Shining a Light on Emirati Arts

Arab arts awaken a certain interest in people when they are in their presence. The rich cultural and historical background of countries like the United Arab Emirates rarely disappoint when translated into works of art. There are plenty of celebrated Emirati artists that have showcased their work in London, as their understanding of the arts goes beyond the outstanding skyscrapers that highlight their cities, or the beautiful mosques built for prayer. Modern art is a huge scene in the Emirates. From Dubai to Abu Dhabi, and everything in between, Emirati artists are emerging with a fresh and exciting take on contemporary art.

London’s Shubbak festival has put a spotlight on these UAE artists in the United Kingdom. The thing that attracts Emirati artists to London is the long tradition that the art scene has in the city; whereas in Dubai, or other Emirati places, it is still quite a young scene, allowing virtually anyone to be an artists if they wish to do so. There is still a lack of curating through which ones can be considered real artists, and which can’t. Therefore, London opens up a space for Emirati artists to really be put to test - not anyone can make it big in the city.

Nonetheless, there is an increasing interest in Gulf art in London, which has opened up doors for artists to showcase their talent. About three years ago, twelve Emirati artists were able to show their work at Sotheby’s in London, as reported by the Embassy of the UAE in London. Hassan Sharif, one of UAE’s most prominent artists - and who passed away barely a month ago -, was a favourite for exhibitions in London. Although he eventually returned to the Emirates to live and work, London was where he obtained his artistic degree, studying at the Byam Shaw School of Art (now part of Central Saint Martins) during five years. Emirati art continues to grow significantly in London, and shows are often available showcasing the very best of the Arab world artistic talent. Unsurprisingly, more and more artists are invited to London to exhibit their work, giving them an opportunity for London audiences to engage with them and for them to consider a life and a career in the British capital.