With the Sikka Art Fair in Bastakiya and Art Dubai following it last week, Dubai was buzzing with artistic options. I made it only to a handful of events and showings – some of us gotta work, you know – but I did enjoy the exhibits and the cultural chatter. While Sikka focused more on supporting local artists and had a more casual feel, Art Dubai was a larger affair – with all the requisite VIP receptions and after-parties – that attracted artists and galleries from all over the world. Among the sculpture, mixed-media and painting at Art Dubai I really liked “China,” a series of seven porcelain vases by Raed Yassin.

The vases were produced in Jingdezhen, China’s capital of porcelain, but instead of featuring illustrations of Chinese dynastic warriors a thousand years ago, these illustrate a more recent conflict: that of the civil war in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990. Though the violence has ended there, Yessin wants to show the “uneasy amnesia” and the “absence of historical narrative that reigns in Lebanon in order to keep a brittle peace.” These blue-and-white vases are entitled “War of the Hotels,” “The Battle for Tal al-Zaatar,” “The Israeli invasion of Beirut,” and “The so-called War of Liberation.” I liked how Yassin used what seems like an ancient medium to illustrate modern conflict.

Unfortunately, a more recent conflict – that of the Arab Spring which began a little more than a year ago – was deemed unacceptable and two works were literally pulled off of the walls at the Madinat Jumeirah after the show opened Wednesday. According to a video report in the International Business Times, an online business newspaper, the two works are a painting titled “After Washing” by Libyan artist Shadi Alzaqaouq, which depicts a woman holding a pair of men’s underwear with the word “Leave” written on it. “Leave,” or “Irhal,” in Arabic was commonly heard throughout protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as people protested against their autocratic regimes.

The second work to be removed was a wall-sized painting by Moroccan artist Zakaria Ramhani, which showed the Egyptian female protester who was beaten up and stripped down by the army to her blue bra. Ironically, both works deemed unacceptable for display at Dubai’s most prestigious art gathering had been being shown at a local art gallery here in Dubai.

On Friday, Filippino performer Carlos Celdran was questioned by authorities in the middle of his one-man show, “Living la vida Imelda,” which contains political and religious humor, including a fictional conversation between the former Philippines first lady and the late Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddhafi, according to the GMA News in the Philippines. He imagines “Imelda telling Gaddafi, ‘Islam is all about peace, and if you are funding a war in my country that is pitting Filipino against Filipino, you are also pitting Muslim against Muslim. How are you following Mohammed?'”

Authorities asked the comic to turn the humor down several notches, but that would have meant cutting more than half the show. He cancelled his scheduled appearance Saturday and flew home.

3 thoughts on “Art Dubai, minus the Arab Spring

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