Selections preview some of this season’s most intriguing exhibitions in Dubai


Mea Culpa
Carbon 12
March 14 to May 1

Carbon12, Dubai, Ghazel, Phoenix #5 ,acrylic and ballpoint pen on Iranian world map, diptych, 70 × 100cm each, 2015

Carbon12, Dubai, Ghazel, Phoenix #5 ,acrylic and ballpoint pen on Iranian world map, diptych, 70 × 100cm each, 2015

Ghazel returns for a second solo show at Carbon 12. Curated by historian Valerie Behiery, it sets out to school a Dubai audience on reinterpreted geography. The Iranian artist, who left her home country for France in 1986 during the Iran-Iraq War, uses editions of world maps printed in Iran as a canvas, manipulating contexts, borders and order using ballpoint pen and acrylics. Significantly, Ghazel, who has not exhibited sculpture in nearly two decades, has returned to the medium in Mea Culpa. These three-dimensional works constructed from copper, aluminum and paper run in dialogue with the maps series.

There is an element of loaded playfulness to Ghazel’s cartography as she makes assumptions about power politics by fabricating new borders, denoting the far-reaching role of oil in conflict with a black as impenetrable as squid ink and charting the cost of human conflict in a jarring red. It can certainly be argued that Ghazel’s practice is a form of outsider art. From the trees with their wraith-like roots, to the houses and almost childlike hearts that permeate her maps, the pieces are the result of the experience of an artist who, having left Iran, never quite fits into her own ancestral context, yet also struggles to belong in France, where, as the news shows all too often, even long-time foreign transplants are often regarded with the suspicion of strangers.

Machine Hearts
Ayyam Gallery Alserkal Avenue
March 14 to May 30

Machine Hearts 15, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 140 × 137cm

Machine Hearts 15,
2015, acrylic on canvas, 140 × 137cm

Iraqi artist Athier continues his Man of War series at Ayyam, stuggling to understand the detachment of modern day warfare and to examine the shards of mechanical humanity present in the invisible hand that pushes a drone’s detonation button — typically from some sequestered military base thousands of kilometres away. The artist’s complex paintings deserve more than a cursory glance at an opening. These are the kind of works that could be viewed every morning for a year and still offer new detail to the careful observer.

The machines in his paintings comes across as living, breathing, dying beasts of war, formed as much from pipes and wires as tendons and veins. For those who delight in art history, it’s possible to find connections here to Max Ernst’s DaDa era collages from the 1920s, which also used cannibalised machinery to communicate a great despair at the way that futuristic technology had only resulted in human destruction after World War I. The exhibition title is a reference to Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 monologue in The Great Dictator, which was a continuation of this narrative. As usual, Athier doesn’t shy away from contemplating the most vulnerably painful, unresolvable debates of our times.

Ayyam Gallery DIFC
March 14 to May 28

Rashed al-Shashai, From the Skylight, 80 × 120 cm. Archival Print 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery

Rashed al-Shashai, From the Skylight, 80 × 120 cm. Archival Print 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery

Conceptual artist Rashed Al Shashai, who is a cornerstone figure in the emerging Saudi scene, revisits the Grand Mosque seizure of 1979, when Islamic extremists looking to overthrow the government overran Islam’s holiest site, the Masjid Al Haram in Mecca. Through photography and installations, the solo show probes the notion of spiritual salvation as it is cunningly advertised, morally warped and fed to underprivileged populations by militant groups.

The artist’s grandfather was praying in the Grand Mosque during the attack and managed to escape through a window shaped like a star. As a result, the traditional symbol of Islamic geometry appears in the show in the form of a cutout in a chain link fence that surrounds Mandasah, a now deserted village where most of Juhayman al Otaybi’s followers were killed by Saudi forces following the unsuccessful Mecca siege attempt.

Art Room Edition II
Collective Loft
March 9 to 31

Idress Hanif, When he left he did not say he will not come

Idress Hanif, When he left he did not say he will not come

Lovers of sleek industrial interiors who have wall space to spare and are looking to acquire original art at accessible prices, should visit Antidote’s Collective Loft. The Dubai-based art and design platform will stage a fictional collector’s loft inside an Al Quoz warehouse space. Visitors can walk through each room, taking in site-specific installations, design and contemporary art by 23 artists and designers from 11 countries.

Highlights include a series of surprising portraits by Pakistani conceptual artist Ibrahim Quraishi, Argentinean artist Martin Reyna’s large scale works on paper, and Idress Hanif’s When he left he did not say he would not come, an all-wood bicycle that blurs the lines between sculpture and functional design, maker and artist. Antidote co-founders Najeh Zimmerman and Laure Parise have lived and worked all over the world and have arranged the space to give fellow travel-obsessed Dubai collectors ideas for displaying art alongside treasures acquired on overseas jaunts without resulting in a space that resembles a souk.

As a global hub, Dubai often plays host to art from all over the world. However, it is still unusual to find a show that brings together such a diverse grouping of artists under a single curatorial vision. Visitors can call ahead to book personalised tours.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The One – on – One Issue #35, on page 38-41.