Ruben Sanchez is one of the first artists to have introduced street art to Dubai. He’s just completed a residency at Tashkeel, the creative hub and skate park I raved about over the summer here. Perhaps you have cruised down Jumeirah Beach Road and come across this work:
His solo show, The B-Side just opened in Tashkeel’s gallery space and is the strongest street art exhibition I have seen in Dubai so far. The hipsters, the skaters, and all the other people too cool to even try to fit in under a social label all came out in full force to attend last week’s opening.
Dubai is very planned in some ways and not a fan of spontaneous public art. There are a lot of blank exterior walls. By tagging this building (which did require permission and was not a graffiti tag in the classic sense), Ruben reminded an entire community of the energy that comes from interacting with art in daily life outside of a gallery or museum. For some very hardworking people that keep Dubai going (drivers, gardeners, delivery guys, maids, etc…), street art like this may be the only creative piece they ever have exposure to first-hand.
I predict that in a few years Dubai will establish a rich public arts program like other urban centers of its size and street art will have developed into a huge deal here. Ruben Sanchez will be considered one of the greats who broke open the scene and this show will be referenced in books, magazines, and at skate parks as a first (and you know how we love firsts here in Dubai).
Ruben comes from Barcelona and it is easy to see his country’s influence in his work. Picasso, Dali, Cubism, and Surrealism definitely seem to be influencers, as is Spanish street culture in general. As a kid he taught himself to paint by adding designs to his brother’s skateboards, and he quite naturally relates to UAE teenagers because those influential years are so ingrained in his ethos as an artist.
At Tashkeel he has taught a series of youth and adult workshops integrating skating with street art, and skate culture plays prominently into his work as well as his laid back personal demeanor (think sunny days, funky sunglasses, tall glasses of orange juice, baggy denim, and a hand crafted, hand painted skateboard roaring down the ramp free of fear). Many of the pieces in The B-Side feature found materials like scrap wood and car parts, things that could be incorporated into handmade boards or jumps.
Good Ideas: The B-Side will run at Tashkeel through 31 December and is worth the drive to Tashkeel. Bring your skateboard while you’re at it and enjoy the ramp. Timings, driving directions and other details can be found here.
Image Credits: Courtesy of Ruben Sanchez and Tashkeel