to see what happens when photographer Susan Barnett with her penchant for American subcultures and the good old-fashioned t-shirt is added into this mix.

Deets: The Empty Quarter

Works on Paper: Hikayat

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, Ink on canson paper, 1973. Courtesy of Green Art

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, Ink on canson paper, 1973. Courtesy of Green Art

Green Art Gallery hosts a group exhibition of more than 50 works on paper by an impressive lineup of modern Arab artists. The show opens with a reception at 7pm on Monday, 15th September held in conjunction with the Alserkal Avenue Galleries Night (see above) and runs through 26th October. Plain old drawing is sadly dying out in popularity in the art world and this brave show takes us back to our roots by introducing a new generation of art collectors to the stories of the modern masters including Houzayma Alwani, Mahmoud Hammad, Adham Ismail, Jamil Molaeb, Fateh Moudarres, Aref El Rayess, Khaldoun Shishakly, Seif Wanly and Elias Zayat. I’m personally itching to view work on paper by Fateh Moudarres (1922-1999, Syria), who was able to bring mythology and politics to life both in art and poetry. His paintings are frequently auctioned off at prices I can’t yet afford (but oh how I wish) yet I’ve never seen any of his works on paper. Anyone who appreciates contemporary Arab art should visit this show for a firmer grounding in the region’s past.

Deets: Green Art Gallery

Vantage Point Sharjah 2

Photo by Yazan Khalili courtesy of the artist and Sharjah Art Foundation

Photo by Yazan Khalili courtesy of the artist and Sharjah Art Foundation

Sharjah Art Foundation opens Vantage Point Sharjah 2, a photography exhibition featuring portraits taken by UAE residents on 30 August set to run through 3 December. Anytime Sharjah Arts Foundation collaborates with local artists the outcome is nothing short of sublime and this show (now in its second edition) with more than 180 photographs from 48 participants will reveal a whole other side to the UAE from the glitzy skyscraper shots we’re ordinarily bombarded with. One of my favorite ways to spend a hot afternoon is wandering through the alleyways and galleries of Sharjah Art Foundation, and I’ve set aside that time next weekend for a luxuriously long pilgrimage. If you haven’t already, be sure to mark your diary for Sharjah Biennial 12, themed “The past, the present, the possible” set to take place 5th March-5th June, 2015.

Deets: Sharjah Art Foundation

Fluid Forms

Liquid Woolen Handmade Rug, Faig Ahmed, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Cuadro Art

Liquid Woolen Handmade Rug, Faig Ahmed, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Cuadro Art

Artist in Residence Faig Ahmed’s solo show at Cuadro Gallery in Dubai’s DIFC opens 14 September and continues through 30 November. The Baku-based artist changes perceptions of the traditional woven carpet and causes viewers to do a double-take when encountering his liquid woolen handmade rugs, ultimately questioning the give and take between old and new, custom and innovation. What begins as a standard carpet spills onto the floor in a gorgeous puddle. Expect to see hand woven techniques revved up with contemporary design, optical illusion, sculptural elements, and digital superimpositions.

Deets: Cuadro Art Gallery

Trajectories: 19th-21st Century Printmaking from India and Pakistan

Courtesy of Sharjah Museums Department

Courtesy of Sharjah Museums Department

Sharjah Museums Department announces the opening of Trajectories: 19th-21st Century Printmaking from India and Pakistan at the Sharjah Art Museum. The exhibition, which opens on 10th of September and is set to run through 20 November, will introduce the shared legacy of India and Pakistan of one of the world’s oldest artistic mediums of printmaking from before and after the Partition to a UAE audience. I’m geared up to get a crash course on printmaking, Indian and Pakistani art, with a side of history at Sharjah Art Museum.

Deets: Sharjah Museums Department

Accidental Excavations

Vase of Flowers. Courtesy of Mariam Suhail, Grey Noise, and Gallery SKYE

Vase of Flowers. Courtesy of Mariam Suhail, Grey Noise, and Gallery SKYE

Mariam Suhail’s debut show in the Middle East opens at Grey Noise (in collaboration with the Bangalore/ New Delhi Gallery SKYE) on 15th September at 7pm and runs through 24th October. I’ll admit that when I received the press release for this show I was puzzled by the collection of images, which included a series of shots revealing various amounts of greenery through a window, a mystery object clumsily wrapped in floral paper, and an academic tome. How do these all connect and what story do they tell? I’m curious enough to plan a visit to Grey Noise to find out!

Deets: Grey Noise Gallery

Tashkeel Sound Art Film & Discussion Programme


Sound art is still rare in the region and two of Tashkeel’s resident artists Chris Weaver and Fari Bradley will introduce a Dubai audience to the medium over various films and discussions to be held over Wednesday evenings 3rd-24th September. This is a remarkable opportunity to pick up a completely free introduction to sound art and an appreciation of the most significant performances to date, as well as to get acquainted with a solid roster of guest speakers. We might take it for granted but listening is truly an art form that deserves our attention.

Deets: For event information go here