Art Jameel, the independent organisation that supports arts, education and heritage in the Middle East, today announces the much-anticipated inaugural programming for Jameel Arts Centre, an innovative cultural destination opening in Dubai on November 11, 2018. Designed as a 10,000-square metre, three-storey, multi-disciplinary space by UK-based Serie Architects, Jameel Arts Centre is the first non-governmental contemporary arts institution of its kind in the Gulf. Reflecting the institution’s commitment to dynamic programming that resonates with a diverse audience, Jameel Arts Centre launches with a series of four solo shows – Artist’s Rooms – by eminent artists from the Middle East and Asia, drawn in part from the Art Jameel Collection; a curated group exhibition, ‘Crude’, that considers the complex theme of oil within both historic and contemporary contexts; and a selection of large-scale installations and sculptural works, several newly commissioned for the Centre’s roof terrace and gardens.
Antonia Carver, Director of Art Jameel, explained, “After years of engaging with communities in the region and globally through heritage, educational and arts-related programming, we are excited to launch our first dedicated space, here in the United Arab Emirates. Jameel Arts Centre is set to not only expand the public’s engagement with our extensive collection and library, but also present museum-quality exhibitions in partnership with local, regional and global collaborators. Through new commissions of immersive works, a dedicated research space, and ongoing public programming for many communities of all ages, Jameel Arts Centre aims to be a truly innovative new cultural hub.”
Spread across five galleries and 500 square metres, the inaugural group exhibition – ‘Crude’ – brings together 17 artists and collectives from the region and beyond to explore oil as an agent of social, cultural and economic transformation across the region, as well as a driver of geo-political upheaval. Developed by Sharjah- and New York-based curator Murtaza Vali, ‘Crude’ considers some of the complex histories of oil as a catalyst of modernity across the Middle East, tracing its effects through the archives, infrastructures, and technologies it has produced. The exhibition showcases works by contemporary artists including: Latif Al Ani, Manal AlDowayan, Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, Media Farzin, GCC (Khalid Al Gharaballi, Nanu Al-Hamad, Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Fatima Al Qadiri, Monira Al Qadiri, Aziz Al Qatimi, Barrak Alzaid, Amal Khalaf), Raja’a Khalid, Lydia Ourahmane, Houshang Pezeshknia, Monira Al Qadiri, Hassan Sharif, Wael Shawky, Nasrin Tabatabai and Babak Afrassiabi, Rayyane Tabet, Hajra Waheed, Michael John Whelan, Lantan Xie and Ala Younis.
Some of the oldest works featured in the show are by Latif Al Ani, one of Iraq’s best-known photographers and one of the first artists to be embedded with the region’s oil companies. A selection of his photographs from the 1950s and 1960s depict the social, cultural and architectural changes brought on the nation’s newfound oil wealth. These are juxtaposed with more recent works that revisit various moments from the chequered history of the oil industry in the region and include an intricate installation by Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck that entangles the 2003 Iraq invasion with broader histories of art and diplomacy. The exhibition also features several new commissions, including works on by paper by Hajra Waheed that reflect on the history of the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco); hand-blown glass sculptures by Michael John Whelan created from sand collected at historic oil well sites off the coast of Abu Dhabi first discovered by Jacques Cousteau in the early 1950s; and performative interventions by Lantian Xie that examine some contemporary rituals of car culture across the region.
‘Crude’ runs from November to April 2019 and will be accompanied by a new publication, symposium and a film series in Spring 2019. A series of educational programmes spanning topics related to oil and its impact on history, society, culture, economics, the environment and the future will supplement the exhibition. Artist’s Rooms is an on-going series of exhibitions that focus on a single artist represented in the Art Jameel collection; collaborative in nature, the shows are developed with the artist and often feature new commissions that respond to the Centre’s curatorial themes.
Marking Art Jameel’s long-standing interest in furthering cultural links between the Gulf and Japan, artist Chiharu Shiota has been commissioned to create a site-specific installation for her Artist’s Room. Working with large quantities of yarn, Shiota creates immersive web-like structures that take over entire rooms; for this significant, new piece she was inspired by the UAE’s historic and contemporary identity as a port city, a place of trade and confluence, and the site of Jameel Arts Centre on the Jaddaf waterfront. Saudi Arabia’s best-known female artist Maha Malluh is greatly influenced by her spiritual connection to the historic region of Najd, Saudi Arabia. This first solo presentation of the artist’s work in the UAE features large-scale sculptural installations comprised of everyday, domestic materials.
An influential artist, teacher and women’s rights activist in Pakistan, the late Lala Rukh (1948-2017)’s practice often explored the structures and notations of classical music from South Asia. Bringing together work from the Art Jameel Collection and loans from partner institutions, Lala’s Artist’s Room supplements her recent video Rupak (2016) – which debuted at Documenta 14 and will be shown for the first time in the Middle East – with older works on paper, revealing her long standing interest in rhythm, memory and the body. The video and textile works presented in Lebanese artist Mounira Al Solh’s Artist’s Room are typically sharp, humorous and wry. Bringing together major currents in her practice, the works deal with the violent and sometimes absurd force of political events on personal lives, as well as her ongoing interest in the form and function of language.
In addition to gallery-based exhibitions, Jameel Arts Centre features major installations by local and international artists that interact with the building itself: the lobby features a new, interactive work by Lara Favaretto; a sculptural work by Vikram Divecha is suspended above one of the seven gardens; and Shaikha Al Mazrou presents the first in an annual series of commissioned projects for the Artist’s Garden. Al Mazrou has opted to create a sculptural sectioned glass house for this experimental, light-filled, creekside outdoor space. Further details will be announced over the coming weeks regarding the public programming that accompanies the exhibitions; Jameel Library workshops and talks; Gallery 9, devoted to film and video; plus further cultural developments in the Jaddaf area.
In addition to 10 galleries of dedicated exhibition space and a 300-square metre research centre and library, Jameel Arts Centre houses a project space, writer’s studio, members’ lounge, a restaurant, a shop and a series of gardens – embedded in the architecture and designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel – that reflect local and global desert biomes. The gardens feature a collection of sculptural plants native to the world’s deserts, while striking vegetal textures, subtle mineral hues and unusual paving provide each garden with a unique character.
The winning work from the first edition of Art Jameel Commissions will be revealed on the Roof Terrace during the Centre’s opening, and will remain on view through September 2019. Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees (2018) by Kuwait-based artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub riffs on our relationship with the natural and nocturnal worlds; their site-specific installation acts as a community botanical garden, albeit one made up of artificial, hybrid trees and flora created with artificial lights. An annual programme in a three-year cycle, Art Jameel Commissions is foundational to the programming of Jameel Arts Centre. An open call for proposals to Art Jameel Commissions: Arts Writing and Research runs until December 1, 2018. The third Art Jameel Commissions, focusing on drawing and painting, will be announced in 2019. The Centre is home to the Art Jameel Collection, and will also host major, co-curated and touring exhibitions that draw upon Art Jameel’s long-term partnerships with international institutions.
Future programming will continue the organisation’s commitment to attract and serve a wide range of local communities and global visitors. Dedicated public and educational events will be developed for all ages, including an active schools’ programme and the first regional Youth Assembly for the arts, run by 18 to 24-year-olds. Jameel Arts Centre’s open-access research centre and library will engage with the UAE community as well as the institution’s extensive network of academic, arts and cultural organisations across the region. Further details on these programming initiatives will be announced soon.