Ria Sharma with her artwork Mask off.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
World Art Dubai (WAD, 2021), hailed as the region’s most accessible and affordable art fair, in its seventh edition, wowed visitors at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), with a number of activations running alongside a collection of more than 2,000 artworks by over 250 artists and galleries. It closed April 10: but reactions and responses to the event are still pouring in. The show welcomed its first sale within minutes on opening day itself, as Egyptian fine artist Rania Abou Hashem — exhibiting at the show for the second time — etched her name in World Art Dubai folklore.
Dubai Police, which showcased a collection for the first time, had Officer Ismail Bin Hamad displaying sculptures made from wood of a Ghaf tree and resin, with four individual pieces representing: power in red, happiness in yellow, confidence in blue and peace in white. In an expanded area of the exhibition, visitors enjoyed an array of sculptures by self-taught pop artist Sanuj Birla, galleries Crib Decore, headed by UAE resident Armin Hosseini and Camelson Adventures Dubai, which focused on art representing Dubai’s fun side.
WAD was also home to an activation led by Belgian artist and sculptor, Griet Van den Auwelant, that saw thirty female artists from across the globe, collaborate to create forty nine clay doll sculptures. Opting for forty nine dolls to align with the run up to the UAE jubilee, the artwork represents the bond between people, and aims to build respect for differences. Sijin Gopinathan, a leading doodle artist and art activist, completely reinvented a Mini Cooper on the show floor, by covering it with world famous masterpieces, including Van Gogh and Picasso. Artify by Craftology led by Ella Orancillo provided makeovers to shoes, clothing and accessories with designs, including baked goods, wildlife and animals – perhaps the last word in transforming apparel.
A collaborative effort by artists Diyali Sen Bhalla and Beena Samuel, saw them using upcycled material. They described their piece as evoking feminine energy and strength, with a balance of hard and soft mediums. Prachi Sharma demonstrated Rangoli Art, the traditional art form that originates in the Indian Subcontinent. It involves using materials such as sand, rice and flower petals, to create a kaleidoscope of colour. Going beyond visual art, eight-year-old Huiran performed inspirational Chinese harmonies using the Yangqin, a chromatic instrument with a range of slightly over four octaves. Enjoying success, Jihan C saw significant sales over the first three days topping thirty pieces — but cited the exposure she got from the event as equally important.
Mouza Al Mansoori, an Emirati abstract artist hailing from Abu Dhabi, also found success at this year’s edition. Speaking on the final day, Al Mansoori saw the event as the perfect platform to gain exposure and build self-confidence as an artist. “This was a very successful edition of World Art Dubai for us because it has been more about building both exposure and my self-confidence to showcase my art than it is about selling the pieces,” the artist said. “It is also a really good way to engage with other artists and see what brilliant creations are being made. Over the first three days, we sold around fifteen pieces — which is fantastic. “Visitor reaction to our art has been mostly fascination — our art is small, so you have to get up close to appreciate it, and once they do, they discover little intricacies in the paintings, which is always great to see.”
Shiba Khan, Founder of Funun Arts Gallery, has been attending World Art Dubai since 2016 and has grown her gallery’s presence from just one stand to four stands in 2021. Taking part for the fourth time, award winning Russian contemporary artist Julia Smolenkova sold fifteen pieces over the course of the event. “I love World Art Dubai,” she said. “This exhibition is a great opportunity for artists to meet their collectors, and for collectors to find the art that they like.” Other live performances included live spray painting by street artist Dina Saadi, art made entirely out of coffee by Raha Coffee Art, and live music demonstrations by music and dance institute, Melodica Dubai.Workshops offered both professionals and amateurs across all ages an opportunity to expand their skills, and some of the most popular sessions included Nikon’s capturing landscapes, flower crowns with Russian artist Valentina Alexeevna, and painting classes for kids with Leena Kewlani. Mahmood Safwat, an artist from Egypt, was also on hand to provide ten-minute caricatures — free for visitors. The digital art area featured a display by Theatre of Digital Art, which took viewers on a breath-taking digital journey that combined high-end technologies with classical art and visual effects, Inkopia’s VR printing device, that offered takeaway magnets, as well as Samsung’s digital art display.
Al_NORN also made a successful regional debut - the robot art uses artificial intelligence to analyse and transform photographs into paintings. Ria Sharma’s creative self-portrait ‘Mask off’ was the winner at Nikon & World Art Dubai’s Stories Through Self-Portraits photo competition. “It is an illustration to highlight the person we are forced to become during the pandemic,” says Sharma. “We may not be aware of the psychological challenges or the mental health issues that some of us may have been facing. Self-prisoner, isolated, and quite possibly sad! “Mask off is an illustration to reflect hope. A hope to remove this sad face mask ‘off’ and be our normal selves again.”
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