Dubai Collection opens its first exhibition at the Etihad Museum

At a glance, the Dubai Collection’s first physical exhibition of nearly 70 works of art hints at pivotal moments in the region’s modern and contemporary art history.

Beyond that, however, the show indicates pressure from the Dubai government to boost sponsorship in an arts scene largely managed by the private sector.

Opening to the public on Saturday November 6 at the Etihad Museum, When Images Speak: Highlights from the Dubai Collection features works from 11 collectors.

The most notable among them are Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, and his daughter Sheikha Latifa.

There are also works from the corporate collection of investment firm ARM Holding, a leading partner of Art Dubai, and private collections from Dubai entrepreneurs including Cyba Audi, Charles Al Sidaoui and the Samawi family.

Most of the works on display are from Arab artists from the second half of the 20th century, as well as contemporary pieces.

Organized by author and scholar Nada Shabout, the show unfolds in three thematic chapters.

The first, Abstract Variations, explores how modern Arab artists have turned to abstract forms to forge new means of expression. It includes a luminous work by Kamal Boullata entitled Illumination II (2001), from the private collection of Ali and Rafia Malas.

There is also that of Khaled Ben Slimane Exploration n ° 2 (1988), an earth-colored canvas engraved with marks, and The falling point, a 1972 painting by Iraqi painter Dia Al Azzawi, eye-catching for its sinuous abstract forms. Both works come from the private collection of Sheikh Mohammed.

The second chapter, Societies in Transition, includes works by Baya Mahieddine, the Algerian artist who fused Amazigh, Arab and Islamic influences in her depictions of women, and Lamya Gargash, the Emirati photographer who has often reflected on the development of the Emirates. United Arabs through architecture.

Evoking the Environment, the final chapter, examines how artists deal with place and landscape, from natural to urban, with works by Nouri Al Rawi, Faiq Hassan and Zeinab Abdel Hamid, who have uniquely portrayed scenes from Arab villages.

What is the Dubai collection?

In preparation for a year and a half, the Dubai Collection is a partnership between Art Dubai and Dubai Culture, and presents a unique model for the region.

On the one hand, it is not a collecting body. Rather, he acts as a mediator, lending works of art to his network of patrons and developing an archive and art exhibitions around them.

The Dubai Collection website, which details all of When Images Speak’s works, launched on Thursday.

“We are like the Spotify of art collections – a central repository where people contribute their works of art,” explains Carlo Rizzo, special advisor to the Dubai Collection.

“We then make them accessible in two ways, with a digital archive and temporary exhibitions.”

Patrons retain legal ownership of their existing acquisitions but may loan the artwork to the Dubai Collection for temporary exhibitions and digital archiving.

Patrons can also make new acquisitions with advice from the Dubai Collection Curatorial Committee. Loan agreements state that works must be in the collection for at least a decade.

Rizzo says the initiative hopes to bridge the gap in the emirate’s artistic infrastructure, where a public contemporary art museum has yet to be built.

Previously, Dubai focused on museums dedicated to heritage and history. When Images Speak is the first art exhibition to be on display at the Etihad Museum since it opened in 2017.

“There was a need for a public art collection in Dubai,” says Rizzo. “We had this idea of ​​having a collection that reflects the spirit of the city, rather than the preferences of the individual collector. “

To do this, the initiative needed people who could monitor the provenance and significance of the works entering the collection.

“The first and most important thing we did was establish an independent committee that would verify the quality of the work,” said Rizzo. “It adds a layer of expert decision making.

“That’s what makes the difference between just showing something that is a private collection and showing something that is an organized selection. “

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The committee includes the exhibition curator Shabout, as well as: Muna Al Gurg, who works on the development projects of the Dubai Culture museum; Maryam Al Dabbagh, writer and researcher living in the United Arab Emirates; Murina Al Sayegh, independent curator; Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel; Catherine David, deputy director of the Musée national d’art moderne de Paris; and Venetia Porter, Curator of Islamic and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art at the British Museum.

Dubai Collection’s public-private partnership sets it apart from the approach of other emirates like Abu Dhabi, which has chosen to partner with major institutions such as the Louvre and the Guggenheim, which have been building their collections for years.

The Sharjah Art Foundation, founded by its president and director Hoor Al Qasimi in 2009, has built up its own collection, while the Sharjah Museums Authority has for years presented exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, photography and Islamic art.

So far, Dubai’s art scene has been largely supported by patrons, galleries and artist collectives, including Abdelmonem Alserkal, founder of Alserkal Avenue, which has housed a number of art galleries in Al Quoz industrial zone.

Alserkal is now part of the Dubai Collection steering committee, alongside Sheikha Latifa, Noura Al Kaabi, also Minister of Culture and Youth, Abdul Rahman Al Owais, also Minister of Health and Prevention, Mohammed Al Mur and Muna Al Gurg.

The launch of the Dubai Collection is a promising and experimental initiative, which gives Dubai Culture a greater role on the local art scene.

But a permanent art museum is not yet under construction.

“We’re not focusing on that right now. What we need to focus on now is making the works accessible to the public and launching a digital archive at the same time, ”said Rizzo.

“The collection is about art. As long as we are able to show it to the public to generate new learning and new research, we fulfill the duty of initiative. “

Updated: Nov 5, 2021, 8:02 AM

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