by Dianne Apen-Sadler
  • 5 minute read
  • January 11, 2024
Art Dubai 2024: An exploration of artistic healing with the Bawwaba gallery

Be the change you want to see in the world. It seems a simple enough concept, but what it means in reality is much more difficult to define.

Which is exactly what the Bawwaba gallery at Art Dubai 2024 aims to explore – or, more accurately, what Mahatma Gandhi actually said: “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme.”

Curated by Emiliano Valdés, Chief Curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MAMM) in Medellín, Colombia, this year’s gallery is themed around “Sanación / Healing”, with a selection of 10 solo projects going on display.

Debashish Paul. Me with My Pet 22-23, Varanasi. Courtesy of the artist and Emami Art

Valdés said of the theme, “In my view, art has the potential to lead to a deeper understanding of the self and the world. With the theme ‘Sanación / Healing’, I aim to foreground artistic expressions at Bawwaba that look at art as a space for reflection and healing, connecting us to a broader social purpose and a channel towards change. 

“The underlying concept is that the journey toward societal and global improvement starts from within. Understanding the self can create connections with others, society and the universe at large. 

“The exhibition will highlight artists from the Global South, but also narratives of traditional craftsmanship, folklore and rituals presented across various artistic mediums that recuperate organic and ancestral ways of relating to the world. They visualise how people continue to make sense of the world and our role in it, especially during times of spiritual, communal and political challenges.”

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Art Dubai has served as a major platform for artists from the Middle East and the Global South for the past 17 years. The Bawwaba section of the art fair, which means ‘gateway’ in Arabic, features works that have been created in the 12 months prior to the opening of, or specifically for, Art Dubai.

Here are four artists you don’t want to miss on your visit.

Assumed Vivid Astro Focus (AVAF)

Abul Hisham, Encounter (Triptyc), 2023. Courtesy the Artist and Secci (detail 1)

Artist collective Assumed Vivid Astro Focus, or AVAF, was founded in New York City by Brazilian artist Eli Sudbrack and French artist Christophe Hamaide-Pierson in 2001. Bright, bold colours dominate their works, which span mediums including paintings, sculptures, videos and installations, and deal with questions around gender, politics and cultural codes. In summer 2023, a retrospective for AVAF was held at Sesc São Paulo featuring more than 20 years of work, while Miami Beach is currently playing host to public art piece Adora Vanessa Athena Fantasia (2023) until the end of February.

The group are best known for their immersive installations in which the viewer becomes part of the piece, so you can expect to step inside a vibrant world at Art Dubai this March.

Mirna Bamieh

Mirna Bamieh, Sour Things The Kitchen. Details, 2023. Courtesy of NIKA Project Space. Photo by Ivan Erofeev

First trained in the culinary arts, much of Palestinian artist Mirna Bamieh’s work centres around food. She is best known for founding the Palestine Hosting Society, a live art project she launched six years ago in which she stages dinner performances featuring traditional Palestinian dishes.

Through this project, and other works including videos and ceramics, Bamieh explores the politics of disappearance and memory production, as well as issues around the trauma of loss and identity. She most recently participated in the Sharjah Biennial 15 in February last year, with Sour Things (2022), followed by Sour Things: The Kitchen (2023) at the Dubai-based NIKA Project Space in November last year.

Manuel Chavajay

Manuel Chavajay. Credit to Extra Gallery

While some pieces on display at the Bawwaba gallery will deal with internal healing, Manuel Chavajay’s work is more concerned with societal issues including industrialization and pollution. The Mayan-tz’utujil indigenous artist draws inspiration from dreams and ancestral knowledge, and encourages the viewer to live in harmony with nature, a cornerstone of Mayan culture. Working in mediums such as painting, sculpture, video and installations, he creates everyday landscapes featuring Lake Atitlan.

Alongside his own art, which has been shown at group exhibitions including the Biennial CURITIVA BRAZIL, SIART Bolivia Biennial and the Paiz Biennial, Chavajay sponsors contemporary art in the Mayan community through the Canal Cultural collective, which is based in the Guatemalan town of San Pedro La Laguna where he lives and works.

Abul Hisham

Abul Hisham, Encounter (Triptyc), 2023. Courtesy the Artist and Secci

Through the medium of soft pastels and sculptures, Abul Hisham’s work deals with religious conflicts and caste systems in India with portraits and tableaux, although often the subjects of his pieces are from elsewhere in the world. According to Hisham, “The experience of working with powdered pigments is like sculpting from dust, keeping with the Christian and Islamic belief that humans were created from dust, and to which they return after death”. Born in Thrissur, Kerala, and now working in Amsterdam in The Netherlands, he also explores notions of death, memory and healing in his body of work, which is why he was chosen for inclusion in the Bawwaba gallery this year. 

He recently exhibited his work at Jameel Art Centre in Dubai in 2022, and has previously hosted solo exhibitions in Mumbai and Kochi.

Alongside Bawwaba, there are three other galleries going on display at Art Dubai. Art Dubai Contemporary, which features artists from around the globe; Art Dubai Modern, which this year will focus on the rise of the Global South in response to cultural exchanges during the Cold War era post-1960; and Art Dubai Digital, which focuses on digital arts such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and robotic art, and is the only dedicated digital section of any major international art fair. You’ll also be able to explore Canadian-Korean artist Krista Kim’s immersive installation Heart Space, which visualises your heartbeat across an LED canvas, at the Julius Baer Lounge.

The exhibitions will run between Friday March 1 and Sunday March 3, with two days of previews beforehand. Art Dubai 2024 will be open to the public between 2pm and 9pm on Friday and Saturday, and between noon and 4pm on Sunday. There will also be nightly after parties hosted at the Art Bar between 9.30pm and 2am, but entry is strictly for over 21s.

Throughout the three days, there will be a number of talks as well as tours of the galleries, and you can plan out your visit by downloading the Art Dubai app.

Tickets for the event at Madinat Jumeirah Conference & Events Centre are available now via Ticketmaster, priced at Dhs100 for a one-day pass, or Dhs180 for a three-day ticket. Children under the age of 18 as well as university students can attend for free. 

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