The Culturist Recommends - Art Season Special - March 2016

© Tanya Habjouqa - Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots


It's March, which means it's "art month" in Dubai where every gallery and cultural organisation in the city (plus Sharjah and Abu Dhabi) get into hyperdrive mode with lots of new exhibitions and events - as I referred to it a few years ago, a month of art and culture on steroids.

The core activities will happen during "Art Week" between 13th - 18th March 2016 because that's when the key art events take place, SIKKA 2016 (13-24 March)Design Days Dubai (14-18 March)Art Dubai (16-19 March), plus Galleries Night in Alserkal Avenue and Art Night at DIFC (both on 14 March). 

Additionally, exhibitons featuring renowned artists are opening in both Abu Dhabi and Sharjah around those dates, so it will be good to drive south to Abu Dhabi and north to Sharjah if you want a break from Dubai.

But the good news is even if you can't see everything during "Art Week", the exhibitions across town will remain open for a month or more.

It is an exciting time of the year, especially to the people within the art community but also to anyone that isn't very familiar to the art scene. There is a special buzz in the air and you get to meet lots of artists, meet old friends or make new ones because of the number of people visiting that week.

Personally, I'm suffering from 'art season' fatigue and will most likely visit a lot of the exhibitions after things calm down, but whether you already have several art seasons up your sleeve or ready to experience your first one, I say do go out, make time to attend talks and performances that you won't normally get to attend and save the gallery visits when things calm down after "Art Week".

Here art my top 15 recommendations of exhibitions, talks and events in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah you should visit this month. But also be aware there are many things happening (lots within the same vicinty), so do be curious and try to experience as much as you can. Everything is listed in Do keep in mind, many of these exhibitions will be on till next month, so don't feel obliged to attend every opening.

Wherever you go or whatever you see, hope you enjoy the art season this month.




If I Leave, Where Will I Go - Leila Alaoui, Tanya Habjouqa and Omar Imam
Gallery: East Wing (Dubai)
10th March – 7th April 2016 


© Leila Alaoui - Crossing (video still)


© Tanya Habjouqa - Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots

© Omar Imam - Live, Love, Refugee “There was only grass, but I couldn't pass it through my throat. Yet I forced myself to swallow in front of the children so they would accept it as food”

Throughout history, for many cultures migration has been an essential fact of life. The reasons people choose to migrate are varied and almost always complex. Some people move to new countries to improve their economic situation, or pursue better education. Others leave to escape human rights abuses; torture, persecution, armed conflict, extreme poverty and ultimately, death.
War reporting tends to focus on the devastation of landscapes and casualties of battle; it’s harder to visualize stories of resulting psychological effects on those who escape such conflict and devastation. In response to these pressing global issues and the devastating effects they leave in their wake on vast populations and cultures, East Wing presents, "If I Leave, Where Will I Go", a group exhibition of photography and video installation featuring the work of Leila Alaoui, Tanya Habjouqa and Omar Imam- three award-winning artists who use their unique humanistic perspectives to reflect on preservation amidst conflict.

Read more here.

"If I Leave, Where Will I Go" is dedicated to the memory of Leila Alaoui, who was tragically killed while on assignment for Amnesty International in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in January 2016


2. Vertical Volume - Yasuaki Onishi
Gallery: The Mine (Dubai)
Dates: 14th March – 30th April 2016

Vertical Volume is Yasuaki Onishi’s second solo exhibition in the UAE. Presenting Onishi’s new body of work "vertical volume" a room-size installation in which volumes of cylindrical bags expand and contract with vertical motion, creating a vertiginous sensation of negative space through movement.

Read more here.


3. Phantom Limb - Diana Al-Hadid
Gallery: NYUAD Art Gallery (Abu Dhabi)
Dates: 6th March - 28th May 2016


Phantom Limb, 2014. Steel, polymer gypsum, fiberglass, foam, wood, plaster, metal mesh, aluminum foil, pigment. 269.2 × 350.5 × 363.2 cm (106 × 138 × 143 inches) | Photo: Markus Wörgötter. Courtesy the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery © New York.

Diana Al-Hadid’s works transforms Renaissance and classical imagery into contemporary sculptural forms that appear to be decaying or resurfacing, often in a cascade of white, melting gypsum. Her towering sculptures, spectral wall pieces, and surreal bronzes will fill the 7,000 square foot gallery.

The exhibition takes its title from a central work, Phantom Limb, a term referring to the sensations that a missing arm or leg is still present, and able to move. The title captures the character of much of Al-Hadid’s work, which evokes memory and long cultural history through a visceral, materially-focused working technique. The theme of memory and its physical manifestations in art and architecture runs throughout Al-Hadid’s work.

Read more here.


4. Charisma of the Book - Doug Beube, Irma Boom and Brian Dettmer
Gallery: NYUAD Arts Center Project Space (Abu Dhabi)
Dates: 10th - 19th March 2016


Doug Beube - Zipper Theory: Facing Shame Tomorrow, 2005/10 Altered books, collage, zippers, 12 × 24 × 1/2 inches, Image courtesy of JHB Gallery, New York, NY

Doug Beube and Brian Dettmer create artworks through a transformation of often used or discarded books. At turns these sculptural works isolate, alter, expand and repurpose elements of the source material, but the works’ engagement with the idea of the book transcends the mere fact of their composition.
Book designer and editor Irma Boom allows visitors to explore the nature of the printed book itself. Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to handle several editions from Boom’s oeuvre, innovative and engaging works which reflect the ever-evolving role of the book in the age of digital dissemination of information. For Boom, in the face of an allegedly growing popular preference for web-based information, bookmaking is an opportunity to reaffirm the value of the book through conscious and effective design.

Read more here.


5. Farideh Lashai
Venue: Sharjah Art Foundation, Bait Al Serkal (Sharjah)
Dates: 12th March - 12th June 2016

Farideh Lashai, El Âmal, 2011-2012, projected animation with sound, oil and graphite on canvas, 188 x 189.2 cm, Sharjah Art Foundation Collection. Photo courtesy of Edward Tyler Nahme Fine Art

This retrospective exhibition will include painting and moving image works by the late Iranian artist Farideh Lashai.


Born in 1944 in Rasht, Iran, Lashai's stop motion animation works often reference iconic works of art, literature and film while commenting on political and social conditions in Iran. A student of German literature at the University of Frankfurt she is also known as a writer and translator, particularly of work by the German playwright Bertolt Brecht.


6. Two Suns in a Sunset - Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
Venue: Sharjah Art Foundation, Building J and P, SAF Art Spaces (Sharjah)
Dates: 12th March - 12th June 2016

The Lebanese Rocket Society, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, 2012, film still.

This major exhibition of work by Lebanese artists and filmmakers Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige offers an insight into the ensemble of their artistic and cinematic projects from the late 1990s to the present day and includes new commissions. This exhibition is a collaboration with Jeu de Paume, Paris; Haus der Kunst, Munich; and IVAM, Valencia.


7. Simone Fattal
Venue: Sharjah Art Foundation, Building F, SAF Art Spaces  (Sharjah)

Dates: 12th March - 12th June 2016


Simone Fattal, untitled, 2012, clay, 35 cm diameter each. Courtesy of the artist.

This solo exhibition features recent works by Simone Fattal including sculpture, simple non-figurative ceramic forms and works based in textual compositions, collage as well as paintings.

Read more here.


8. Time is Out of Joint
Venue: Sharjah Art Foundation, Building GH and I, SAF Art Spaces  (Sharjah)
Dates: 12th March - 12th June 2016 


Ali Cherri, The Disquiet, 2013, courtesy of the artist and Imane Farès

Building on Ibn Arabi's concept of time as a fluid place and place as a frozen time, the project examines our current and future locations and conditions. It confuses different times, places, cities and artistic events that took place in the past or will take time in the future. The Time is Out of Joint reenacts two key exhibitions that took place at transitional moments in history and completes them with a look into the future.
It summons "the first Arab Artist Biennial" in Baghdad in 1974, "China Avant-garde Exhibition" in Beijing in 1989 and the future "Jogja Equater Conference" in 2022, questioning constraints of time and place by suggesting leaps among those different places and times, and among basic laws that have governed and continue to govern thoughts.
The project invites the audience to engage with three platforms; an exhibition, which includes video works, installations and photography; a reading room with a discursive programme that hosts performances, artist talks, and an archive; and a one day conference titled Jogja Equator Conference 2022.

Schedule of events can be found here.


9. Home Ground
Gallery: Barjeel Art Foundation, Maraya Art Centre (Sharjah)
Dates: 25th February - 1st September 2016


Manal Al Dowayan - Suspended Together – Standing Doves

The connection one feels to place is an abstract notion, often spoken of in terms of memories, habits, rituals, and experiences. It is elusive, yet always present. Home Ground addresses the struggles associated with navigating geo-political barriers, and explores ways in which identity is shaped by one’s relationship with a particular geography.
The works presented in this exhibition have relevance beyond their individual contexts, touching upon themes and experiences that resonate on a global scale.

Read more here.


10. Al Haraka Baraka: In Movement There is Blessing 
Gallery: Maraya Art Centre (Sharjah)
Dates: 25th February - 30th April 2016

Alaa Edris Al Haraka Baraka.jpg

Alaa Edris - Reem Dream 02, 2015

Al Haraka Baraka: In Movement There is Blessingexplores the rich mix of cultures that have long existed in the U.A.E. and the influence of these cultural migrations. Transitions in geographies and nationalities leave their traces in family names, local dishes, customs, costumes, music, dance and cultural practices.

Read more here.


Talks / Symposiums / Performances  

11. March Meeting Programme - performances, screenings, readings
Venue: Sharjah Art Foundation
Dates: 11th – 15th March 


Events will include performances by artists Uriel Barthélémy and Taro Shinoda who will present "Lunar Reflection Transmission Technique", a collaborative performance in the Sharjah Desert, developed from conversations during Sharjah Biennial 12. Plus, launch of the exhibition book co-edited by Ala Younis, a series of performances, film screenings, artist talks, presentations and discussions.

Full line up of events can be found here.


12. March Meeting 2016: Education, Engagement and Participation
Venue: Sharjah Art Foundation
Dates: 12th - 13th March 2016

March Meeting 2016 (MM 2016) will consider how institutions, initiatives, curators and artists have increasingly prioritised their relationships with audiences and communities through current thinking around ideas of education, engagement and participation.
Rather than presume these terms have prescribed meanings or operate according to rehearsed protocols and practices, MM 2016 emerges from a number of basic questions that attempt to break from routine and examine other points of departure.

Read more here.


13. Global Art Forum 10 at Art Dubai
Venue: Fort Island, Madinat Jumeirah (Dubai)
Dates: 16th - 18th March 2016


© Abu Dhabi Media - Alittihad Newspaper

This year's forum will address the them, "The Future Was". The sessions will include presentations, coversations and performances.

Line up of participants and schedule can be found here.


14. The Wedding Project at Art Dubai
Dates: 16th - 18th March 2016
Venue: Mina a’Salam Hotel (Dubai)

Delfina Foundation brings together several elements of its popular dinner performances with site-specific commissions and interventions by artists.
The project playfully unfolds in two interconnected rooms in the Mina a’Salam Hotel that are typically used as venues for executive meals, business conferences and weddings. Taking these formats as a starting point, Delfina Foundation has curated a pop-up bar and banquet hall that mixes continuous offerings of food and drink with seated, time-based performative meals.
The performative meals take place on Wednesday 16th, Thursday 17th and Friday 18th March at 8.00pm during Art Dubai. To reserve a seat contact Sara Masinaei,

More information here


15. Film screenings at Art Dubai
Dates: 16th - 19th March 2016
Venue: Madinat Jumeriah (Dubai)


A selection of  video and film by and about artists will be screened thourghout the fair. Line up of films and artists can be found here.


Complete list of exibitions and events for the month of March can be found at


Disclosure: I am one of the artists taking part in Al Haraka Baraka: In Movement There is Blessing exhibition and I am also one of the artists contributing to The Wedding Project.