Rules of a Dusty Army by Giovanni Leonardo Bassan, oil and gold leaf on kraft paper, 2015 Image Credit:

Art students and upcoming artists, including artists from Mawaheb from Beautiful people, a studio for adults with special needs, have the opportunity to showcase their work alongside creations by renowned artists at “Art in Secret”, a unique exhibition organised by The Evolve Company under the patronage of the Dubai Culture and Art Authority.

The artworks are priced at Dh500 each

The show features 100 original A5-size artworks created by renowned regional and international artists, photographers and designers as well as young emerging talents from the Middle East. The artworks are available for just Dh500 each. However, they are displayed anonymously, with the signature of the artist hidden on the back of the work. Art lovers must thus buy the works without knowing the identity of the artists, purely on the basis of their artistic and aesthetic appeal and their personal connect with the pieces.

This interesting format offers buyers the exciting possibility that they might acquire a work by a well-known master at an affordable price or discover a promising new artist who could become famous in the future. All proceeds from the show will go to Mawaheb.

Naghmeh Manshadi, chief evolving officer of The Evolve Company, says, “As a UAE-based arts, culture and communications company, we strive to inspire by providing an alternative approach towards arts, culture and media in the country by creating and delivering transformational events that encourage community participation, diversity, development, self awareness and experiential edutainment. Our mission is to support local and international humanitarian projects that work to promote artists and disadvantaged art communities. Our aim in organising this show is to support emerging artists at a formative stage in their careers and to create awareness of the abilities of people with special needs by showcasing their work on the same platform with established and influential artists of our time. This show is also about making art accessible to everybody.”

Well-known names from the art world who have generously contributed new works for the show include Fereydoun Ave, Fatma Lootah, Amartey Golding, Beena Samuel, Chris Weaver, Farah Ossouli, Hadil Moufti, Fari Bradley, Koorosh Shishegaran, Jeff Scofield, Mike Arnold, Patricia Millns, Ali Akbar Sadeghi and Yasmin Sinai.

“By presenting works by these legendary artists anonymously alongside works by emerging artists we want to give equal value to every artist’s life and skills. We also want to create awareness about the work Mawaheb is doing and by offering all proceeds from the show to Mawaheb, we hope to support arts education for people with special needs,” Manshadi says.

Rules of a Dusty Army by Giovanni Leonardo Bassan, oil and gold leaf on kraft paper, 2015

The artists from Mawaheb from Beautiful People have presented several shows at prestigious galleries in the UAE, and they also participate regularly in group shows in Dubai. But they are extremely excited about presenting their works alongside those of well-known artists in a show that values their work equally, and are working hard on their paintings in their studio at Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.

Wemmy de Maaker, founder of Mawaheb, says, “My aim in opening this studio was to use art as a tool to develop life skills and encourage our artists to be independent, and to bridge the gap between society and people with special needs. We want to break down the boundaries and stigmas associated with these people by integrating them into society and demonstrating that each individual can be creative in their own unique way. This show is important to us because it gives a wonderful opportunity for our artists to showcase their work on an equal footing with other artists, and to get unbiased appreciation for their talent.”

Jyoti Kalsi is an arts enthusiast based in Dubai.

“Art in Secret” will open at Showcase Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, at 6pm on January 18 and will run until January 21. For the full list of artists and other information, visit www.artinsecret.com



The idea of martyrdom through the ages

Young Italian artist Giovanni Leonardo Bassan’s work offers a new perspective on figurative painting by combining the classical tradition, especially the Italian Renaissance that he deeply admires, with contemporary themes. Through his paintings the artist explores the tenuous link between his contemporary art practice and art history. In his first solo show in Dubai, “Martyrdom”, Bassan looks at the idea of martyrdom through the ages by bringing the ghosts of historical icons on to his canvasses, setting up a dialogue between the past and the present to question contemporary viewpoints and epochal perceptions.

In every painting in this series, the artist has superimposed figures of ancient saints from portrayals of martyrdom scenes by old masters into a modern context. Thus the venerated saints, depicted beautifully in vivid detail in classical paintings are transformed into white, abstract, ghost-like figures of modern-day heroes confronting contemporary situations.

They appear as young men being manhandled by policemen as they protest and fight to have their voices heard; or as helpless victims punched by a group of bullies. A golden halo that sometimes looks like a ring of fire around the body is the only reminder of who these figures are.

Through this sombre superimposition of eras the artist invites viewers to contemplate the parallels between the cruelty suffered by those holy martyrs and our modern-day struggle for self-fulfilment. “This show explores what we were and what we have become. Between figuration and abstraction, my characters stand on neutral backgrounds to further emphasise the incisive urgency of a collective awakening. I have combined the noble material gold with brutal strokes to invite viewers to review our priorities, reconsider fundamentals and question our responsibilities as human beings,” Bassan says.

–Jyoti Kalsi

“Martyrdom” will run at The Mine, Al Quoz, until January 16.