Dubai Come March and Dubai turns into one big canvas. Whether it’s the signature Art Week blitzkrieg at Madinat Jumeirah, the Sikka Art Fair in the old Al Fahidi neighbourhood or the umpteen exhibitions, artist commissions and pop-ups at other cultural hubs in town, it’s a mega carnival that ensures there is something for everyone. This year’s Art Dubai, the most global edition to date, features hundreds of artists from 94 galleries, including 27 first-timers, from 43 countries. Clearly, it doesn’t get better or bigger than this.
The works on display are of a high calibre. An installation by Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum from London is perhaps sample enough to drive home the point.
Readying the glitzy installation for a media preview on Tuesday, the 40-year-old Begum is completely at ease. Her masterpiece - multi-coloured glass panels erected on a white base along a picturesque canal at Madinat - is striking. It had better be, it is a $100,000 commissioned work of the coveted Abraaj Group Art Prize 2017.
Nine metres wide, 10.4 metres long and 1.2 metres high, the installation was fabricated in the UK and shipped to Dubai a few days ago.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t have a name. “It only carries a number.: No.695 Abraaj 2016-17. I don’t give my works any titles or descriptions. Viewers should experience art in their own way and take what they want from it, rather than be dictated to,” explains Begum.
But from her own point of view, there’s a lot to it.
“The installation focuses on the interplay between light and two colours – green and red, orange and blue and grey and yellow,” she says, highlighting the ever-changing reflections on the glass panels.
“Overlapping, transparent coloured planes interact and create a third layer of colour and geometry. The movement of natural light activates the composition and unites the whole piece,” she adds.
Besides No.695, Begum’s other works are being exhibited at Art Week along with other shortlisted artists Doa Aly, Sarah Abu Abdallah and Raha Raissnia.
“It’s important to understand that art works are not about shouting out for attention, but the impact they can have on someone’s life beyond a gallery, museum or exhibition,” says Begum, who draws inspiration from urban landscapes like Dubai and the distilled repetition of geometric patterns.
Curator of the Abraaj Art Prize Omar Berrada who spoke at a press conference earlier puts it in perspective.
“Art gives sensory shape to reality which keeps seeping or escaping. So it is about catching reality.” In other words, artists work in a series marked by repetitions with variations.
Berrada has also launched a book called Seepage/Ritual, which amply demonstrates the purpose and patterns of the exhibiting artists.
For Begum, the high-profile recognition is a game-changer. “Prizes like these are incredibly important for struggling artists as they enable them to work on ambitious projects and make a mark,” she notes.