In an ever-growing effort to become an internationally recognised cultural hotspot, the Emirate of Dubai is continually expanding its collection of museums, art galleries and showrooms – enticing art lovers from around the globe to immerse themselves in Middle Eastern culture.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai – even recently launched a new long-term-stay cultural visa, explaining that there are “some 6,000 companies concerned with arts and culture, five creative complexes and 20 museums. We organise more than 550 cultural events every year attracting millions of visitors, so we do need a new vision [to] unify and coordinate efforts”.
All this means that there’s never been a better time to acquaint yourself with some of the emerging and mainstream talent coming out of the City of Gold.
Darah Ghanem is a true creative – a writer, photographer, journalist and multi-disciplinary artist. While her personal project photography is captivating, Darah is lifting up the next generation of artists from the Middle East and challenging the narrative with her digital arts zine, follow the halo, which explores underrepresented visual arts from across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. She is also the founder of Middle East Archive, an Instagram account that crowdsources digital archives of family records from the MENA.
Where to find her work: @middleeastarchive
Classically trained at the Royal College of Art in London, Sarah’s latest collection of work, ‘glitch, time, repent’, is an effervescent layering of gauges of acrylic – resulting in an explosion of colour. She examines the culture of both Middle Eastern and Western societies through her work, with a focus on the notions of whitewashing and ‘othering’. Sarah is also the co-founder of the Arab Art Salon, where Arab artists gather to discuss the current cultural landscape and art.
Where to find her work: @sarahalagroobi
Born in Basra and based in Dubai, chances are you’ve probably already seen the work of Shawkat, a professional calligrapher and graphic designer. Working with big brands (including Tiffany & Co and Chopard), this self-taught artist is one of the most sought after penmen of the last decade. With bold, graphic designs, it’s easy to spot his work – and with an ever-expanding print shop, you can even purchase your own masterpiece to bring home.
Where to find his work: @wissamshawkat
Indian and Canadian artist Fathima Mohiuddin is the founder of The Domino, a platform that advocates for up-and-coming artists in Dubai and encourages spaces for public art. A practicing street artist with walls in more than 10 cities, Fathima’s work tells a universal story that is easy to connect with. Inspired by comic book illustrations and Indian block-printed fabrics, Fathima has created a unique style that is all her own.
Where to find her work: @fatspatrol
Dina Sami is one of those artists whose work grabs your attention from the moment you lay eyes on it – which is likely why her black-and-white illustrations are often featured on magazine covers and walls across Dubai. From graphic, punchy sketches to colourful textural pieces, it’s clear Dina is one of Dubai’s most exciting multidisciplinary artists.
Where to find her work: @creativebeingdina
Hassan Sharif is perhaps one of the most internationally celebrated Emirati artists. While he passed away in 2016, his work can still be found at the Guggenheim New York, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and a handful of other renowned museums. As a leading pioneer in conceptual and experimental art, Hassan is perhaps best known for his love of colour and taking everyday objects, such as combs, and making them into sought-after art.
Where to find his work: Guggenheim New York, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Centre Pompidou, Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern and Sharjah Art Foundation
Dubai is quickly becoming recognised as a top fashion destination, so it’s no surprise that a scene of fashion illustrators is emerging, including Samar Sadik, a Dubai-based illustrator who creates fun and whimsical sketches. Having worked with Dior Joaillerie, L’Occitane En Provence and Aqua Di Parma, she’s one to watch on the world’s international fashion stage.
Where to find her work: @samarsadikdesigns
From textiles to comic books and hotel murals, there’s nothing Khalid Mezaina can’t do. While his style varies by project, there is always a strong Emirati theme, such as his latest mural for Rove Hotel which depicts a laundromat, sketched and filled with eye-catching colour. His work is also reflected in the hotel’s ‘cabinet of curiosities’ in the form of illustrated prints. Khalid frequently hosts workshops to help cultivate the next generation of young Dubai artists and share his knowledge.
Where to find his work: @kmezaina