x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The art scene is back on form for fall

Art lovers, we know it's a been a long, dry summer. But the art scene is finally getting back into its stride and we've spelt out the events that you'd be a fool to miss.

For art lovers, events of the next six months should make up for the vaccum created this summer. Paulo Vecina / The National
For art lovers, events of the next six months should make up for the vaccum created this summer. Paulo Vecina / The National

Art lovers, we know it's a been a long, dry summer. We've felt it this year, we really have. But after that slow season, we're more than ready for the six months of art-orientated onslaught ahead. Yes, the art scene is finally getting back into its stride and we've spelt out the events that you'd be a fool to miss.

I want exhibitions

How about 14 of them, all opening in one night? On September 10, Alserkal Avenue - Al Quoz's hub of galleries and art centres - surges back to life with 14 concurrent openings. Whether it is A Study of Beautiful Chaos in Mumbai by artist Hatty Pedder at Mojo Gallery, or dilapidating, modernist interiors from the brush of the Portuguese painter Gil Heitor Cortesão (Carbon 12), this is the night when the galleries hit the ground running for the new season.

Michael John Whelan takes over Grey Noise's cavernous space, bringing a large-scale video work into the gallery to demonstrate the Irish artist's interest in art with an aesthetic that emphasises the passage of time.

We're also curious to see how Green Art Gallery returns to the fray after a busy summer at Art Basel. It opens with works by Jaber Al Azmeh, the artist creates shadow-puppet like photographs in which silhouettes play out symbolic scenes against a blood-red background: a lone figure attempts to shove a block over a cliff, a dainty hand attempts to plug a gun barrel with its little finger. From what we've seen of this series by the Syrian artist, it is work charged with his country's current conflict.

For a full rundown of what's going on in Alserkal Avenue, see our roundup in the September 10 edition of Arts&Life

I want more

Sharjah kicks back into gear with an exhibition of works that gives the UAE exactly what it needs right now: another bloody mall. A mall that's been instated into one of the city's oldest buildings, nonetheless - right in the heritage quarter.

Don't start grumbling too soon, this three-man show transforms Beit Al Shamsi into a tongue-in-cheek embodiment of commercialism and showcases work by Heman Chong, Dirk Fleischmann and Jun Yang. Opening on October 3, Pilot Micro Multiplex / Mall addresses the role of presentation and promotion of contemporary art and allows the two conflicting realms of culture and commerce to butt heads.

The Third Line in Dubai stages a body of entirely new work by the Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj, showcasing colour-saturated portraits of the artist's heroes - from musicians to boxers - all shot in a style reminiscent of the great West African photographers Seydou Kaite and Malick Sidibe.

I want big, brazen events

Abu Dhabi Art, running from November 7 to 10, should do the trick. The capital's art fair returns for another year with a predictably high-profile guest list of gallerists: Larry Gagosian, Tony Shafrazi and Lisson Gallery's Nicholas Logsdail all have booths for another year.

Some 50 galleries are heading to Saadiyat Island, with the Foster+Partners-designed pavilion as the centrepiece of a three-day event that showcases 400 artists.

Despite an 80 per cent return rate for galleries, there are a few newcomers worth looking out for. In the Bidaya section, highlighting up-and-coming galleries, is CDA Projects - a space firmly established in Istanbul's gallery scene and now keen to break into the Gulf market.

I want auctions

Christie's leads its October 23 and 24 auction with three pieces by the Egyptian master Mahmoud Saïd, including a preparatory oil sketch, El Zar, a work that now sits in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Cairo. Christie's says that the sketch has never been seen in public before and deals with Saïd's long-held fascination with the power of belief.

The work depicts the early stages of a rite in the Zar cult found in many parts of North-West Africa, in which an individual is possessed by a spirit during a frenetic, musically-induced trance. Saïd's use of dramatic chiaroscuro and sense for theatrical lighting makes this a particularly evocative work and sits at an estimate of US$150,000-200,000 (Dh550,000-730,000).

Christie's Dubai auctions now follow its international format of a two-part sale, with the second night dedicated to more emerging and affordable works. Highlights of the second night include a six-piece collection donated by artists to support the Caspian Arts Foundation. A non-profit organisation launched last year, the foundation sponsors young artists and students in the Middle East to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of the Arts London.

clord@thenational.ae