Jameel Arts Centre opens in Dubai
As the crowds of art world professionals gathered on Dubai’s Jaddaf Waterfront for the official opening of the Jameel Arts Centre, a pivotal moment in history for the UAE’s art scene played out. After Antonia Carver, the institution’s director, made her opening remarks, the many attendees began to explore the 10 gallery spaces spread across the vast 10,000-square-metre premises. The three-storey, low-rise building designed by UK-based Serie Architects houses several Artist’s Rooms, which for the opening few months will feature four solo exhibitions by Maha Malluh, Lala Rukh, Chiharu Shiota and Mounira Al Solh. As time goes on, these rooms will provide a series of rotating exhibitions that focus on a single artist represented in the Art Jameel Collection. It is a setup that allows, for the first time, an institutional and in-depth study of artists outside of a commercial setting.
Upstairs, spread across five galleries, a group exhibition, Crude, considers the complex theme of oil within both historic and contemporary contexts. Curated by Murtaza Vali, the show includes some photographs from the 1950s and 1960s by Iraqi photographer Latif Al Ani depicting the social, cultural and architectural changes brought on by newfound oil wealth, as well as Rayyane Tabet’s Steel Rings (The Shortest Distance Between Two Points), which delves into the history of the trans-Arabian pipeline that ran underground from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon.
After wandering through this vast and deeply researched exhibition, guests spilled out into the artificial botanical garden – actually an art commission – by Kuwaitis Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub, situated on the upper terrace and also down to the Creek-side patio, where the main social event of the evening was taking place.
Other than being Dubai’s first (and long-awaited) institution, the new centre will function as a museum space for Art Jameel’s significant collection, as well as, crucially, the collection of works commissioned by the Abraaj Group Art Prize over the past 10 years. It will “present dynamic, thought-provoking exhibitions, act as a hub for educational research initiatives and continue to engage in partnerships with local, regional and international artists, curators and organisations,” said Carver.
It also houses the UAE’s first open-access contemporary arts library and resource centre, which is filled with a comprehensive, bilingual collection of more than 2,000 books, journals, catalogues and theses and, outside on the waterfront, is the country’s first arts-themed public park, where exhibited works reflect on the themes of nature, atmosphere, transformation, immersion and geometry. They include installations by Emirati land artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, British sculptor David Nash, American sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld and Dubai-based artists Talin Hazbar and Latifa Saeed.
As the opening night drew to a close, the regional debut of Waterlicht, a public installation by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde threw waves of blue light over the tops of the audience’s heads. The art piece was created to signal a warning about rising sea levels, but in this context it felt like more of a beacon of announcement: Jameel Arts Centre is open and has arrived.