World Art Dubai returns for its ninth event with a spotlight on South Korea

The event is showcasing an eclectic array of work from the country and around the world, including the piece that holds the Guinness World Record for the largest professional oil painting by a single person

Sculpture by Marco Olivier at World Art Dubai, which is at Dubai World Trade Centre until Sunday. Pawan Singh / The National
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World Art Dubai has returned.

With more than 300 exhibitors showcasing 4,000 artworks from 60 countries, the contemporary art fair, which runs until Sunday at the Dubai World Trade Centre, is highlighting South Korea as its country of honour.

Moon Byung-jun, Consul General of the Republic of Korea in Dubai, said the country would be represented by 100 artworks for the fair's ninth event, alongside presentations of a traditional Hanbok fashion show, a tea-tasting ceremony and other cultural performances.

“We appreciate World Art Dubai’s immense efforts to give Korean artists this platform to shed light on the beautiful and rich Korean artistic scene and spread awareness about it throughout the UAE and Mena region,” he added.

Among the South Korean artists taking part is Yu Jingoo, who infuses his contemporary works with traditional Korean techniques and materials — chiefly mother of pearl. The artist first paints with acrylic on to wooden panels, and then painstakingly cuts down pieces of mother of pearl and arranges them on to the work; a process that can take two months to complete.

Curator Shinjeung Jang, who represents Yu, tells The National more about the material: “Ancient Koreans used it for precious furniture and jewellery boxes and so by applying this material to his paintings, he shares these traditional Korean philosophical ideas and modernises them.”

She says mother of pearl also creates dazzling colours, as light is refelcted across the shell and bounces through a prism. “The artworks maximise the momentary effects of the fluctuating waves of colour, just like the point drawings of Neo-Impresionism,” she adds.

Jang believes that the artist’s use of mother of pearl provides a point of commonality with Emirati culture. “In Korean culture, thousands of years ago, we would gather so many things from the ocean and all the materials our artisans used, like a mother of pearl, it all came from the ocean. I think Emirati culture has a similar historic approach to pearls.”

Addressing the popularity of Korean culture in the UAE, she says: “I think that people are really crazy about a westernised version of Korean culture, but Yu Jin-goo believes that people still enjoy how different it is from their own culture — they get to immerse themselves in Korean culture and characters.”

Also returning to World Art Dubai for a second time is Emirati artist Amal Al Rumaithi, who graduated with a degree in mathematics from the University of Sharjah in 2017, and who works in the field of statistics. A fan and student of Korean culture, her untitled collection of 24 works has been in the making for two years and is a quirky nod to the UAE’s ambitions in space.

Al Rumaithi also drew inspiration from her childhood fantasies, Emirati folklore and everyday surroundings. “With the UAE’s focus on space as the next frontier, it became an obvious theme for me for this collection," she says. "I also think back to my childhood and how I wanted to explore other galaxies. This collection showcases that imaginative and fairy-tale version of space.”

Al Rumaithi describes her style as unrealistic and very colourful. “It is a slice of my imagination, very vivid and dips into mythology, the Emirati legend of Umm Al Duwais and also Korean pop culture, which I am fascinated by,” she says.

Another artist attending the fair is Sarans K K — who goes by the artist name Sarans Guruvayoor — an Indian UAE resident who won the Guinness World Record for world’s largest professional oil painting by a single person for his portrait of UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Guruvayoor, who grew up and founded his own art gallery in Kerala, previously painted an image of Krishna stretching to 60-feet tall and 34-feet long — an effort that earned World Records from Limca and the URF. However, after moving to the UAE, he had a “long-standing” desire to paint an even larger image of Sheikh Zayed. "After reading about a popular ruler like him, I wanted to paint his photo,” he says.

He produced the 166-square-metre painting of Sheikh Zayed in Kerala over the course of 50 days in 2020, before bringing it over to the UAE. "I wish this painting to be on display in an appropriate and safe place for ever so that people get the opportunity to see," he says.

In the UAE, he has started a virtual gallery called Srishti. “Srishti means something being created or coming into existence or starting something new. The aim of this gallery is delivering new paintings to people, to art lovers.

A selection of these works, which range from Dh300 to Dh10,000 are on display at World Art Dubai.

Other highlights of the fair include Urban Art DXB, which brings together live music, fashion and dance performances, and the first Matchmaking Programme, designed to connect rising artists with established galleries.

World Art Dubai runs at Dubai World Trade Centre until Sunday. More information is at

Updated: March 10, 2023, 2:38 PM