Top 12 exhibitions to see in the UAE this year

From South Asian Pop Art to an impressive collection on Impressionism, these shows are worth marking the diary for

A visitor at Emirati artist Shamma Al Amri's 'So to Speak' exhibition at Tashkeel in Dubai. AFP
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The UAE's art season has launched with a sweeping series of exhibitions showcasing works by everyone from historic, international household names to some of the region's most exciting emerging artists.

From Louvre Abu Dhabi's upcoming Impressionism exhibition, to Vantage Point Sharjah's soaring 10th show, here's our pick of 12 unmissable exhibitions.

So to Speak

Emirati artist Shamma Al Amri's solo exhibition, So to Speak at Tashkeel Studio in Dubai, is the first exhibition by a participant of the studio's Critical Practice Programme 2022. Al Amri examines the use of language in oaths, as well as its relationship with meaning and social behaviour.

The Arabic language is a particular focal point of her research and practice, where words become both an image and meaning.

Until October 25; Tashkeel, Dubai;

Fables in the Unknown

Syrian painter Kais Salman's most recent body of work will be showcased at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai, in his solo exhibition Fables in the Unknown. Through stylised, almost conceptual figures, Salman creates visual narratives that guide the viewer through a series of emotionally charged questions that explore the human condition.

Sarcasm, irony and multiple narratives run through out the exhibition where Salman moves away from the flatness of his previous work and instead employs techniques using thickly applied impasto paint.

Until November 1; Ayyam Galery, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai;

Leaping Over the Barrier

The solo exhibition of Palestinian artist Khaled Hourani at Zawyeh Gallery in Dubai is an examination of the separation wall in his home country. It is a subject that the Ramallah artist finds himself returning to, taking media images from Palestine and reimagining them and the wall.

Hourani is a prominent Palestinian artist, curator and writer, whose work has explored the nuances of the socially and politically constraining systems in Palestine.

Until November 3; Zawyeh Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai;

Where Eyes Rest

Stephanie Saade will hold her third solo exhibition at Grey Noise in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai. Where Eyes Rest presents a new body of work by the Lebanese artist that brings together personal objects, including worn curtains, toys, books and blankets, depicting their elasticity as they are altered to adapt to their new time spaces.

The exhibition borrows its title from her 2021 video, Where Eyes Rest, which tells of a friendship between the artist and a fallen strand of hair.

Until November 3; Grey Noise, Alserkal Avenue;

The Journey

Sculptor Khalid Zaki's solo show The Journey at Tabari Art Space in Dubai is a study into the power of spirituality, movement and religious experience. Through bronze and white statuary Carrara marble sculptures and a large-scale painting, Zaki creates a series of surreal and arresting pieces, reflecting Sufi concepts.

A celebrated artist and sculptor, Zaki's has been greatly influenced by ancient Egyptian statuary and modernism, as well as Italian Renaissance sculpture.

Until November 11; Tabari Art Space, the Dubai International Financial Centre;


Pioneering Indian artist and activist Navjot Altaf is marking her regional solo debut at Ishara Art Foundation in Alserkal Avenue. Titled Pattern, the exhibition features site-specific installations, sculptures, videos, drawings and photo prints, all of which reflect on climate change, ecology and feminism.

Pattern presents a body of works that Altaf has created since 2015, the year of the United Nations Climate Change Conference and the Paris Climate Accords. It was a watershed moment. A global agreement on the mitigation of carbon emission levels between 196 countries had been announced. Altaf’s work examines the marked rise of visual representation of climate change in mainstream media, using technologies and real-time data.

The show contrasts novel and traditional forms of how environmental crises are represented, inviting viewers to consider the future of the planet and society.

Until December 9; Ishara Art Foundation, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai;

Pop South Asia: Artistic Explorations in the Popular

A collaboration between the Sharjah Art Foundation and New Delhi's Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, this exhibition features more than 100 pieces by artists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the diaspora.

'Gymkhana Ladies Swimming' (2021) by Saba Khan. Resin Diamonds on ‘Diamond Painting Kit’; 91.4 × 124.46 cm. Photo: Saba Khan

Displayed in four galleries throughout the Sharjah Art Foundation, it highlights a multitude of voices that are both individually intriguing and collectively symbiotic. While most of the works are from the 1960s to the present day, there are pieces that trace the lineage of South Asian pop culture back to the late 19th century.

Until December 11; Sharjah Art Foundation;

Vantage Point Sharjah

Works by 66 artists from 34 countries were selected for the 10th Vantage Point Sharjah, marking one of its most sprawling exhibitions yet. The open call for the show invited pieces on visual storytelling and photography’s ability to capture social realities from different perspectives.

Launched in 2013 with the aim of commemorating photography as an artistic medium, the exhibition has evolved into a dynamic platform that embraces many approaches, from photojournalism and photo essays to experimental works in both digital and analogue formats.

Until December 11; Al Hamriyah Studios, Sharjah;

Khaleej Modern

After years of planning and curation, NYUAD Art Gallery presents Khaleej Modern: Pioneers and Collectives in the Arabian Peninsula — a landmark exhibition exploring the rise of contemporary art in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

Curator Aisha Stoby says the exhibition covers an “extraordinary period" spanning the 1940s to the late 2000s, which represents a point of transition, and a continued conversation between tradition and modernity.

A painting by Saudi artist, Safeya Binzagr on display at NYUAD Art Gallery's Khaleej Modern exhibition. Ruel Pableo for The National

“I want us to try and rethink what our traditional understanding of ‘modernism’ is within this show, and try and unpick some of the things that may even be stuck in our minds; our associations with those words from a European context,” she adds.

Until December 11; NYUAD Art Gallery, Abu Dhabi;

An Ocean in Every Drop

The Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai is seeking to re-enchant and examine our relationship with water through a number of prisms, with a group show that spans work from the 10th century to the present day. An Ocean in Every Drop features 15 artists from 14 countries, spanning First Nations and indigenous communities, through ancient Persia and the UAE.

From existing works to new commissions, An Ocean in Every Drop looks at how water shapes, marks and dictates our experiences through environmentalism, mythology, spirituality, folk traditions and lived experiences.

Until April 2; Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai;

On Foraging

A new exhibition at Warehouse421 also looks at our relationship with the environment, but from a local lens. On Foraging: Food Knowledge and Environmental Imaginaries in the UAE's Landscape explores the history of the relationship between the local environment and its inhabitants.

The show examines the narratives of intergenerational learning that can be found in domestic food production in private farms. It also looks at how organic, hydroponic and oyster farming have expanded the possibilities of what can ben grown within a desert environment. On Foraging also examines how the supply of produce is addressed and confronted, specifically with the development of language that suggests a collective responsibility.

October 9 to December 25; Warehouse421, Abu Dhabi;

Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity

Works by Manet, Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Cezanne will form part of a new exhibition at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity, which opens on October 12, is being held in partnership with Paris's Musee d'Orsay and will show more than 150 masterpieces in Abu Dhabi.

Alongside paintings and etchings, costumes, film and photography will also be presented, exploring why Impressionism was considered controversial in the 19th century and how it broke ground for future artistic movements.

October 12 to February 5; Louvre Abu Dhabi;

Scroll through images below of the Raise Vibration exhibition at Infinity des Lumieres in Dubai

Updated: October 05, 2022, 12:54 PM