Works by 15 Emirati artists up for auction
The founder of the largest online portal for artists and designers in the Arab world has joined forces with the United Nations to host a one-night exhibition and auction for a select group of Emirati artists. Under the patronage of Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, the exhibition Colours of the Future is aimed at empowering the industry and giving a voice to emerging talent.
Ehab Shanti, the founder of Alhoush.com and host of the exhibition, explains: "This is not about assistance or about charity, it is about enterprise. If you empower a designer or an artist, you are helping a small economy that supports that person."
For one night only
Tuesday night, the work of 15 Emirati artists will be displayed in Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi for a welcome reception before they are auctioned off to the highest bidders. The pieces will include Glory, a horse head covered in mirrors by Naila Al Mansoory and a painting of a heart with feather wings titled Watching Over Me by Khawla Darwish.
"It is central to us to select emerging artists," says Shanti. "Part of our mandate is to bring in the sense of community. It does not take away from the stature of the more established artists, it just gives a platform for more people to flourish."
Colours of the Future is presented in collaboration with the United Nations. Paolo Lembo, the UN resident coordinator in the UAE, Qatar and Oman, says that he's interested in the universal language of art and sees it as a way to connect the community.
"When I came here, I had this strong perception that one of the most fascinating or complex challenges is how to define a sense of modern identity," he says. "For the young people of this country, one of the most difficult things is to reconcile their Emirati heritage and traditions with the monumental leap into modernity. An exhibition that promotes how that is displayed in artistic expression is the best way to do that."
An artistic eye
Darwish, a 27-year-old artist from Dubai, says that she welcomes any opportunity to display her art and feels that Tuesday's auction will be a prestigious event. "I think it is a great opportunity," she explains. "Most of the artists are emerging and there will be lots of dignitaries there."
Her piece depicts the human heart, which has become a trademark for her since she lost her brother and father to heart disease, and it illustrates just one of the many talents in the UAE art scene.
"Every day I am awestruck by the creativity I come across in the region," says Shanti, "and no one is talking about it. Before I came to the UAE, I thought I had an idea about the art scene here but I discovered that I was clueless - there is so much young talent that no one is shedding light on. Alhoush is not about showcasing Arab art to the rest of the world, we need to show it to ourselves first."
Inside the online courtyard
The word alhoush translates to courtyard and in this context is used as a metaphor for a gathering place. "Houses in the near east have been built around this concept since 3000BC," says Shanti. "When a family wanted to get together they gathered in alhoush. So with our website, we wanted to build a common space for artists and designers because there were none."
On alhoush.com, artists and designers can create their own profiles, display their works and sell them through the e-commerce infrastructure. Currently there are 320 registered profiles and more than 3,000 works of art and design.
"It has picked up like a wild fire since we launched officially one year ago," says Shanti. "Now we are the largest portal dedicated to art in the Arab world and we are growing organically."
Darwish says although she hadn't heard of the website before this exhibition, she thinks it is a positive step for the region.
"I really do believe in social media and the power of the internet," she explains. "It is the new generation's way of doing things and it really works."
Colours of the Future is July 2 from 7pm to 9pm at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi
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Updated: June 30, 2013 04:00 AM