The Newest Trend in Collecting—Middle East, North Africa (MENA)

Art Privee
Apr 3, 2014 12:12PM

Reporting on: Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and Qatar

DubaiThe Art Dubai fair opened to a very glamorous crowd; more than 500 artists were represented from 80 galleries and 35 countries.

There is something for every collector. High-end works by art star Idris Khan, as well as an Anish Kapoor mirrored reflective disc. Offered in the same hall was Australian Greenway Gallery, who displayed a Juz Kitson large ceramic piece. Kitson's installation took over an entire wall and generated a lot of buzz. Some of the pieces were removed from the wall because they were deemed too "graphic" for public viewing.

One local newspaper said of the fair "Dubai has been a trading city for such a long time, and we have seen more and more of that spirit going into the cultural sphere."

SharjahSharjah is about an hour away from Dubai and a "must see" if you are in the area. The Sharjah Art Foundation nurtures the flourishing art scene in the Gulf with both a regional and international program of cultural collaboration and exchange. The Foundation curates and commissions shows of Middle Eastern artists. Architecturally, the foundation is a stunning mix of old and new. In renovated old homes, modern, minimal architecture has taken over and presents a perfect viewing site for contemporary art, massive videos, and installations.

An artist that got our attention was Wael Shawky, who had a fantastic video of camels walking across the desert and other works in a gigantic gallery within the complex.

Susan Hefuna's retrospective was very strong, especially her sculpture in a courtyard in one of the foundation's larger buildings.

Abu DhabiIn Abu Dhabi one can see the future.

On Saadiyat Island, 500 meters off the coast of Abu Dhabi, there is a new Information Center that shows what is to come—with brilliant marketing. The Island offers "a lifetime of exclusive experiences," selling housing, museums, hotels and an exclusive lifestyle.  These homes cost millions.

There are models of the museums that are to be built, including, the Guggenheim, the Louvre and a Cultural Center—all by famous architects such as Frank GehryJean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid. It will be a true destination for every traveler.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is one of the most beautiful in the world. Every traveler can enjoy the beauty as long as one is properly covered to enter the mosque. 

QatarThe Arab Museum of Modern Art is a little jewel. On view is Mona HatoumTurbulence, showing the diversity of this art star's work.

Also at The Arab Museum of Modern Art, is a lovely show of Etel Adnan's work; she seems to be everywhere at the moment, including the Whitney Biennial.

We saved the most spectacular museum for last: The Islamic Museum of Art designed by I.M. Pei. Every inch of this incredible museum is beautiful and well thought out.

Pei's majestic museum displays Islamic art from its collection highlighting Iran, Central Asia, Egypt, Syria, India and Turkey. There is also a temporary exhibition hall that had on view  the origins of the game of chess.

The outside plaza overlooks the Gulf and across to the dramatic architecture of the buildings of Doha. A stunning way to end an art voyage through the Gulf.

View more photos and read about many other fabulous art experiences at

Art Privee