Six art shows to see in Dubai and Abu Dhabi before the end of the year

From explorations of the colour blue to a major survey of Emirati artist Abdulrahim Salim

Sonia Mehra Chawla's 'Embryonic Plant'. Courtesy the artist and 1x1 Art Gallery
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With the end of 2020 in sight, UAE galleries and art spaces are staging their final exhibitions for the year. Despite the lull in physical exhibitions in the spring, art openings and activities have started picking up in the country over the summer.

Last week, Alserkal Avenue held its second Alserkal Lates for the year with a new format, with galleries keeping their spaces open for 12 hours in an effort to space out visiting times and avoid crowding. While events such as Louvre Abu Dhabi's Symposium and Abu Dhabi Art are taking place online, institutions such as Cultural Foundation and Jameel Arts Centre have announced new major shows, welcoming visitors through booking systems.

Here, we round up six exhibitions worth checking out before the year ends.

(Un)Containable Life

(Un)Containable Life consists of works by Indian artist Sonia Mehra Chawla, produced from 2013 to 2020. Spanning photography, printmaking, painting and film, the works reflect on the precarious state of the environment, specifically its effects on indigenous communities. Chronicling the artist’s practice over the years, the show explores ideas of nature, sustainability and conservation. It also looks at the conditions of human and non-human ecologies, referencing Chawla’s research in natural areas such as mangroves, forests, salt flats and islands.

On view until Monday, January 4; 1x1 Art Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai;


Ruba Salameh, 'Stripcle B.R.O,'. Courtesy the artist and Zawyeh Gallery
Ruba Salameh, 'Stripcle B.R.O,'. Courtesy the artist and Zawyeh Gallery

Ants crawl across the pristine pastel canvases of Ruba Salameh in the exhibition Tensegrity. On view at Zawyeh Gallery, which opened its Dubai space this year, the works challenge the authority of the art form. Her paintings show minimalist geometric shapes corrupted by external forces, in this case, a colony of ants. Salameh's pieces are subtle criticisms and reflections on occupation and colonial power, influenced by her Palestinian background. The artist was born in Nazareth and studied fine art at the Bezalel Academy for Arts and Design in Jerusalem.

On view until Thursday, December 31; Zawyeh Gallery, Al Quoz, Dubai;


Shaikha Al Mazrou, 'Despite The Weather'. Courtesy the artist and Lawrie Shabibi
Shaikha Al Mazrou, 'Despite The Weather'. Courtesy the artist and Lawrie Shabibi

The colour blue can carry so much meaning – nature, peace, sadness and inspiration. It is the central theme of Lawrie Shabibi's latest group exhibition, showcasing works such as Shaikha Al Mazrou's cyanotype series Sky and Ocean and Everything in Between, and Shahpour Pouyan's Miniatures series, which illustrates 15th-century Islamic manuscripts found in museums around the world. The layered and dynamic work of Su Yu-Xin, titled Unfolded, presents a blue landscape that appears both oceanic and extraterrestrial, while Driss Ouadahi's complex canvases explore geometric and architectural forms.

On view until Thursday, January 7; Lawrie Shabibi, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai;

Abdulrahim Salim: Between Chaos and Serenity

Abdulrahim Salim's 'Conversations with the Moon'. Courtesy the artist and Cultural Foundation
Abdulrahim Salim's 'Conversations with the Moon'. Courtesy the artist and Cultural Foundation

This survey of Abdulrahim Salim’s works consists of six chapters that trace the Emirati artist’s practice, his subjects and the narratives in his abstract and figurative paintings. Salim was involved in the UAE’s early art scene in the 1980s through Sharjah’s Emirates Fine Arts Society.

Between Chaos and Serenity is complemented by a second exhibition, Maheerah, featuring 35 artists from more than 10 countries who are all responding to Salim's oeuvre. The word maheerah refers to Salim's muse, and the works created by the group of artists aim to reinterpret this concept and character. While 10 artists worked with multimedia and produced short films, the other 25 have depicted the muse through paintings.

On view until Monday, February 22; Cultural Foundation, Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi;

The Stonebreakers

Curated by Murtaza Vali, this exhibition at Warehouse421 brings together three projects by Shumon Ahmed, Ranjit Kandalgaonkar and Hira Nabi that explore the workings of the shipping industry, specifically how the vessels are taken apart in ship-breaking yards across South Asia. The artists focus on yards in their countries of origin – Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, with each utilising their own methods. Ahmed's work features haunting prints and Polaroids of ships that have disjointed and dissected, while Kandalgaonkar considers the relationship between the vessels and the natural environment through surreal drawings. Nabi presents a documentary film that gives voice to the ship as a character, and the Pakistani labourers who toil in the yards.

On view until Thursday, December 31; Warehouse421, Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi;

Library Circles: Maryam Al Dabbagh

Maryam Al Dabbagh's text and audio work 'Library Circles' is installed in Arabic and English fragments throughout Jameel Arts Centre. Courtesy Maryam Al Dabbagh

In this research project, Iraqi writer and art professional Maryam Al Dabbagh tells the story of a fictionalised Iraqi character from Sharjah, reflecting on ideas of Arab immigrant identity, as well as the everyday realities of living in a foreign land. Library Circles unfolds in eight chapters narrated by Al Dabbagh in Arabic and English, with the use of language becoming its own reflection of the migrant experience – the mixing of Emirati Arabic, local dialects, fusha which is literary Arabic, and English mirroring the ways diverse Arab communities speak in the UAE. The work also draws a parallel between the UAE's immigrant population, who are required to regularly renew visas to remain in the country, and Arabian Nights' Scheherazade, who stays alive by sharing stories to a fictional ruler.

On view until Thursday, December 31; Jameel Arts Centre, Jaddaf Waterfront, Dubai;