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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Giant drill bit among public art unveiled in Dubai’s heritage area

Arab Fund for Art and Culture commissions five public art works in Dubai for its seven year anniversary celebrations.
- A man looks at the public art installation Alien Technology by Monira Al Qadiri at the Shindagha Heritage Centre. Courtesy Clint McLean
- A man looks at the public art installation Alien Technology by Monira Al Qadiri at the Shindagha Heritage Centre. Courtesy Clint McLean

A giant drill bit covered in pearlescent paint, a collection of rocks from the mountains of Fujairah, microscopic water crystals and a sculpture of a deer’s skull form the basis of four pieces of public art unveiled in Dubai’s heritage area on Saturday. The art, by emerging artists commissioned by the Arab Fund for Art and Culture, is part of a larger project that marks the Beirut-based initiative’s seventh anniversary celebrations, which are being celebrated in Dubai this year.

Situated along the Dubai Creek in the Al Shindagha Heritage Village, the art is ambitious, contemporary and marks a possible shift in the way Dubai considers public art in the future.

“A public art commission is a really complex challenge and the most challenging part is agreeing on the aesthetics,” says Amanda Abi Khalil, the curator of the project. “When you try to explain that public art is not necessarily beautifying or decorative, it can also respond to a place’s specificity, history, connotations and culture, then the challenge is more ­interesting.”

The four pieces along the Creek include Monira Al Qadiri’s Alien Technology, which is a several metres-high rendition of a drill bit used to dig for oil.

The gigantic form is painted with an iridescent paint – such paint displays the rainbow of colours that appear on the surface of oil as well as on a pearl – and so is proposing a link between the ancient and modern parts of her culture.

The UAE’s Vikram Divecha has also produced a large work consisting of boulders from Fujairah, where quarries regularly conduct blasts to produce rocks used for asphalt and concrete – questioning the nature of our urban environment.

Vartan Avakian, who was one of the Abraaj Group Art Prize winners at Art Dubai in 2013, has crystallised the water of the Burj Khalifa lake, in the process asking what gives a monument its status. The Egyptian artist Doa Aly has made a giant deer skull.

Shaikha Al Mazrou, an Emirati, has made a sculpture from brightly coloured scaffolding poles for the new Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children.

All art works have been created under the theme InVisible, asking artists to respond to the idea of concealing what is visible and revealing what is invisible. They will remain in place until March.

aseaman@thenational.ae