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Dubai welcomes the season of art

The two-month event aims to spread happiness and positive energy throughout the community

  • Organised by Dubai Culture, Sikka Art Fair aims to nurture homegrown talent and features a commissioned visualImage Credit: Supplied
  • Brodie Neill, Cowrie Chair. Britain Takes Shape will feature works by pioneers of British contemporary design Image Credit: Supplied
  • Hassan Sharif, Cardboard and Coir, 1999Image Credit: Supplied
  • Mahmoud Saïd, portrait of Mohamed Pacha Saïd (esquisse), circa late 1920sImage Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

The Dubai Art Season kicked off last week with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and will continue until April 30. This umbrella arts initiative, launched in 2014 by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), is an annual celebration of arts and culture that brings artists, writers, performers and other creative individuals from around the world to Dubai, reinforcing the city’s position as a centre of creativity, innovation and cultural diversity. The two-month event aims to spread happiness and positive energy throughout the community, embodying Dubai Culture’s support of the Dubai Plan 2021 goal to make Dubai a city of happy, creative and empowered people.

This year, more than 350 events have been planned at various indoor and outdoor venues across the city. Highlights of Dubai Art Season 2017 include The Dubai International Calligraphy Exhibition; Middle East Film & Comic Con; Dubai Festival for Youth Theatre and city-wide activations of art in public spaces, interactive installations, workshops, exhibitions and live performances. Details of the calendar are available at

Art Week

Art Week, running from March 12 to 18 is an important part of the Dubai Art Season. Initiated by the Art Dubai Group and supported by Dubai Culture and Meraas, this is the region’s largest cultural festival featuring various flagship events in March every year.

Key themes of the 2017 Art Week programming include a focus on performance art and urban public art and an investigation of the recent history of art production in the UAE in the context of the work and influence of pioneering Emirati artist Hassan Sharif, who died last year.

Highlights of Art Week 2017

Art Dubai 2017 — March 15 to 18 at Madinat Jumeirah

Design Days Dubai — March 14 to 17 at Dubai Design District (d3). This is the only fair in the Middle East and South Asia dedicated to collectible and limited edition furniture and design objects. The sixth edition of the event, will present modern and contemporary design pieces from prominent international design galleries including regional premieres of iconic designs by well-known designers, alongwith a public programme of talks, workshops, and performances. In support of the UK-UAE year of Creative Collaboration, Dubai Culture will host Britain Takes Shape, an exhibition featuring works by pioneers of British contemporary design.

Sikka Art Fair — March 11 to 21 at Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

This annual, contemporary art fair, organised by Dubai Culture, aims to nurture homegrown talent and features a commissioned visual and performing arts programme showcasing the work of Emirati and other artists based in the UAE and the GCC region. The seventh edition of Sikka will activate the area with site-specific paintings, photographic works, sculptures, audio and video installations, multi-disciplinary initiatives and music performances as well as film screenings, workshops and other educational activities. This year the fair will host new initiatives such as ‘Sikka Around the City’ and ‘Sikka Art Van’, taking the festival across the city.

Exhibitions at art spaces in the historical district during Sikka include latest calligraphic works by Khaled Al Saai at Majlis Gallery; Squiggly Wiggly, an exhibition of paintings by artists with special needs at Mawaheb and The Print Edition at Tashkeel, showcasing works created using various print making techniques.

Art Week at Alserkal Avenue

Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz, which is home to over 70 creative spaces, will present an extensive programme of events between March 10 and 18. Beginning with the inauguration of Concrete, a new multi-purpose events’ space, with the opening of Syria: Into the Light, an exhibition by the Atassi Foundation, the events include daily talks by artists, curators and other art professionals, art workshops for all ages, artists’ commissions, book launches, guided gallery tours, pop-up events such as the region’s first art book fair and Galleries Night, on March 13, marking the opening of new shows in the art galleries within the complex.

ArtBus: March 17 to 19

The ArtBus returns for the 10th year, providing guided tours of the city’s prominent galleries, art fairs and Art week venues. As always, the project, run by ArtintheCity and Dubai Culture, has commissioned local artists to paint the buses, offering them a different canvas and wider visibility for their work. The beautifully decorated buses start from Madinat Jumeirah at 10am and return to the venue around 6pm. The three routes covered include the Al Quoz art district; DIFC Gate Village, Dubai Design District & Downtown Dubai; and Jumeirah & Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Tickets cost Dh50 per day. For bookings and more information go to

Art activations around Dubai

Empires of Memory at Vida Downtown Dubai — this interactive installation by Dubai-based Indian artist Owais Husain explores themes of identity, displacement and memory through videos projected on stacked steel trunks. The work looks at the evolution of memory through history; how one can be used to shape, manipulate, or distort the other and how this dynamic is influenced by the hierarchies of culture through generations.

Christie’s Dubai Modern and Contemporary Art Sale on March 18 at Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel

Highlights include Ismail Shammout’s Odyssey of a People, a six-metre long painting depicting the struggle of the Palestinian people and six exceptional works by Egyptian master Mahmoud Said from private collections of the artist’s family. The auction house will also launch Said’s catalogue raisonné, and present an exhibition of 14 works by the artist loaned by private collections. The exhibition is open to the public from March 15 to 18 from 10am to 8pm at Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel.

Art events in other cities:

Abu Dhabi:

The Creative Act: Performance. Process. Presence — presented by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, this exhibition running at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island until July 29, showcases works from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection.

Lest We Forget – Emarati Adornment: Tangible and Intangible: running until August 27 at Warehouse421 explores Emirati culture and heritage through traditional objects and modes of adornment.

But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Art Community,1988-2008: running until May 25 at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery surveys one of the most important artistic communities in the UAE’s history. It features historic works from 1988 to 2008, by late Hassan Sharif, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammad Kazem, Hussain Sharif, Vivek Vilasini, Jos Clevers, and Ebtisam Abdulaziz; archival material; and videos of interviews with writers, poets, filmmakers and artists from that core community.


Maraya Art Centre: Beloved Bodies II, presented by the Barjeel Art Foundation, features contemporary artworks by women artists that depict the body in the context of language, landscape, trauma and memory; and Once Upon a Time: Hadiqat Al Umma, a solo exhibition by Iraqi artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji.

Sharjah Art Foundation: Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj, opening week programme of talks, and March Meeting 2017, from March 10 to 14 at Gallery 1, Al Mureijah Square and other venues.


Picasso-Giacometti at the Fire Station, Garage Gallery until March 21 featuring over 120 works from the collections of the Musee National Picasso and the Fondation Giacometti in Paris and from international collections.

JR Retrospective at QM Gallery in Katara from March 9 to May 31 featuring iconic series and videos by celebrated French urban artist JR.

Imperial Threads: Motifs and artisans from Turkey, Iran and India at Museum of Islamic Art, from March 15 to November 4 features carpets, manuscripts, metalwork and other objects showcasing the connection between the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires that marked the early modern period in Islamic art.

The third annual edition of the New York Times Art for Tomorrow conference will be held at W Doha Hotel & Residence from March 10 to 13. With ‘Boundaries, Identity and the Public Realm’ as the theme, it will investigate the role of art as a catalyst for economic growth and a mechanism for city or corporate branding.


Bahrain Art Across Borders 2017 (ArtBAB) will be held at the Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre from March 22 to 26. This second edition of Bahrain’s international art exhibition, organised by Tamkeen, Bahrain’s semi-government arm mandated to drive private sector growth, is held under the Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty the King, and managed by Art Select. 

Highlights of ArtBAB 2017 include a Pavilion featuring 30 Bahraini artists; a Gallery Arena hosting international and Bahraini galleries; an International Artists Pavilion displaying the works of participating artists from across the world; an art book shop and art merchandising and design section; and an educational program titled ‘Talks@ArtBAB’ comprising talks and panel discussions by international artists and art professionals.