Artistic Unity: Art in the UAE: Interview with XVA Gallery’s Mona Hauser

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.

Rima Nasser: 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?

Time Out Feature, October 2008. Courtesy of XVA Gallery.

Mona Hauser: In 1993, I arrived in Dubai alongside my husband, Dr. Michael L. Hauser, who had taken on the role of a veterinarian for H.H. Sheikh Mohamed’s racehorses. He was to establish the Dubai Equine Hospital and Godolphin Racing Stable, and it was an exhilarating time for both of us. Prior to embarking on this adventure, my original plan had been to open an art gallery in the Miami area, but circumstances led me to envision my gallery in our new home, Dubai. Upon our arrival in this vibrant city, I asked to see its oldest district, Bastakiya, now known as Al Fahidi. It was there that I found inspiration to open my gallery within the captivating old windtower houses featuring central courtyards. However, life had other plans, and we welcomed our second daughter, causing me to put my gallery dreams on hold until our children left for boarding school in 2003.

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

MH: My primary aspiration was to create a gallery showcasing the artistic creations made in Dubai, delving into the city’s artistic underground. While Majlis Gallery and Green Art Gallery were already established, I aimed to collaborate with local artists at XVA Gallery. Over the years, as more artists arrived from various countries, I broadened the scope of art on display. In the early days, Dubai lacked university art classes, and students had to enrol in design courses. Art was gradually finding acceptance, and I took great pleasure in these early exhibitions featuring young artists with innovative practices. It has been immensely gratifying for me to encourage these artists, witnessing their unwavering passion and exceptional talent.

RN: Could you outline the key elements of your gallery programme and how it evolved? In what ways has this endeavour played a role in nurturing the art scene in the UAE?

Exhibition opening at XVA Gallery. Courtesy of XVA Gallery.

MH: From 1993 to 2023, the UAE’s art scene has experienced remarkable growth. Hosting art history classes at XVA has been a source of fascination and revelation, and I’m excited to continue this journey in November with Suheyla Takesh, curator of the Barjeel Foundation in Sharjah. This experience has opened my eyes to the early global influences that have enriched Middle Eastern art, a tradition that continues to evolve in all directions. Nonetheless, I do harbour concerns about the insufficient documentation of recent UAE Modern art history, perhaps attributed to my age and my devotion to preserving and maintaining XVA, housed in historical buildings. I am aware that the history of Al Fahidi’s houses and the families that once resided there is slowly fading with time, underlining the urgent need to collect these old stories.

RN: Can you provide an overview of the current state-of-the-art scene in the UAE? What are your expectations regarding its evolution over the next two decades?

MH: The past two decades have been a privilege to witness, and I have great hope that the next two decades will build upon the foundation we’ve laid. My aspiration is to see the establishment of a Dubai Museum of Art, which would fulfil our cultural responsibility and duty to introduce visitors to the remarkable artistic creations, art collections and Middle Eastern curated exhibitions.


About Mona Hauser

Embarking on a creative odyssey in 1993, Mona Hauser, founder of XVA Gallery, has played an integral role in shaping the UAE’s art landscape, fostering local talent while supporting the country’s cultural metamorphosis, from the heart of Dubai’s historic Al Fahidi district.

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