AMMAN- In an effort to bring to the forefront home-based and diaspora Middle Eastern talent, Art Dubai’s 14th edition returns to immerse its regional and global audiences in a unique cultural and artistic experience regardless of geographical boundaries.

As such, September 2020 marked the debut of Art Dubai’s online Portraits Exhibition series with a regional focus that allowed for different themes and processes to be explored across the works of both established and emerging artists. 

Timo Nasseri, Universal Alphabet, 2019.

Featured artists in the series consequently include Berlin-based artist Timo Nasseri represented by Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim represented by Lawrie Shabibi, Iraqi artist Dia Al Azzawi represented by Meem Gallery, Dubai and Amman based art duo Naqsh Collective represented by Gazelli Art House, Lebanese-British artist Aya Haidar represented by Athr Gallery, Emirati artist Mohammed Kazim represented by Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde and Palestinian artist Abdul Rahman Katanani represented by Agial Art Gallery

Abdul Rahman Katanani, A Girl With Her Shadow, 2019.

The exhibition programme that’s running through January 2021 keeps the audience engaged as they are presented biweekly with an online solo exhibition that is dedicated to each of the artists’ work. Each solo show features a video that showcases the highlighted artist’s practice and process giving viewers an overview of the inspiration behind the work as they explore the exhibition. 

Chloe Vaitsou, International Director at Art Dubai shared with artmejo her thoughts on the role that online exhibitions play today: 

The Art Dubai Portrait online exhibition series came about as a step forward that challenges the Virtual Room model of showing endless images of artworks for sale that seem to have saturated the art market in the past months. Digital strategies and online exhibitions have played a critical role in continuing to engage with audiences, artists and collectors, and have the added benefit of increasing accessibility to our platform.
Mohammed Kazem, Photographs with Rags, 2003.

The diversity of vibrant artistic talents in the exhibitions presents an exploration of identity, memory, loss and migration through a range of media including paintings, sculpture and installations. As Vaitsou expressed to artmejo, each artist in the exhibition provides a unique contributing voice to current artistic narratives, from masters such as Iraqi artist Dia al-Azzawi, to rising talent such as Lebanese Aya Haidar

With the International Director’s vision for the exhibition to mirror the identity of the fair as the ‘go-to platform’, the exhibition catalyzed a range of tools to place the artists and their process at center stage. Each exhibition features a video interview at the artists’ studio, an informative timeline of the artist’s process and practice, archival images, images of artists’ works at various sites, exhibition concept, and an exhibition catalogue that is available to download online. 

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Black Form on White, 2016.

The exhibition commenced with the work of Berlin-based artist Timo Nasseri, whose iterative process that’s inspired by semiotics developed in World War 1 was made visible to viewers through a timeline that chronologically outlines his deconstruction of geometric patterns and shapes. The next show presented to viewers an exclusive tour at Emirati conceptual artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s studio,  who spoke about his artistic journey and described his graphic elements and shapes as “a free vision for the viewer reading it in any way they want to read it”

Dia Azzawi, After Sunset, 2018.

Archival images from Dia Azzawi’s artistic practice that spans over five decades since he started studying in Baghdad were presented in the exhibition, alongside an interview with the artist at his London studio. Azzawi shared his advice and outlook on Arab art to upcoming artists by stating, “The future of Arab art will be better, it will be more challenging because of the openness of the movement. With more awareness of what’s going on internationally you have to work harder to prove yourself and to be in a position that is more advanced than before”.

Naqsh Collective, Unit and Diaspora, 2018.

Portrait of Jordanian design collective Naqsh was presented through a series of images taken at different exhibits and sites from the sister duo’s catalogue. The exhibition features a video where sisters Nisreen and Nermeen Abudail take viewers through their separate studios in Amman and Dubai, sharing the evolution of their practice and the way they manage to work remotely together, blending architecture with graphic design.

Overall, the Portrait Exhibition has not only attempted to re-imagine what online exhibitions will  look like, but has also highlighted the desired vision for universality and togetherness in these uncertain times. That is communicated through art and by making visible to audiences the way artists view themselves and the world around them. Artists in the exhibition wore several hats, ranging from the ethnographer to the archivist, the graphic designer, the architect, and the nostalgist to the futurist to produce a visual language that transcends times, ethnicities and status.

Aya Haidar, The Stitch is Lost Unless the Thread is Knotted, 2008.

Chloe Vaitsou expressed to artmejo that there is yet more to anticipate from this year’s edition of Art Dubai, including new programming that will include performative happenings across the city of Dubai produced by invited exhibiting artists, a wider offer featuring a range of intimate events and community-building experiences across cultural institutions in the UAE, all adapted with extensive health and safety measures in place as set by official standards. 

View Portrait Exhibition on Art Dubai