Art Week is awash with dozens of high-quality exhibitions by top local and global artists, but which ones to see? Anna Seaman picks the 10 shows you can’t miss.
1. If I Leave, Where Will I Go?
East Wing, Limestone House, DIFC
Until April 7
This show addresses one of the most pertinent issues of the moment – migration. The exhibition features the work of Leila Alaoui, the brilliant photographer who was killed during the terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso in January. Her work, titled Crossings, reflects on experiences of sub-Saharan migrants headed to Europe. Tanya Habjouqa’s series, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, and Omar Imam’s Live Love Refugee both focus on the crisis facing refugees in Syria and Lebanon.
The first solo show in the Arab world for this 34-year-old Syrian-born, New York-based artist is as haunting as the title suggests. Al Hadid evokes the Renaissance era with her sculptures, which are characterised by drips that become forms – made from polymer gypsum and plaster. The exhibition’s title comes from the central work of the same name, which, like much of Al Hadid’s work, is inspired by visceral memory and an obsession with decay. Beautiful and technically marvellous.
It’s three for the price of one at Cuadro this month. The gallery is hosting three solo shows from very different artists. Saudi Manal Al Dowayan’s photographic series And I, Will I Forget? explores her childhood memories. Bahrain-based Camille Zakharia, who has been working with the medium of collage for 25 years, presents Shifting Boundaries, which blurs colours, lines, and patterns to reflects the Middle East’s shifting political realities. Azerbaijan’s Faig Ahmed is exhibiting more of his stunning carpet works in a series called Black Sheep, where the traditional structure of woven carpets becomes playfully fluid.
Farideh Lashai was one of the most important female Iranian modern artists of her time. Since her death in 2013, there have been many tributes to her, not least the first comprehensive monographic exhibition of her work in Tehran last year. Through the lens of the artist’s personal journey, viewers are introduced to Iran’s social, intellectual, and political history. Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi has curated this important retrospective, which will run for three months and also features Lashai’s video-on-canvas projection.
Inspired by a quote by comedy actor Charlie Chaplin in 1940, British-Iraqi artist Athier Mousawi’s latest work addresses the mentality of war. At the outset of the Second World War, Chaplin appealed to “soldiers with machine hearts and minds” to remember their love of humanity. Mousawi’s exhibition features large-scale, semi-abstract paintings that depict the workings of these so-called machine hearts in vivid colours and angular shapes.
This pop-art project by the Syrian-born, UK-based artist Issam Kourbaj features a series of installations highlighting the crisis in Syria and is a visual and chilling reminder of one of the worst tragedies of our times. “Camps” are constructed out of waste materials, with tents marked with black lines and mourning ribbons, all encircled by a “fence” of used matches. The matches represents the days lost since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, and the number will be added to during the display period.
If minimalist, geometric works appeal to you, check out YZ Kami’s new show. The Iranian-American artist’s works exude an ethereal air and are spectacular additions to several institutional collections worldwide. Filling all three spaces of what is already the region’s largest gallery, this show is monumental. Highlights include his floor-based sculptural work, The Book of Shams e Tabrizi, which is based on a love sonnet by Rumi, and the title piece, White Dome, which is composed in ink and acrylic on raw linen.
8. Hassan Hajjaj, La Salle de Gym des Femmes Arabes
The Third Line,
Tomorrow to April 16
Street fashion meets pop culture meets a hijab captured in a frame of soup cans. This type of juxtaposition of East and West, and kitsch versus tradition, is what defines Hassan Hajjaj’s work. His latest series – the title of which translates into “gym for Arab women” – is a continuation of his depiction of Arab women who are as much part of their traditional Moroccan societies as they are contemporary society. He also inverts gender norms by featuring female figures of strength in places where hyper-masculine imagery is normally featured.
A fascination with architectural space and the inward emotions that they trigger is at the centre of this conceptually intriguing show. Given her background as a professional architect, Seher Shah’s preoccupation with structure, plans and buildings is unsurprising – but what is interesting in this show is that she manages to disperse the heaviness and brutality of those forms (hence the title). The show, which is Shah’s first solo in Dubai, includes works on paper, photography and sculpture.
Iranian artist Elham Moadinia has painted over windows, a selection of Iranian fabrics, and wooden doors reclaimed from Ras Al Khaimah as a metaphor for the recent lifting of US sanctions in Iran, fusing them with modern influences to summarise the situation of a whole generation of people who were born in Iran after the revolution.