Hoda Tawakol, When The Dates Turn Red, installation view, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

Somewhere along the line, November snuck up upon the art crowd in Dubai. Now, it rivals March in terms of the numbers of people visiting the UAE for the art – and the quality of the exhibitions reflects just that.

Take for instance, Custot Gallery. For the winter season they are hosting the first-ever regional exhibition of the work of Fernando Botero. The Colombian master known for his use of rounded perspective and exaggerated volume fills the giant Alserkal Avenue gallery with a retrospective of still-life works dating back to 1981. It was a bold move by the gallery to focus only on his still life pieces but it works, and Botero’s talent as well as his dedication to his form, is brought to the fore in this stunning show.

Fernando Botero, Picnic, 2002, oil on canvas, Courtesy Custot Gallery Dubai and the artist
Fernando Botero, Picnic, 2002, oil on canvas, Courtesy Custot Gallery Dubai and the artist

Over at The Third Line, the third and final chapter of Ala Ebtekar’s solo exhibition trilogy plays out. The title of the exhibition, Safina, translates into a transportation vessel, but also refers to an oblong-shaped manuscript, and he uses it to explore the relationship between time and space. The centrepiece of the exhibition is an asymmetrical heptagonal platform that houses a suite of safinas – newly produced artist books, and never-before-seen reclaimed materials. Upstairs, Egyptian artist Huda Lutfi’s latest solo exhibition presents a departure in her practice as she experiments, for the first time, with minimalist and calligraphic abstraction.

Ala Ebtekar, Safina, 2018, Installation view at the Third Line Gallery
Ala Ebtekar, Safina, 2018, Installation view at the Third Line Gallery

In the non-profit Jean Paul Najar Foundation, The Monochrome Revisited explores the history and evolution of the monochrome. The exhibition begins by inviting audiences to question the origin of monochrome as well as how contemporary artists today still engage with the art form to address contemporary issues.

It is not a direct comparison, but the exhibition at Showcase Gallery also appears to embrace singular tones. The primary influences of Simon Back’s work are drawn from his childhood environment in the Zimbabwean countryside, but he produces abstract work that uses an earthy and archaeological language that reveals itself slowly and with limited use of colour.

LORES Ana Mazzei, Hypnosis I-II, 2018, Painted Wood (Chene Oak, Acajou and Plywood), 102 x 37 x 20 cm (I), 85 x 80 x 20 cm (II). Courtesy of the artist and Green Art Gallery, Dubai. Photo by Sebastiano Pelli
LORES Ana Mazzei, Hypnosis I-II, 2018, Painted Wood (Chene Oak, Acajou and Plywood), 102 x 37 x 20 cm (I), 85 x 80 x 20 cm (II). Courtesy of the artist and Green Art Gallery, Dubai. Photo by Sebastiano Pelli

Cuadro’s solo exhibition by Amer Ismail is rendered fully in turquoise blue – another form of monotone. Ismail is a New-York based, Malaysian-born architect turned artist. His work is a form of meditation, for which he makes ink marks on paper over a slow period of time to create abstract musings in interesting shapes. Another meditation on shape, but this time in sculptural form, can be seen at Green Art Gallery. Brazilian artist Ana Mazzei works with notions of theatrical staging and spectatorship to present a new body of works specifically created for the space. Titled Antechamber, the show includes pieces such as several ceramic and fabric puppetry characters and wooden sculptures combining sinuous curves and straight lines.

Installation view of When the Dates Turn Red by Hoda Tawakol at Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde
Installation view of When the Dates Turn Red by Hoda Tawakol at Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde

Lastly, Hoda Tawakol’s When the Dates Turn Red at Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde examines the palm tree on both a symbolic and practical level, as well as under the umbrella of feminist debate. Her stuffed, soft-sculptural, wall-based works bring in notions of control and autonomy interlaced with personal memory and belonging.


A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Sanctuaries #47

Anna Seaman
Anna Seaman

Through a piece of visual art you can learn about history, politics, religion, love, science, music and a whole host of other subjects including personal stories. For Anna Seaman, as a writer, it is a joy and a passion to set herself the challenge of writing about visual art and the messages that artists wish to convey through their work. Currently, Anna runs her own online portal featuring art-related news, reviews and features (annaseaman.com) and prior to that she was the visual arts writer at The National newspaper, whose headquarters are in Abu Dhabi. Anna is from the UK and has been living in the Middle East for 10 years.

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