Cynics may take some convincing, but Aya Mousawi and Simon Sakhai are confident that with their exhibition Tectonic, which opened amid the pomp and circumstance of the quarterly Art Night last month, they are bringing something totally new to Dubai.
Tectonic was the inaugural event for The Moving Museum, a platform for international artists to gather in a group show of solo exhibitions. The main difference from a regular exhibition is that rather than having a curator, artists were selected by a board of advisers – museum curators, artists and prominent, international cultural figureheads – for a “combined perspective”. Presented in a “museum infrastructure”, the idea is that this show somehow encapsulates the global art conversation at an institutional level.
It is an ambitious project and the question as to whether or not they are capturing the international spirit or simply presenting an interesting collection of art cannot really be answered, but it is certainly a memorable show. At the main entrance is the Iranian artist Soheila Sokhanvari’s stuffed horse, whose legs are wrapped around a concrete, turquoise balloon that symbolises the Iranian revolution. Further inside, Holton Rower, the grandson of the American sculptor Alexander Calder, has created magnificent, almost hallucinogenic poured-paint pieces and paired them with an installation of a paper chain made from real US dollar notes. A back wall is adorned by the Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller’s Folksong and a variety of video performance-pieces pepper the space. Of the 24 artists, only Slavs and Tatars, an art collective from Eastern Europe, the Iraqi-American Michael Rakowitz and the Iranian artist Ali Banisadr have exhibited in the region before. The 300 pieces, therefore, do offer a window into something new.
“It is its own thing,” says Sakhai. “We are an organisation with an aim to support and present contemporary art practice and to have a sustaining model that makes it happen in the future.”
When discussing the concept, Sakhai and Mousawi asked themselves what makes a museum and decided that it was not the space itself, or the art, or even the curator, but a combination of all these things. “We took all the museum elements such as the quality of production, educational programming, the publications, the social mission and goal of reaching out to the community and made it into something that travels. In that way, it is much richer.”
Mousawi adds that Dubai doesn’t currently have a museum infrastructure to support a show like this and “in that way we are filling a gap in the region”.
Although after Dubai, The Moving Museum will go to Venice for the Biennale and then London for Frieze, the works presented in Europe will be totally different and from a different group of artists.
“The geographic lines of everything are breaking at the moment,” says Sakhai. “The whole art world exists in a place not bound by geography and so there is room for ideas other than simply stationary places. People come from all over the world for art fairs and biennials and there is another space created because of these events – we want to be a part of that.”
At Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the pair have taken over an exhibition venue that was earmarked as a hotel development, but never realised. It is an empty concrete shell located across from the Art Dubai headquarters and known only as G9. Were it not for the lack of air conditioning, it would be an ideal gallery space. However, with the soaring Dubai temperatures holding off for the time being, the space works really well for this ambitious show. As for the concept, the jury is still out.
Tectonic runs in G9, DIFC, until April 24
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