Art Market

The 10 Best Booths from Middle Eastern Galleries at Art Dubai 2022

Rawaa Talass
Mar 11, 2022 12:54AM

Installation view of Hafez Gallery’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Photo by Rawaa Talass. Courtesy of Rawaa Talass.

The Middle East’s premier art fair, Art Dubai, is back in full swing—fittingly in time for its 15th anniversary, following last year’s downsized edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest edition of the fair to date, Art Dubai 2022, which is open to the public March 11th through 13th, is welcoming more than 77 galleries from 33 countries, committing to its core ethos of showcasing global talent beyond the Euro-American sphere, from Latin America to Central Asia. “What makes us unique and different from the rest is the possibility of navigating seven continents, in one week, that you generally don’t see together in another international forum,” Art Dubai artistic director Pablo del Val said at a packed press conference on March 9th.

Installation view of Art Dubai 2022. Photo by Cedric Ribeiro/Getty Images for Art Dubai. Courtesy of Art Dubai.


The fair has also moved back to its original site: the swanky ballrooms of the Madinat Jumeirah hotel. Visitors are treated to a series of thematic sections: Contemporary, Modern, Bawwaba (Arabic for “gateway,” dedicated to artists of the Global South), and a new addition, Digital Art Dubai, where more than 15 galleries are displaying NFTs and digital art. The new section is accompanied by a series of talks, addressing the emerging world of crypto art. During the VIP preview, there were smiles, flutes of champagne, international guests, and a general sense of excitement to see people and art again, in the flesh.

Over 30 of the participating galleries have roots in the Arab world, from North Africa to the Gulf. The sheer diversity of artistic mediums is impressive, from painting and photography to installation, embroidery, digital media, and more. With works dating from the early 20th century to today, Art Dubai is a prime platform for discovering the dynamic and experimental art of the Middle East and its diasporic communities. Here, we offer a selection of standout booths from Middle Eastern galleries at Art Dubai 2022.

Dastan x NFTation, Tehran

Digital section, Booth X17

With works by Alireza Asadi and Yousha Bashir

Yousha Bashir, installation view in Dastan x NFTation’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Photo by Cedric Ribeiro/Getty Images for Art Dubai. Courtesy of Art Dubai.

Founded 10 years ago, this Iranian art gallery is dipping its toes into NFT territory by collaborating with NFTation, a curated non-fungible token platform that launched in 2021. The dark booth is illuminated by sound and bright colors emerging from screens with an animation of surreal and imaginative moving images, including a flying saucer, a bouncing ball, and a rotating face, created by the young Iranian artist Yousha Bashir. Based on one of his physical paintings, he used an advanced computing software to bring this digital work to life.

“It’s an installation that you can take anywhere in the world; on your mobile phone, in the metaverse, a screen at home,” Xanyar Kamangar, one of the booth’s exhibitors, explained to Artsy. “It’s a new world, everything is changing so fast.…We don’t know where it’s going to go, but we think it’s going to be super exciting.” Meanwhile, artist Alireza Asadi, who is a fan of the gaming world, has installed his digital piece, testing the level of trust between two broke friends, inside a retro arcade machine.

Tabari Artspace, Dubai

Contemporary section, Booth F10

With works by Maitha Abdalla

Maith Abdalla, installation view in Tabari Artspace’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Courtesy of Tabari Artspace.

The Emirati artist Maitha Abdalla is making her debut at Art Dubai with a bang, thanks to her bold manner of painting large figurative canvases. Abdalla was inspired by difficult life experiences of navigating right versus wrong, sin, and forgiveness. Using oil and charcoal, there’s conflict and tension in her theatrical work: human bodies with animal heads fighting each other; an eyeless dog lying on its back in the corner of a room; a seated nude almost crying for help.

“They represent multiple personalities that I hold in myself,” Abdallah said. She also immerses herself into her paintings, physically. “I lived on this canvas for many hours. I put the canvas on the floor first and I’m on it,” she explained. “I use my hands a lot. These are painted with my fingers, I don’t use the brush.” On the first day of the fair, both of Abdalla’s dark “Forest” paintings from 2022 had sold, as well as Story Telling Animals (2022) for $12,000.

Comptoir des Mines Galerie, Marrakech

Contemporary section, Booth D2

With works by Mustapha Akrim, Mohamed Arejdal, Hassan Bourkia, Khadija Jayi, and Fatiha Zemmouri

Installation view of Comptoir des Mines Galerie’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Photo by Rawaa Talass.

Participating in Art Dubai for the second time, Comptoir des Mines Galerie is presenting a visually inviting group exhibition of works by Moroccan conceptual artists. With political undertones, the artists’ recent output responds to the 1972 autobiographical novel For Bread Alone, written by Moroccan playwright Mohamed Choukri. In this banned book, Choukri recounts a life marred with poverty, struggle, and migration, which resonated with the artists.

Delving into themes of citizenship, internal trauma, and erasure of nomadic culture, the artists have thoughtfully used raw materials, such as natural soil, burnt paper, reinforced concrete, metal, and fabric. In his powerful 2019 piece, Mohamed Arejdal carves out a broken map of Africa from a single slab of concrete, which feels imprisoned through the inclusion of iron wire. On the opposite end of Arejdal’s work stands an earthy, semi-geometrical work by Fatiha Zemmouri, who implemented soil and pigment on a wood panel marked with repetitive semi-circular lines. “It’s a way to connect to Mother Earth,” a gallery spokesperson told Artsy. “It’s very abstract and it’s like an aerial view of the land. It talks about a drought and an exodus.”

Agial Art Gallery, Beirut

Modern section, Booth M9

With works by Bibi Zogbé

Bibi Zogbé, installation view in Agial Art Gallery’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Photo by Rawaa Talass. Courtesy of Rawaa Talass.

The name of Bibi Zogbé has resurged in the Arab art market during recent years, but this late Lebanese modernist began painting her signature floral pictures in the 1930s. Her backstory is little known yet fascinating, which is why this booth provides an insightful mini art history lesson.

Zogbé was born in a Lebanese seaside village, and when she was 16 years old, her life changed forever as she moved all the way to Argentina for marriage. She built her career in Buenos Aires, becoming “La Pintora de Flores” (the painter of flowers), and had exhibitions in Paris and Dakar. She was inspired by the plants and flowers of her homeland, as well as foreign places she experienced through travels.

Bibi Zogbé, installation view in Agial Art Gallery’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Photo by Rawaa Talass. Courtesy of Rawaa Talass.

Depicting colorful cacti, lotus pads, and violets, the displayed pictures, painted between the 1930s and 1960s, are rare and charmingly grouped together, like a refreshing bouquet.

Figurative portraits are also on view, along with archival material about the artist’s work. Today, Zogbé’s paintings can be found in the U.A.E.’s Barjeel Art Foundation, Lebanon’s Dalloul Art Foundation, and Buenos Aires’s National Museum of Fine Arts.

Zawyeh Gallery, Ramallah and Dubai

Contemporary section, Booth F8

With works by Dia Mrad

Photography and architecture enthusiasts will appreciate this nearly sold-out booth, displaying large and small photographs from the Lebanese capital, revealing contrasting scenes of beauty, damage, and neglect. On August 4, 2020, Beirut was rocked by a massive explosion that ended countless lives and destroyed buildings, including homes and cultural venues. Dia Mrad was there on site to document it all.

In his poignant series “The Morning After,” Mrad shot the gutted interior of the lavish Sursock Palace in Beirut. Also on view is one of his newer works, Back-Petal (2022), capturing the disintegrating ceiling of the Grand Theater of Beirut, left abandoned after the Lebanese Civil War (1975–90).

But it isn’t all doom and gloom: Mrad also displays shots of the city’s vibrant and symmetrical windows, part of his “Faces of Beirut” series. The photographer told Artsy that the starting price of his smaller pictures is $2,300, and a number of his works have been acquired by Lebanese collectors, as well as Belgium’s Boghossian Foundation.

The Third Line, Dubai

Contemporary section, Booth B8

With works by Amir H. Fallah, Huda Lutfi, Youssef Nabil, Jordan Nassar, andSahand Hesamiyan

Installation view of The Third Line’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Courtesy of The Third Line, Dubai.

A longtime participant at Art Dubai, The Third Line offers an elegant and thoughtfully spaced booth with seven works by multidisciplinary artists from Egypt, Iran, and Palestine. From Egypt, there is a pair of poetic photographic sunset works by photographer Youssef Nabil, based between New York and Paris, who later colors in the images by hand. One of the main works on display is Iranian American artist Amir H. Fallah’s detailed image of lovers in We Built A Monument of Love (2022).

Jordan Nassar, In the halls of the sun, 2022. Courtesy of The Third Line, Dubai.

Jordan Nassar’s rectangular embroidered piece In the halls of the sun (2022), depicting imagined Palestinian landscapes, sold on the first day of the fair. “We actually have a large collector base for [Nassar] that is constantly waiting for new works,” said the gallery’s director, Gabriella Moore. “His pieces take a lot of time to create because they’re all hand-stitched.”

Hafez Gallery, Jeddah

Contemporary section, Booth A5

With works by Ahmad Nawar, Ahmed Karaly, AlShaikh Idris, Osama Esid, Ibrahim El-Dessouki, Rashed Al-Shashai

Rashed Al-Shashai, installation view of Brand 17-22, 2022, in Hafez Gallery’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Photo by Rawaa Talass. Courtesy of Rawaa Talass.

A show-stopping artwork inside this Saudi booth is The Fortieth Day (2019), a diptych of a black-haired woman draped in a vivid blue dress, standing in four different poses. This composition was created by the Egyptian artist Ibrahim El-Dessouki, who was born in 1960s Cairo.

Right in front of the painting stands a collection of smooth, geometric marble statues that were done by fellow Egyptian sculptor, Ahmed Karaly, who drew inspiration from architectural monuments in his home country. On the exterior side of Hafez Gallery’s space, a predominantly pink-and-yellow-toned light installation is mounted on a wall, where light boxes are covered with plastic cases of supermarket products. Through this installation, the Saudi artist Rashed Al Shashai addresses mass consumerism culture and world economic trade.

Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai

Contemporary section, Booth C3

With works by Hamra Abbas, Farhad Ahrarnia, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Melehi, Mehdi Moutashar, Sola Olulode, Shahpour Pouyan, and Ishmael Randall Weeks

Installation view of Lawrie Shabibi’s booth at Art Dubai. Courtesy of Lawrie Shabibi.

In May 2022, the UAE Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale will unveil works by Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim. The Emirati artist’s symbol-filled painting Fruits Green (2022) is currently on view at Lawrie Shabibi’s space. Internationally, Ibrahim’s artworks have been collected by the likes of Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the British Museum, London.

Visitors to the booth are also curiously looking into and snapping images of the sculptor Shaikha Al Mazrou’s reflective, etched copper piece, Perspective Grid (2022).

Another important feature at Lawrie Shabibi’s presentation is work by the late Moroccan avant-garde artist Mohammed Melehi: Two iconic “wave” paintings, made in 2020, the year of the artist’s death due to by COVID-19. Melehi was an artistic pioneer in post-colonial Morocco, during the 1960s and ’70s; he launched public art initiatives and an arts festival in the city where he was born, Asilah.

Leila Heller Gallery, Dubai and New York

Contemporary section, Booth A9

With works by Mohammed Ehsai, Wim Delvoye, Reza Derakshani, Marwan Sahmarani, Aref Montazeri, Parinaz Eleish Gharagozlou, and Zeinab Al Hashemi

Installtion view of Leila Heller Gallery’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Photo by Rawaa Talass. Courtesy of Rawaa Talass.

Returning to the fair with an eclectic mix of artworks, Leila Heller Gallery places traditional and conceptual art side by side, from overflowing calligraphic canvases to ornamented luggage, hinting at the notion of globalization. Originally from Belgium, Wim Delvoye has two decorated aluminum suitcases, entitled Rimowa Classic Flight Multiwheel, manifesting his known practice of embellishing mundane items with intricate carving, some of it inspired by Persian patterning.

In 1935, Persia began adopting its new name, Iran, and not too long after that, one of the nation’s noted modernists Mohammed Ehsai was born. Based on calligraphy, Ehsai’s “Inscription” series of works commands the viewer’s attention with uplifting hues and fluid movement and forms. Another represented artist is the Lebanese Marwan Sahmarani, whose abstract work contains an element of shock and violence. Expressed with thick and abrupt dabs of paint, Sahmarani’s painting often reflects surrounding turmoil and chaos.

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai

Contemporary section, Booth E1

With works by Hassan Sharif, Mohammed Kazem, Manal AlDowayan, Latif Al Ani, Raed Yassin, and Hoda Tawakol

Installation view in Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde’s booth at Art Dubai 2022. Photo by Rawaa Talass. Courtesy of Rawaa Talass.

Upon entering into this calming, spacious booth, the viewer is greeted by three large “Mangrove” pieces by Emirati artist Mohammed Kazem, representing trees that are native to this region. His technique involves applying acrylic paint onto scratched paper, giving the work a unique texture.

Another featured participant is one of Saudi Arabia’s most well-known female artists, Manal Al Dowayan, who doesn’t shy away from focusing on gender issues of her country through photography and tapestry. Placed on the floor is her intriguing set of jesmonite casts, shaped like a woman’s leg.

Manal Al Dowayan, The Choice IV, 2005. Courtesy of Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai.

Al Dowayan’s work The Emerging (2021) explores recent changes happening for women in Saudi culture. “Women are now interacting in public environments, where only men were active,” the gallery’s founder, Isabelle van den Eynde, told Artsy. “[Al Dowayan] has represented the knee and a section of the woman’s leg that are generally hidden.”

There are also two black-and-white images by the Iraqi photographer Latif Al-Ani, depicting a sensual reclining woman and a performer playing the Middle Eastern qanun, a stringed instrument. After living an eventful career between the 1950s and 1970s in Baghdad, Al-Ani, dubbed as the “father of Iraqi photography,” passed away in 2021.

Rawaa Talass