The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Farah Al Qasimi

Harley Wong
Sep 11, 2020 8:00PM

Farah Al Qasimi

B. 1991, Abu Dhabi. Lives and works in New York and Dubai.

Farah Al Qasimi, A’s Reflection, 2019. Courtesy of the artist; The Third Line, Dubai; and Helena Anrather Gallery, New York.

Farah Al Qasimi
Curtain Shop, 2019
The Third Line

Farah Al Qasimi creates vibrant photographic vignettes of both spontaneous and staged scenarios in the Persian Gulf and the United States. Her images emphasize the subtle remnants of colonial influence within the minutiae of ordinary life. For example, Al Qasimi’s first feature film, Um Al Naar (Mother of Fire) (2019), follows a jinni who narrates the changes she has seen in the United Arab Emirates following the withdrawal of Portugese and British troops and the formation of the federation in 1971. Styled like a reality TV show, the horror-comedy premiered in 2019 during Al Qasimi’s third solo exhibition with The Third Line in Dubai.

In her recent exhibition of photographs at Helena Anrather in New York, titled “Funhouse,” Al Qasimi continued to play with the uncanny geographies informed by migration, displacement, and foreign intervention. One wall of the gallery was covered with The Amazon Department Store (2020), a life-size photograph depicting a two-story, brightly lit dollar store called “The Amazon” in English and Arabic. Though the store is not affiliated with Jeff Bezos, it conjures concerns of capitalism and U.S. presence in the Middle East.

Al Qasimi has also meditated on the diaspora in her works. For a Public Art Fund commission in New York this year, she homed in on the awe-inspiring, oft-overlooked aesthetics of immigrant neighborhoods in the city. From a chandelier sparkling in a Yemeni-owned bodega to a white cockatoo resting in a curtain store in Ridgewood, the series of 17 photographs, titled “Back and Forth Disco,” hung on 100 bus shelters across New York City from January to June. Al Qasimi also participated in the second Lahore Biennale, which opened in January 2020. In 2021, she will be included in the exhibition “New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century” at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

The Artsy Vanguard 2020

The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.

Harley Wong

Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Farah Al Qasimi, installation view of “FUNHOUSE” at Helena Anrather, 2020. Courtesy of Helena Anrather, New York; Portrait of Farah Al Qasimi by Matthew Leifheit. Courtesy of the artist; Farah Al Qasimi, “Woman in Leopard Print,” 2019. Courtesy of Helena Anrather, New York; Farah Al Qasimi, “Aviary,” 2019. All artwork images courtesy of the artist; The Third Line, Dubai; and Helena Anrather Gallery, New York.