Urban Art Flourishes in Dubai’s Dusty Industrial Zone

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Martina Fuchs and Shaheen Pasha

DUBAI, May 5 (Reuters) – A dusty industrial zone in flashy Dubai has become an unlikely home for a flourishing underground art scene that has grown even as the emirate’s fortunes declined, curbing appetites for extravagant pieces.

Al Quoz, home to stark warehouses and a huge cement factory in the shadow of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is a far cry from the glitz and glamour that has come to be associated with Dubai.

“It’s raw. It’s a clean plate that we can work on. This is a growing cultural hub, a warehouse district where the ceilings are high and rents are low,” said Rami Farook, founder of the Traffic gallery, where Emirati, Iranian and Saudi artists show works ranging from graffiti art to blaring video installations.

That’s a far cry from the art scene just a couple of years ago, when upscale galleries hosted champagne-fuelled purchases that reflected big money and status, like the Maseratis and Bentleys cruising along the emirate’s palm-lined streets.

Now, affordability and artistic message seem to carry more weight, and the seemingly underground vibe is drawing in a different crowd.

At Etemad Gallery, a former furniture warehouse in Al Quoz, a beige wax sculpture of a human torso riddled with bullets and shells stands in the shadows. Nearby is a series comparing the iris of the human eye to constellations of dying stars.

“There is a growing confidence in local contemporary artists and also an increase in interest in women artists from the region,” said Rory Miller, director of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at Kings College in London.

“Following the economic downturn which hit Dubai hard, there is a move, especially among the younger age group, to look to art that is grittier, more relevant and reflective of their own lives and recent experiences.”

Art houses have taken note of shifting local tastes, even as the higher end of the art market sees signs of a rebound on the back of Dubai’s economic recovery.

“We included a lot more younger artists who are more affordable because we want to increase the depth of participation,” said Michael Jeha, managing director of auction house Christie’s Middle East, which recently held a sale focusing on contemporary artists from Saudi Arabia and Iran.

A number of the pieces sold for less than $10,000, Jeha said, with others available for between $2,000 and $3,000.

All of the works in the Traffic gallery priced between $1,000 and $3,000 sold out. “This made me realize that people in Dubai had this passion for the alternative,” said Traffic’s Farook. “This is the niche I am trying to tap into.”

Raj Sehgal, managing director at Credit Suisse Private Banking in the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, said some of his clients were looking for investments that could deliver future returns.

“A trend that is quite evident among many of our clients in Dubai is that they have started buying street art due to its appreciation value over time,” Sehgal said.

The political and social upheaval sweeping across the Arab role also appears to be playing a role in the renewed interest in more affordable and urban art.

At Art Dubai, the emirate’s annual contemporary art fair, a number of politically-themed pieces were on display, including one painting that portrayed ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s using icons from Facebook, the social networking site that played a role in uniting street protesters against him.

“Possessing a piece of art because of a certain name or status is holding little relevance,” said Omer Alvie, creative director at Villa No. 6, which showcases emerging artists from Pakistan and arranges exhibitions of alternative art in Dubai.

“Now collectors are interested in the theme of the piece and what the artist is saying. It’s a record of history.”

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

13-21

Don’t Relax Your Islam

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

“O ye Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the garden, stripping them of their raiment, to expose their shame: for he and his tribe see you from a position where ye cannot see them. We made the Satans friends (only to those without faith.” 7:27

One of the pitfalls of the glitz and glamour of the modern world is it has a very strong magnetic effect on the young (and sometimes not-so-young). Much of the TV, movies, and music we experience today have messages that downplay good healthy wholesome living.
Sometimes when I haven’t seen a person at the masjid in a long time, I will run into them at a festival, parade, ball game, golf course, or some other recreational outlet. And many times when I see them they will be with a non-Muslim companion and not dressed exactly as they were the last time I saw them at the mosque. This is much more common in the African-America community, because assimilation in the local culture is much easier than it is for immigrant Muslims.
Many of our young people, indigenous and immigrant, feel that Islam and living an Islamic life means you can’t have fun. They feel that Islam is too restrictive and prevents you from living a full life. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. And I’m not speaking from the perspective of an older person. I’m speaking from the perspective of the Qur’an.
ALLAH only forbids us those things that are harmful to ourselves and/or the society. A few examples of what I mean:
We are forbidden to eat pork and other unclean meats. This is self explanatory if you think about it. Pork is known to cause high blood pressure and clogged arteries, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. It also harbors worms.
Adultery and fornication cause breakups in the family, which ultimately weaken the society. Alcohol and intoxicants cause warped and unstable thinking. Gambling leads to lying and theft after the inevitable losses you will incur.
These are a few of the prohibited things. There are many more activities that are permitted by ALLAH. You don’t need to stay away from the masjid to go to a movie. Just try to see decent movies. If your culture allows you to listen to music, make sure that the music you choose is not the rotgut, vulgar stuff put out by Shaitan.
As an imam and counselor, I get great many people seeking help for problems that can, for the most part, be solved by regular attendance and participation at the masjid. When you are around Muslims, your behavior automatically is going to be more Islamic. You will be encouraged to pay the zakat and attend Friday prayers. We need each other. Steel sharpens steel and man sharpens man.
On the other hand, we must be constantly aware of the presence and plan of Satan and know that “he can watch you while you are unaware.” When you are around non-Muslims, your behavior will likely be like those you are around. You will “relax” into an inferior culture, which will bring you down to a lower level.
Be Muslim ALL the time. Your life will be less stressful, more peaceful, and a greater asset to the community………And your Lord will be pleased with you.