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An oil on canvas titled Liz Taylor by Ufuk Kobas. Photo courtesy Ductac
An oil on canvas titled Liz Taylor by Ufuk Kobas. Photo courtesy Ductac

The Big Picture collective is an art initiative by independent artists in Dubai

A group of Dubai-based independent artists have come together to fund their own exhibition – The Big Picture. We meet the founders.

Although they live in a city awash with galleries and art exhibitions, Ram Nath and Roba Hamadah could only ever dream of seeing their own art on display in public. That was until they took matters into their own hands. Now the pair, who are amateur artists, will host The Big Picture, a kind of DIY exhibition where they have brought a group of artists together to put on their own show in Dubai.

The concept

“It started with the idea to put together a group work. We wanted to create a pixelated picture – an image made up of many different canvases that if looked at from a distance makes one big picture,” says Nath, an Indian expatriate who works in marketing. “So we got together a small group of our artist friends and approached the galleries in Dubai, and the idea changed into a full exhibition.”

Nath and Hamadah, a Lebanese graphic designer, who have been friends since college, contacted many galleries with their concept of an independent exhibition and the team at Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre (Ductac) spotted their potential.

“I think it’s quite unusual for a group of Dubai-based independent artists to get together and fund their own exhibition,” explains Simon Coates, the curator and manager of Ductac’s Gallery of Light. “It happens all over the rest of the world but, for some reason, the DIY ethic is hard to find here. What I liked most about the collective is that they’ve done this all themselves.”

The artists

After securing the venue, the friends put out a call in their immediate circles and advertised in local newspapers and magazines to attract interest. Very quickly, the initiative gathered momentum and they soon had more than 20 artists from different backgrounds willing to participate.

“It turned from a small idea into a whole exhibition and now we have a waiting list of people wanting to take part,” says Hamadah. “The idea just mushroomed,” agrees Nath. “We are already planning the next event.”

The art

While many of the pieces, such as Nath’s and Hamadah’s, are the works of emerging artists, some pieces are on loan from other institutions or have already enjoyed plentiful exhibition space. The Turkish artist Ufuk Kobas’ oil on canvas Liz Taylor is part of a triptych that’s currently on show in Al Etihad gallery in Abu Dhabi, and Nashwa Zakaria’s Towering Heritage was formerly up in the Burj Khalifa.

The event

For three days over the holiday weekend, pieces from 22 artists will be on show in the Gallery of Light at Ductac. Although The Big Picture itself is a non-profit organisation, all the works are for sale.

On the opening night, UAE Union Car Club has provided a classic Dodge 1972 Plymouth that will be airbrushed by one of the members, who specialises in customised car painting. And Café del Mar’s resident DJ, Ilona Maras, will play a live set of experimental music.

To see the exhibition coming together in such a way is the realisation of a dream, says Hamadah. “We live in a world full of dreams but we wanted this one to become a reality, so we thought ‘Why not?’

“It is a risk but our aim is to get people with talent out there in the open and give them a chance.”

With Virgin Megastores handing out flyers to customers and the local art community coming out in force, Nath says he has been really encouraged by the support. “There is no American dream, there is a Dubai dream – in Dubai things like this work.”

The Big Picture, from Thursday to Saturday at Ductac’s Gallery of Light, Dubai


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