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Only Saudi gallery at Art Dubai 2017 boasts unexpected art

Art Dubai 2017, the international summit of the arts, has opened with a record-breaking bang with galleries from 43 countries showcasing the best of the global scene.
With 93 galleries representing more than 500 artists, one gallery stands out for many Saudis visiting the region’s largest art fair.
Jeddah’s Athr Gallery is the only gallery from Saudi Arabia present at Art Dubai, and is drawing interest from passersby due to its unique collection.
Founded by Hamza Serafi and Mohammed Hafiz in 2009, Athr represents Middle Eastern and international artists and showcases an exhibition schedule of international and Saudi contemporary art with the aim of promoting cultural dialogue between the Kingdom and the rest of the world.
The gallery is boasting works by a slew of artists, including Sara Abdu, Ahmad Angawi, Dana Awartani, Farah Behbehani, Ayman Yossri Daydban, Hazem Harb, Ahmed Mater, Moath Al-Ofi, Monira Al-Qadiri, Nasser Al-Salem, Muhannad Shono and Ayman Zedani.
But why is the gallery not joined by other Saudi art houses?
“There is criteria that you have to meet to participate in Art Dubai. So you have to have a specific program, you have to have existed for a certain number of years and we just happen to be the only contemporary gallery that meet the criteria,” curator and artist liaison Maryam Bilal told Arab News.
Despite flying the flag for the Kingdom, Bilal insists “it is not just about pushing Saudi art but it is about pushing specific themes that are relevant to what is happening in our world.”
The booth features contemporary Islamic art by Dana Awartani who creates a visual translation of the Arabic alphabet’s 28 letters.
Ayman Yossri Daydban, a Palestinian artist who grew up in Saudi Arabia, is also featured heavily in the gallery’s booth.
“He uses a lot of mental imagery that we are always looking at, whether it is posters or movie scenes; he discusses issues such as identity and censorship,” Bilal said of the mustard-yellow classic Arabic movie posters with ripped out faces.
Kuwaiti artist Monira Al-Qadiri’s otherworldly work also drew interest at the fair.
“She was influenced by her education and upbringing in Japan, which is why you can see a sci-fi, anime influence in her work,” Bilal said.
Qadiri’s work covers an entire wall of the gallery booth, which has been painted purple and is punctured by a line of protruding, alien-like objects.
“These are 3-D printings of drill bits. The artist comes from Kuwait which is obviously an oil dependent country; before that it was a pearl dependent country so she painted the drill bits in iridescent shades which have the same color scope as pearls and is really asking the question, when people look back 300 years from now what will they think these are?”
The fair, including the Athr gallery booth, is open to the public between March 15-18.

Art Dubai 2017, the international summit of the arts, has opened with a record-breaking bang with galleries from 43 countries showcasing the best of the global scene.
With 93 galleries representing more than 500 artists, one gallery stands out for many Saudis visiting the region’s largest art fair.
Jeddah’s Athr Gallery is the only gallery from Saudi Arabia present at Art Dubai, and is drawing interest from passersby due to its unique collection.
Founded by Hamza Serafi and Mohammed Hafiz in 2009, Athr represents Middle Eastern and international artists and showcases an exhibition schedule of international and Saudi contemporary art with the aim of promoting cultural dialogue between the Kingdom and the rest of the world.
The gallery is boasting works by a slew of artists, including Sara Abdu, Ahmad Angawi, Dana Awartani, Farah Behbehani, Ayman Yossri Daydban, Hazem Harb, Ahmed Mater, Moath Al-Ofi, Monira Al-Qadiri, Nasser Al-Salem, Muhannad Shono and Ayman Zedani.
But why is the gallery not joined by other Saudi art houses?
“There is criteria that you have to meet to participate in Art Dubai. So you have to have a specific program, you have to have existed for a certain number of years and we just happen to be the only contemporary gallery that meet the criteria,” curator and artist liaison Maryam Bilal told Arab News.
Despite flying the flag for the Kingdom, Bilal insists “it is not just about pushing Saudi art but it is about pushing specific themes that are relevant to what is happening in our world.”
The booth features contemporary Islamic art by Dana Awartani who creates a visual translation of the Arabic alphabet’s 28 letters.
Ayman Yossri Daydban, a Palestinian artist who grew up in Saudi Arabia, is also featured heavily in the gallery’s booth.
“He uses a lot of mental imagery that we are always looking at, whether it is posters or movie scenes; he discusses issues such as identity and censorship,” Bilal said of the mustard-yellow classic Arabic movie posters with ripped out faces.
Kuwaiti artist Monira Al-Qadiri’s otherworldly work also drew interest at the fair.
“She was influenced by her education and upbringing in Japan, which is why you can see a sci-fi, anime influence in her work,” Bilal said.
Qadiri’s work covers an entire wall of the gallery booth, which has been painted purple and is punctured by a line of protruding, alien-like objects.
“These are 3-D printings of drill bits. The artist comes from Kuwait which is obviously an oil dependent country; before that it was a pearl dependent country so she painted the drill bits in iridescent shades which have the same color scope as pearls and is really asking the question, when people look back 300 years from now what will they think these are?”
The fair, including the Athr gallery booth, is open to the public between March 15-18.

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