This year, Art Dubai introduced a new segment into its program — the UAE NOW exhibit that showcased the country’s local independent, artist-run platforms.
The region’s largest art fair ran from March 20-23 and UAE NOW curator Munira Al-Sayegh to find out more about the push to showcase homegrown creativity.
“The UAE NOW section of Art Dubai is extremely important to me. It is a moment where we are looking at the cross-collaboration of grassroots platforms that have taken place out of the sheer idea of collaboration between creatives and it is extremely important to showcase this as a counter-narrative to the usual stereotypical idea that the UAE’s art scene is a very commercial art scene or one that is imported,” the curator said.
The participating platforms included Bait 15, Banat Collective, Jaffat el Aqlam, PAC (Public Art Collective) and Daftar Asfar. The platforms were invited to showcase their works and many ended up creating small, informal spaces that showed off the artists’ pieces in a cozy atmosphere. Bait 15’s booth featured a large mattress in the middle, where visitors could rest their weary feet, and the Banat Collective boasted draped chiffon on which passers-by could draw and doodle with chalk pastels.
The piece by Saudi Arabia-based Palestinian artist Jana Ghalayini was a “collaboration with the public,” she said, adding that she was hoping to explore themes of identity and empowerment through the interactive installation.
For her part, co-founder of the Abu Dhabi-based Bait 15 studio Afra Al-Dhaheri was equally interested in opening up a dialogue.
“This is the first time that Art Dubai allows for community spaces to be present… I think this dialogue has to emerge one way or another, like, having the artist community speak,” she said.
“Art is important for any society. It’s a register for the history of the society, the community and the times,” she added.