World Art Dubai: Women at the forefront
World Art Dubai’s seventh edition is back from April 7-10 at the World Trade Centre helmed by a trio of women art curators.
Leading the region’s most accessible and affordable retail art fair is a trio of women art curators. We catch up with the three, all of whom have the same message for young girls looking up to them: “You can do it. We are here for you, and we also hear you.”
Batool Jafri, artist, curator and art educator, has produced powerful and poignant work on the subject of the human mind and soul, while challenging historical and cultural prejudices that lead to the marginalisation of certain segments of society. Her body of work also draws on her experiences of growing up in a Muslim society. She draws the viewer to see beyond the veil and skin of her women and dig deeper and unearth the complex layers that make us. Her art has always been a journey of looking deeper into the human soul; it has been about looking beyond what is on the outside and trying to discover the soul that is lurking beneath the layers. “This year’s WAD collection again is a spotlight on that. The myriad colours and patterns depict the emotions, dreams and experiences of the subject in my artworks. The textures give you an idea of the personality and the challenges the person has seen and overcome. There will be elements of the gold in my work, inviting the audience to view this colour in different ways,” she shared.
A Pakistani artist, Batool was awarded the Emirates Woman of the Year 2018 in the Art & Culture category, and along with her role as an art mentor, she is on the panel of curators for World Art Dubai. “Arranging an interactive/on-site fair during a pandemic always has its challenges. But now is the time when it’s needed the most,” she added. The most obvious challenge as she pointed out was curating attractions that require participation. “We had countless meetings between all of us, managing teams, artists and curators, to make sure the essence of the attraction is not lost whilst all rules and regulations are adhered to,” she added. Batool has exhibited in over 35 solo, national and international art exhibitions across the world so far. Her artworks are included in the permanent collections of the Bursa Museum of Immigration History (Turkey), the Cross Borders Art Gallery (UAE) and in private collections around the world.
She lamented, “Since our fair is for both the local and international artists, and a great part of the exhibitors visit us from abroad, having travel situations change so frequently was challenging. Few of the countries from where we’ve always had strong participation had to miss this year’s event due to the travel policies becoming more restrictive.” She mentioned how in this edition she hopes to see works that are uplifting. “A theme I’d like artists to address would be the similarity of all humans i.e. the human spirit. I would also like artists to bring the viewers’ attention back to noticing the little things; the joy in simple things, simpler moments.”
“The fact that we are having a physical and interactive art fair allowing the audiences to experience the joy of all things beautiful again is the biggest positive. It is something that focuses on the beauty of the world and takes you away from it (pandemic) for a while,” she added.
Petra Kaltenbach, a German fine artist, video artist, graphic designer, energy healer and curator, moved to Dubai in 2004 when the transforming period of this city had just begun. “The process from the old into the new inspired me to select transformation as the core theme of my work.” She shares how in all these years she has experienced the magic of the UAE. “The authentic inner transformation allows humans to step out of the restricted psychological conditioning and mental structures into freedom, expansiveness and peace of the true nature.” Petra intertwines her art with technology and has also integrated her healing abilities into art to mediate positive energies to the viewer. In 2018, World Art Dubai honoured her as the best UAE-resident-artist, and she was sponsored for one year by Canon. Since 2019, she has been the curator of World Art Dubai, one of the biggest art shows in the Middle East. Her art is not only playful and profound but also transports transformative in unusual ways. She even collaborated with the fashion label Roxx Fashion, and we saw her works on a fashion line i.e. wearable art at WAD 2020. Her latest project is playing with high glossy, colourful and mirroring metal sheets, which will allow the motifs to transform into a new piece of art by mirroring different backgrounds and people.
On what it felt like arranging two editions of World Art Dubai during the pandemic, she says that the approach is to let people experience art, either by taking part in it or by watching the artists at work. “These art attractions bring people together; to act and to watch. As you can imagine the biggest challenge is to keep them apart from each other. So, of course, sanitising and social distancing would be the priority to keep the fair safe.” A few of the planned art attractions couldn’t take off because of Covid-19 and its resultant logistical issues due to safety concerns. “In addition, almost every staff or artist meeting has been a Zoom meeting or a phone call, which is okay; but sometimes, it is easier to meet up and work.”
The core theme for her works on display at the fair is transformation and for the last three years she’s been projecting her inner thoughts onto pomegranates, which she explains is a divine symbol of health, wealth and love, “the three mega powers of transformation.” Her artworks are a combination of print and paint, which are thematically divided into two sections. “The first talks about the total fragmentation, like how this pandemic is fragmenting everything and the second talks about flourishment and happy rebirths i.e. also pushed further by the pandemic,” she explains. The fragmentation is an abstract series on paper in combination with a slightly embossed UV Print, whilst the other series is on metal. She is a huge fan of shiny Christmas ornaments, which is what motivated her to work with metal sheets.
She concluded, “The positive outcome of the pandemic is a truly spacious hall concept for this edition. One can feel how grateful the artists and art lovers are to experience a bit of normality again. I can sense a lovely survival-spirit, which would translate into love at the show.”
Samar Kamel is an Egyptian artist, art curator and author known for works that examine cultural attitudes towards women and aim to transform stereotypes through vibrant depictions of the modern woman. Having acquired her curatorial certification from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Kamel has been the curator for World Art Dubai since 2019. She has also undertaken several curatorial projects in Egypt and the UAE, where she now lives and works. “The last edition of World Art Dubai in October 2020 was right after the lockdown and was considered a huge risk and challenge. WAD is an international exhibition, so in terms of putting attractions together, we suffered setbacks as the borders of a few countries were closed, plus some exhibitors pulled out last minute,” she recalls. Looking back, she says that in the 2020 edition the concept of ‘Art Unmasked’ stood out as it showcased the works done during the lockdown, documenting a period that would be remembered in history. “Last year, one of the greatest challenges was wondering what the response of the public in terms of attendance will be, yet despite all the challenges, the edition was a big success.”
In this edition, besides her popular Sufi collection, Samar would pay homage to the art masters, “Three of my paintings are inspired by Klimt, Magritte and Dali. I like working with mixed media and I have added a special medium in one of my paintings, which is tea bags,” she shared. With over 70 international art exhibitions and art fairs across the world to her credit, Kamel has exhibited in China, Oxford, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Tokyo, Oman, Egypt, the USA, Venice, Brazil, Belgium, and all over the UAE. Her work is also part of the permanent collection of the Bursa Museum of Immigration History, Turkey.
She shared how WAD always has new stuff to offer, so naturally, the seventh edition will be dazzling for a start. “We are back to being a four days exhibition and even though the shield of the vaccine being administered to the majority of the UAE residents exists, we will still apply the maximum safety measures as we did in our last edition. We are also back with new features and attractions.” Samar has also participated in the coveted Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art as an art facilitator. Her contributions to art and the community have been recognised by her nomination for the Emirates Woman of the Year 2018 prize (Art and Culture). She is represented by Gallery Saphira and Ventura in New York.
She concluded, “Through the two editions of World Art Dubai (2020 and 2021), we have managed to raise hope for a future during the fear of the pandemic. Also, through our last WAD edition, I can strongly say it was cemented that artists have a duty and a message and that they did not shy away from delivering even in a crisis.”
World Art Dubai 2021 - three things to look forward to
Emerging Artists Competition:
In partnership with Rove Hotels, under the theme ‘Rove freely’, this year’s challenge encourages artists to reflect on the pandemic and the ‘new normal’ in their submissions, while encompassing the essence of their community. First prize up for grabs is a stand at World Art Dubai 2022; while second prize is a three-month exhibition at a Rove Hotel property in Dubai, as well as an overnight stay inclusive of breakfast.
Photographers in the picture:
Keen photographers from across the UAE will once again have an outlet to demonstrate their talents in a competition titled ‘Stories Through Self Portrait’, which encourages photographers to give an honest and insightful look at themselves as artists. Run in partnership with Nikon, photographers must upload black and white photographs of themselves to Instagram using the hashtags #WADxNikonMEA, #WorldArtDubai, and #NikonMEA, and tagging @WorldArtDubai and @NikonMEA. The top ten finalists selected by Nikon and World Art Dubai will be displayed at a gallery at this year’s show, with the winner taking home a Nikon Z 50 digital camera.
What else is on:
World Art Dubai 2021 will also feature live painting sessions, digital art experiences, expert workshops and more. Get tickets online through www.worldartdubai.com