There are a number of shows and exhibitions across the emirates. If you’re wondering which ones you should check out, here’s our top five list.
1) Zak Ove
The first show in the UAE by the British-Trinidadian artist Ove, (above Earth, 2017), seems predicated on the motto "go big or go home". Enormous, colourful faces are composed of car parts – the bonnet of the car becomes the bridge of a nose – while Edo-influenced sculptures sit within rockets, as if readying for take-off. Ove, who is based in London, draws from a variety of strands of black culture: Afro-futurism and the music of George Clinton, as well as African and Trinidadian motifs, and he does not shy from controversy. Black dolls wearing the Stars And Stripes stand watch in the show as well, in this terrific riot of colour, celebration, and moral conscience.
At Lawrie Shabibi, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, until June
2) Zineb Sedira
In 2002, Sedira made a video work with three television monitors, each showing a side of a woman's face: that of her and her mother, her mother and her daughter, and her daughter and herself, like a demonstration of a chain of whispers. The work, Mother Tongue, was about language, and showed the three separate languages each pair use to communicate with each other: French, Arabic, and English, reflecting the vicissitudes of language and country that affected Sedira's own family over three generations.
The work has become an important document about migration and its lasting effects. It is now in the collection of both Tate in London and the Guggenheim in New York, and is now up as part of a retrospective at Sharjah Art Foundation that shows Sedira’s wide-ranging and sensitive discussions, over the past two decades, on what has become one of the most important topics of the day.
At Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, until June 30
3) Timo Nasseri
Have you ever wondered how letters achieved their form? Why an "m" is like rolling mountains, or an "o" mimics the shape of your mouth as you make it? In a beautiful, original show at the Maraya Art Centre, Nasseri invents four letters, and relates those to the position of the stars. His "mind maps", images of constellations, and a room made of angled mirrors look at language, mathemathics and thought as a series of forms and shapes. If pictured the right way, the rules that structure them might become visible.
At the Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, until April 5
4) Tahar Ben Jelloun at La Galerie Nationale
The Moroccan writer has his first show of artwork in the Middle East. Well-known for his novels The Sand Child and The Sacred Night – for which he won the Prix Goncourt in 1987, Ben Jalloun began drawing and painting in 2010: Matisse-like canvases of bright paint that build on folk motifs and the bright colours of the Sun and Earth in his native Tangiers.
At La Galerie Nationale, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, until September 15
5) Permanent Temporariness
Co-curators Bana Kattan and Salwa Mikdadi were determined that the work of the artist duo they curated for the show at the New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery – Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti – not simply remain inside the gallery, below. Hilal and Petti use principles of art and architecture to communicate emotions in ways that strict story-telling or reportage cannot. In this show, they offer a first glimpse at a retrospective of their experiments through the years, as well as a chance for their work to take its rightful home beyond gallery confines and among the lives of the students and faculty at NYUAD. A calligrapher sits in the library transcribing the histories of Palestinian refugees – oral tales that might not be recorded otherwise, and which are honoured by the means of writing them – and a tent-like one they installed as a social centre in a Palestine camp gives welcome shade at the far, sea-end of the campus.
At NYUAD Art Gallery, Abu Dhabi, until June 9