From Sharjah Art to the Jameel Arts Centre: last chance to see the UAE's top summer art shows

The new art season kicks off in September, but before then, take one last look at these summer exhibitions

There's often a lull during the summer when it comes to art shows, but some galleries and art institutions are still presenting exhibitions that are well worth a visit. From award-winning works to absurdist paintings, here are a few exhibitions to catch before a string of new shows open for art season next month.

Surface Tension

This exhibition of works by six artists plays with the idea of surface, both materially and conceptually. Beirut artist Dala Nasser, for example, combines objects such as survival blankets and plastic sheeting with layers of paint to create works that are dense with colour and texture. There are also Indian artist Minam Apang's drawings of the sea using charcoal on cloth, which produces a ghostly look that's more about evoking the natural environment than representing it. Considering surface as a type of reality, Casablanca-­born artist Randa Maroufi, who now lives in Paris, presents Bab Sebta, an experimental film that depicts the seemingly never-ending routines of workers in the Spanish enclaves of Morocco. 

Until Saturday, September 7, at Sharjah Art Foundation.

The Gloomiest Sunset in the World

The show's title may sound dire, but the works in it are quite tongue-in-cheek. Despite the cartoonish faces on the canvas, visitors can still recognise the figures that Amir Khojasteh humorously depicts and critiques. Adding his own twist to classic portraiture, the Iranian artist often paints with gestural strokes and deep colours, borrowing elements of expressionism. Through caricature, Khojasteh is able to transform these typically imposing and often fearsome figures – clues to their identities are in the titles, such as El Comandante #2 – into comical characters, reducing their power and creating levity. He also targets famous works, including an Andy Warhol piece, as a way to reconsider how art is valued or judged.

Until Wednesday, September 18, at Carbon 12, Dubai.

Jameel Prize 5

An initiative by Art Jameel and the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Jameel Prize recognises Islamic-inspired creations and concepts in contemporary art and design. For the first time in its 10-year history, the biennial prize is being shared by two winners – Iraqi artist Mehdi Moutashar and Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum. Moutashar is celebrated for his minimalist sculptures that fuse Islamic geometry and abstractionism, while Tabassum is lauded for her unique and breathtaking design of the Bait Ur Rouf mosque in Dhaka. Works of shortlisted candidates are also on view, such as Naqsh Collective's contemporary take on Palestinian embroidery, carving typically textile designs on to large-scale wooden pieces instead.

Until Saturday, September 14, at Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai.

Extra Muros

When Algerian artist Driss Ouadahi, who lives in Dusseldorf, visited his home country after an extended period away, he was affected by the social and architectural changes in Algiers. He began working on large-scale canvasses that expressed the alienation caused by these urban changes – paintings of multicoloured overlapping grids that can be disorienting and captivating in the way they depict dimension. His third solo show at Lawrie Shabibi titled Extra Muros, or "outside the walls", traces the progression of Ouadahi's practice over 15 years, showing his evolving concepts of urban landscapes and space.

Until Sunday, September 1, at Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai.

you + topia II

The title of Ayyam Gallery's collective exhibition refers to Thomas More's satirical book from 1516, Utopia, about an ideal island society that exists in "no place". Featuring contemporary artists from the Middle East, you + topia II offers a look at certain parts of the region with a blend of dread, satire and optimism, as artists try to make sense of prevailing issues such as war and terrorism. Highlights include the subversive works of Iranian artist Afshin Pirhashemi, which deal with gender and systems of authority, along with mixed media pieces by Syrian artist Abdul Karim Majdal Al Beik, who brings together varying materials to create his "combine paintings".

Until Thursday, September 12, at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai.


Showcase Gallery's summer show focuses on works of portraiture, with standout pieces such as those created by Olivia Pendergast. Her paintings of the people she encounters in her city of residence, Nairobi, exude a tenderness of character, primarily due to her style that employs pastel colours and loose, soft strokes. These are contrasted by the darker canvasses of Albanian artist Iskra Shahaj, whose palette draws heavily from the Mediterranean colours of Italy, where she studied. Using tones of sienna and orange, Shahaj emphasises shadow and light in her oil on linen paintings, which typically feature subjects lost in reverie.

Until Friday, August 30, at Showcase Gallery, Dubai.