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Sanaz Askari, the founder of The Mine, stands in front of an installation by Yasuaki Onishi in the gallery. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Sanaz Askari, the founder of The Mine, stands in front of an installation by Yasuaki Onishi in the gallery. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

The Mine in Dubai is bringing underground art overground

The Mine, a concept store that is a mix of art gallery, retail space, hangout and an artist’s studio, has opened its doors in Dubai.

Last month, on the same night that traffic blocked Dubai’s streets in a citywide celebration of the Expo 2020 win, a new concept space was taking its first steps in a small corner of Dubai’s industrial zone.

The Mine, described by its founder as a creative support platform, is a place for people to come and work, for emerging talent to display their art, for enthusiasts to buy original and affordable pieces and a convergence point for inspirational ideas.

The founder

Sanaz Askari, an Iranian expatriate who has spent the past few years living in London, says that when she moved to Dubai she found there was a lack of venues to connect with others in the arts industry, so she decided to create her own.

“I wanted to have a space where I felt inspired and saw creative people and emerging artists working and showing their art. The closest thing to that was The Pavilion but it shut down so I decided to do it myself,” she says.

The concept

“Initially when we started, I had a lot of friends who were just starting out and weren’t able to get into the galleries here,” explains Askari. “I also wanted to buy affordable artwork and I wasn’t able to find any. So I wanted to create a creative support platform for emerging artists from around the world to come and simply and easily exhibit their work without the usual prerequisites of going through the process of a gallery.”

The artists

Perhaps the most striking thing about The Mine is that, although it is a relatively small space, Askari has managed to display a number of artists and given them the space to breathe. On the walls you can see paintings by Babak Dehkordi, an emerging Iranian artist, Nik Nejad, another Iranian, and a Brazilian street artist called Luis Seven Martins, who is better known by his pseudonym L7m and who painted the wall of the space with a striking image of a face partially covered with swirls and dynamic patterns.

The decor

“We didn’t want to be another glamorous luxury space, so all of our furniture is made from crates and the space is very minimal,” explains Askari. “We also wanted to stand apart from the galleries.”

The installations

The top floor of The Mine is reserved for installations, which Askari says she doesn’t find enough of in Dubai. For the opening, the Japanese artist Yasuaki Onishi worked for more than six days to install Vertical Emptiness, a plastic sheet hung by wire in an undulating cloud-like pattern and decorated with wispy strands of dried glue to encase the viewer in a fragile, tent-like enclosure. Curated by Sara Reyhani, the piece underlines Askari’s policy to give a platform to artists from all over the world in a relaxed environment.

The curators

Other than Reyhani, who worked with Onishi, Askari has also enlisted the help of others to help with the ongoing selection of art.

Farshad Mahoutforoush, an Iranian who worked a lot with Farhad Moshiri, one of the most famous living Iranian artists, and Samir Ceric, from Debut Contemporary in London, are both on board to help with curatorial advice from the Middle East and Europe.

Affordable art

As well as exhibiting the art, The Mine will also function as a retail store with one-off pieces being sold at affordable prices.

“I am looking at group shows and art up to around Dh18,400,” Askari says. “I want to promote those artists and create an affordable art scene in UAE.”

The underground

“I think the main reason we set up is to give a voice to the underground scene here in Dubai,” concludes Askari. “It has always been here but is now starting to come out.

“I’m hoping that in a few years time we can say we have our own Shoreditch – I mean, I’m not comparing Dubai to London but I think we have potential, definitely, to develop in that way.”

• The Mine is located in Al Quoz, close to Alserkal Avenue. For more information, call 04 379 1704 or visit www.themine.ae 

aseaman@thenational.ae

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