Notes on Street Art Night in Dubai

When you grow up in Boston and then live in New York City (or any number of urban centers where graff rules everything around you), you get spoiled. I sometimes forget that “street art,” in general, is not always part of everyone’s everyday experience. Heck, ART (in general) is not always part of everyone’s everyday experience. I won’t go so far as to say “art” is a new thing happening here in the UAE–that’s just ignorant–but I will say this: Street Art is a new happening. Those of us here to witness have the extremely unique opportunity to watch it develop: how, why, when, where, etc. (I’m sure I will write an essay or two about it when I have time to reflect.) So when The National announced that Maria Urrutia was organizing “Street Art Night” to “appeal to people who don’t normally go to galleries and museums and get them interested in art” and to “promote the cause of street art to the people and the authorities”…I literally jumped up and down.

Consider this: “The project hopes to one day persuade authorities to open up whole swaths of the industrial zone, including factories, labour camps and other buildings, for street artists to freely use as a canvas.”

In the wake of the whitewashing of 5Pointz, for me anyway, the idea that community organizers here in the Emirates are working to create spaces for street artists is particularly poignant. And fascinating. And curios. Street Art Night was an event that brought artists of all kinds together to foster appreciation and build a temporary community around a love for public arts. Alongside the Deep Crates Cartel (Dubai’s pre-eminent hip hop crew), there were kids painting at a pop up studio hosted by the jamjar, canvas artists using oil, acrylics, markers, and stencils…to paint on buses and temporary wooden boards. There were also b-boys breakin’ to the best of oldschool hip hop beats (a personal highlight of the evening). We had a great time and hope to see more events just like it! Here are some snapshots:

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Running into Steffi Bow At Quoz Day in Dubai

My fieldwork is wonderful because every moment is a possible encounter with a new work or a new artist. The streets are good like that, full of potential.

An NYUAD colleague and I loaded up a bus of students, faculty, and staff to go to Quoz, a day of art, design, music, and film in Dubai yesterday morning. Let’s just say things are happening, the art scene is bubbling up and public art is part of that bubbling. Quoz Day was truly spectacular, if you are in the area next year make it a priority.

After a yummy lunch at a cafe called The Lime Tree, we wondered into the Alkersal Avenue industrial art/auto area in Al Quoz and low and behold…Ironlak cans on the ground, giant board, scaffolding…and face masks. What? Live Painting! This wasn’t on the program. #happydance

That’s where I met Steffi Bow, a British expat now living and working in Dubai. As far as we know, she is the only girl doing aerosol art in the area so it was really nice to connect. Check out her Tumblr!

I basically sat there watching them paint for the rest of the day, but I did manage to pop in and out to see other shows, my favorites included (pasted from programme):

The Courtyard Gallery exhibition ‘Women in Art IX’, a celebration of female creativity in the UAE.

‘APPROACHING ENTROPY’ at GALLERY ISABELLE VAN DEN EYNDE. View entirely new works by Hassan Sharif, including meticulously rendered works on paper and assemblages of mass produced materials governed by chance and order.

NABIL NAHAS SOLO EXHIBITION at LAWRIE SHABIBI. Head to Lawrie Shabibi and experience a collection of sumptuous 3D paintings by Lebanese artist Nabil Nahas, from his series ‘Fractals’ and ‘Galactic’.

DANCE PERFORMANCE AND LECTURE at THE FRIDGE. Join The Fridge for a unique contemporary dance performance and lecture titled ‘I Laban You’ by Monica Antezana, inspired by a lighthearted curiosity for words.

The shows had just opened so definitely pop through!!