x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Two works removed from Art Dubai fair

The pieces were removed by CID, who feared they might offend visiting sheikhs.

DUBAI // Two works have been removed from a booth at the Art Dubai fair on the orders of security officers fearing they could be deemed offensive.

The works were among the centrepieces of the display by Artspace, a gallery based at the Dubai International Financial Centre that has operated in Dubai since 2003. Both works were inspired by images from the Arab Spring.

One work, You Were My Only Love by Moroccan artist Zakaria Ramhani, is based on the image of a woman who was stripped to her underwear and beaten by Egyptian police. The other, After Washing by Palestinian Shadi Alzaqzouq, shows a masked female protester holding up a pair of underpants with the Arabic word for "leave" written on them. This was the message that demonstrators in Egypt sent last year to the then-president Hosni Mubarak.

"We took them down because the CID came and said Sheikh Mohammed was coming," said Sossy Dikijian, art director of Artspace. "After Sheikh Mohammed left we put the Ramhani work back, but the CID came again and said more sheikhs are coming and if they see it, it might cause a problem; they might be offended."

Ms Dikijian pointed out that the image that inspired the Ramhani piece had been published widely in the media, and the incident could be viewed on YouTube.

She said the works had been cleared in advance by the organisers of Art Dubai, which is being held at the Madinat Jumeirah, and added: "We're based in Dubai and we know what we should and shouldn't display."

An Art Dubai spokesman said: "Like most other countries worldwide, when there are royal visits - and at Art Dubai, these happen on a daily basis - there is protocol to follow.

"Annually, prior to opening, Art Dubai's content is reviewed by representatives who then may make suggestions about a minimal number of pieces which may not be in keeping with the social and cultural values of the UAE. These pieces may then be stored by the gallery at the fair."

An artwork was removed from the booth of another Dubai space, Carbon 12 of Alserkal Avenue, in similar circumstances, but the gallery's partners declined to discuss the matter.

csimpson@thenational.ae