Artistic Unity: Art in the UAE: Interview with Andakulova Gallery’s Natalya Andakulova

This article appeared in The Artistic Unity Issue #67 which was dedicated to the art scene in the UAE in which we unravel the threads of unity by exploring the perspectives of various stakeholders within the UAE’s art community. Through insightful interviews with galleries, art institutions, and auction houses, a vivid mosaic emerged, depicting how unity has been woven into the fabric of the art scene

Can you share your journey into bringing art to the UAE? How did it start, what inspired you to do so and what were the challenges?

Art is my passion. I established Andakulova Gallery in Dubai in 2012. Its objective is to promote Central Asia’s Contemporary visual arts. It serves as a platform to exhibit and support emerging to mid-market contemporary artists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan across a variety of media, with a special focus on Uzbekistan. My goal is to cultivate a dialogue between Central Asia and the Middle East by positioning the art of Central Asia into the artistic hub of the Middle East. My collection includes an eclectic mix of Modern and Contemporary artworks. For the past 11 years, I have joined more than 50 exhibitions and participated in numerous arts events both in and outside the UAE. The UAE, particularly Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has made significant efforts in recent years to establish itself as a global hub for art and culture. These efforts are driven by a combination of factors, including a desire to diversify the economy, attract tourism and foster cultural exchange.
The UAE has invested heavily in creating cultural districts and landmark institutions. Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi is home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed as a universal museum that brings together art and artefacts from around the world.
Every month I conduct an art lecture and art course about Modern and Contemporary art. My aim is to promote and cultivate art dialogue between Central Asia and the Middle East and to educate the audience about the most influential museums, art spaces and cultural centres. Dubai has become a major centre for the art market in the Middle East. It hosts prestigious art fairs like Art Dubai and Dubai Design Week, and the UAE government has been supportive of local talent, offering grants and residency programmes for artists.

Timur D’vatz, Reawakening, installation view at Andakullova Gallery. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery.
Timur D’vatz, Reawakening, installation view at Andakullova Gallery. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery.

Which artists were the primary focus of your efforts? Did your choice change over time?

Andakulova Gallery is focusing on promoting Central Asian artists in the UAE market as it is the primary objective of the gallery for the next few years. Andakulova Gallery is strategically located in Dubai International Financial Centre and has been successfully operating in the market for over 12 years. This is very important since there are other galleries in the world which showcase Central Asian art, but there is no gallery like this in the region. It is the flagship which breaks the ice for others to follow.
In the first few years, it focused mainly on Uzbekistan, since its owner hails from there. This year, it has turned to other ‘Stans’, to show a whole range of Contemporary art practices from Central Asia. Educational programmes at the gallery discuss various aspects of Islamic art.
Film screenings, art residencies where Central Asian artists are invited by the gallery to stay in the UAE for a month (their works are exhibited later in prestigious art spaces), participation in art fairs like Art 14, London (2014), World Art, Dubai (2014, 2015) and Tashkent Biennial 2016, where the works of 15 Emirati artists were exhibited, are counted as among its highlights. The gallery also sponsored the production of art works at Tashkent.
Andakulova Gallery works with local businesses, develops their art base, invites people to display Central Asian art in their offices and also educates the local public about the importance and role of Central Asian art in the region. We work closely with local collectors, advising, cataloguing and organising their collections. We want to help set up enduring ties between the Middle East and Central Asia. It will be the coming together of the Silk Road and the Pearl Coast. Also supporting art education programmes, schools and institutions that aim to develop artistic talent and provide opportunities for art education.
I would like to highlight Saule Suleimenova, who is working mostly with used plastic bags, Almagul Menlibayeva, whose artworks are now at MOMA Museum Los Angeles, Bakhodir Jalal, Dilyara Kaipova, Said Atabekov, Timur D’Vatz and Timur Akhmedov.

Timur D’Vatz is an artist bestowed with unique talent and knowledge. He is inspired by ancient history, medieval tapestries and Celtic mythology. The element of the hunt is a deeply symbolic one. There are no strings attached. The red horse personifies a desire to know. Timur Akhmedov has achieved national and international recognition. His artworks are highly sought after and grace private collections of serious art collectors and investors globally. His compositions are symbolic, yet almost fairy-tale-like, with content that stirs emotions and intrigue. Timur’s work most often displays a fascinating mix of his own dreams – he depicts the world and people in a surreal, dream-like way, often representing himself and others as majestic characters within a story.

Javlon Umarbekov is known as the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan, an active member of the Academy of Arts of the Republic, a full member of the Academy of Arts of Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, and a professor of the National Institute of Arts and Design named after K. Behzad, the legendary founder of the Herat miniature school.
Bakhodir Jalal received the highest awards for the reinvigoration of the mural genre, winning the USSR State Prize in 1984 and the Uzbekistan State Prize in 1991. In terms of style, his monumental murals draw from disparate sources such as Renaissance art, European Modern masters, Mexican muralists and frescoes of the ancient site of Afrasiab in Samarkand. Said Atabekov has been acknowledged internationally for his mix of ethnographic signs, recollections of the Russian avant-garde and post–Soviet global interferences. His photographic works are powerful: black and white, taken from an inclined angle, oblique vanishing points, zenithal shots, close-ups from below, and continuous references to Max Penson’s Uzbek photo reportage and Rodčenko’s time-space discontinuity.
Dilyara Kaipova turns to a special traditional ikat technique, creating unique robes, with the inclusion of symbols of her culture. Since 2019, the artist’s works have been purchased by 10 museums around the world, including Tbilisi State Silk Museum, Textile Museum in Georgetown, DC; Royal Ontario Museum,

Canada; Rhode Island School of Art Museum Design, Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Mack Museum and City Museum, Amsterdam. Almagul Menlibaeva became a worldwide known artist by participating in four biennales in Venice, and exhibitions in Milan, Gwangju, Berlin, Paris, London, Mumbai, Amsterdam, Sydney, Turin and Sharjah. Her style is recognisable, with originality of thought, compositional solutions, energy and colour. In her new artworks, Almagul’s use of digital photography techniques and print techniques creates bold metaphors for environmental, and social problems and the influence of technologies.

Timur D’vatz, Reawakening, installation view at Andakullova Gallery. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery.
Timur D’vatz, Reawakening, installation view at Andakullova Gallery. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery.

Could you outline the key elements of your gallery programme and how it evolved?

Andakulova Gallery regularly hosts exhibitions featuring the work of various artists. These exhibitions can include solo shows, group exhibitions and thematic displays. Over time, the focus of these exhibitions reflects changing art movements, trends or the gallery’s curatorial vision. Nowadays, we exhibit artists who work with different mediums: textiles, used plastic, etc. Andakulova Gallery provides authentic and original artworks by famous Central Asian artists including paintings, drawings, photo and video installations, and sculptures. Art acquisition services include sourcing and acquisition of specific art pieces for collectors and institutions at preferential dealer prices from authorised sources. We host art lectures and symposiums, conducting art lectures and art classes on specific art topics and genres for institutions and organisations.
Art advisory and consultancy services are for individuals and institutions who are either looking to start an art collection or for streamlining and expanding their existing collections.
The gallery often includes educational components such as artist talks, workshops and guided tours to engage with the public and provide deeper insights into the art on display. This programming can evolve by featuring new artists and topics.
Andakulova Gallery engages by collaborating with local schools, hosting community events, or partnering with non-profit organisations to support various causes through art-related activities.
Collaborations with other galleries, institutions, or international partners can become a key part of a gallery’s programming as it seeks to broaden its reach and offer unique experiences. Recently we had two very interesting exhibitions at Me Dubai by Zaha Hadid and Foundry Downtown.

Timur D’vatz, Reawakening, installation view at Andakullova Gallery. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery.
Timur D’vatz, Reawakening, installation view at Andakullova Gallery. Courtesy of Andakulova Gallery.

In what ways has this endeavour played a role in nurturing the art scene in the UAE?

In my point of view, there are lots of benefits to having an art gallery in the UAE. We have international art lovers here. Andakulova Gallery supports emerging artists to establish themselves in the art world. Soon we will host an exhibition of young artists from Karakalpakstan. Hosting exhibitions of art from various regions and cultures encourages dialogue, understanding and appreciation of art from around the world. Gallery programmes often include educational components, such as workshops, artist talks, and guided tours.
Many gallery programmes actively engage with the local community through events, outreach, and educational programmes. These initiatives help bring art to a wider audience, including international brands, schools, families and underserved communities. By providing a space for artistic expression and experimentation, gallery programmes contribute to the fostering of creativity. We encourage artists to push boundaries and explore new ideas and techniques.
Art has become a key driver for cultural tourism in the UAE. People from around the world visit the country to experience its vibrant art and cultural scene, boosting the tourism industry.

Can you provide an overview of the current state of the art scene in the UAE?

The art scene in the UAE reflects its ambition to be a global centre for creativity, culture and artistic expression. Dubai, in particular, has established itself as a major centre for contemporary art in the Middle East. The city is home to numerous art galleries, both commercial and non-profit, showcasing a diverse range of Contemporary and Modern art.
Dubai hosts Art Dubai, one of the leading art fairs in the Middle East. The fair attracts galleries, artists, and collectors from around the world, making it a hub for art commerce and exchange.
The UAE has invested in art education and institutions like the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI), which provides world-class education in design and innovation. The UAE has been actively supporting and promoting local artistic talent through grants, residency programmes and exhibitions. This support for local artists has helped the emergence of a vibrant art scene. There’s a growing emphasis on public art initiatives, with various sculptures, murals, and installations enriching the public spaces in the UAE. Cultural districts, like Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, continue to evolve and expand with the development of new cultural institutions and projects. The art and culture scene in the UAE has contributed significantly to cultural tourism, attracting visitors from around the world.

What are your expectations regarding the evolution of the art scene in the UAE over the next two decades?

The future of the art scene in the UAE will be shaped by the collective efforts of artists, institutions, government bodies and the broader art community, as well as by the evolving cultural and economic landscape.
The UAE has shown a commitment to the arts, and it is likely that the art scene will continue to grow and evolve, with the development of new cultural institutions, galleries and cultural districts. The position as a global crossroads and its ability to attract international artists, collectors and tourists suggest that the art scene will remain internationally connected. Supporting and promoting local artists is likely to continue, fostering the emergence of a strong and distinctive local art scene.
Advancements in technology and digital art will likely play a significant role in the art scene’s evolution, with more artists exploring digital media and interactive art forms. The UAE’s focus on cultural exchange is likely to grow, with more collaborations and partnerships with international cultural institutions and artists. The art scene is likely to become even more diverse, encompassing a wide range of art forms and expressions, including performing arts, new media art and interdisciplinary works.
The UAE’s art scene has shown a willingness to innovate and experiment. This is likely to continue as artists push boundaries and explore new ideas. The growth of art education and institutions is expected to continue, nurturing the next generation of artists and creative professionals. The art scene’s contribution to cultural tourism is likely to increase as the UAE becomes an even more attractive destination for art and culture enthusiasts. And I hope that Andakulova Gallery also brings cultural impact to the UAE.

About Natalya Andakulova

Natalya Andakulove Founder of Andakulova Gallery, has been a driving force in promoting Central Asia’s Contemporary Visual Arts in the UAE.

Natalya Andakulova, Art historian, founder of Andakulova Gallery.
Natalya Andakulova, Art historian, founder of Andakulova Gallery.



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