Saturday, 20 December 2008


As usual the period of unusually rational exuberance evident in my last post has given way to the normality of some constantly nagging financial bullshit that has to be dealt with.

Although we have been out of Dubai for a month now we still haven't got our 5000DHS security deposit back nor the last advance rent cheque. We have pleasantly visited the office, phoned numerous times as is the norm here in the absence of any of those promised calls back, but still no cheque. There are no outstanding issues with the flat we vacated and the cast iron evidence is that the flat has already been rented out to someone else.... or so our sources tell us.

So what to do. We called what we thought was the head office only to discover that it the same office we are already dealing with. Everyone there we speak to says it is the responsibility of the man who told us he was waiting for 'head office' to a) inspect the vacated flat ... er ... presumably done before the new tenants moved in? and b) to prepare the cheque. Incidentally this man has now stopped answering our calls.

Have posted question about this on UAE community blog but it is one of those UAE things that I can never get used to... that constant feeling of slight nausea because you know that however good things seem to have got there is always another fucking battle just around the corner.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

I love Sharjah ..

Sharjah rocks! It is so weird. It's just down the road from Dub but is like being in a totally different country. I feel like my feet actually connect to solid ground in Sharjah. In Dubai I always felt like I was walking on ice somehow and was never quite sure how thick it was. Even the taxi drivers are different. They have all the same problems but seem less stressed out than Dubai taxi drivers despite the nightmare of central Sharjah traffic.

Also Sharjah has got off to a very positive start in a way Dubai didn't for me. Completely out of the blue and starting the week I actually moved here, was a gift of a job working with the Sharjah Biennale and Bidoun Magazine. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that this is the coolest job in the universe and I can hardly believe its mine! As a consequence I have been allah kareeming and ulhumdulillahing all over the place which goes down very well in Sharjah. What;s more the job is based right in the middle of Sharjah's arts and heritage area which is just ... well.. ..ulhumdulillah.... see what I mean?!

Another positive is of course the weather... numerous thunderstorms last week and lots of lovely rain! I know it didn't rain much in Dubai last winter (apart from the three days that George Bush came), but the only time I heard thunder in Dubai was that weird day they seeded the clouds!

So .. I don't actually miss anything about Dubai yet although next week is the Dubai International Film Festival and I'm sure that taxi-ing in and out of Dubai most days is going to be a complete pain in the proverbial. But I sneaked a press pass again which means I get free tickets so I ain't complaining!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Art Paris Abu Dhabi

This year’s Art Paris-Abu Dhabi seemed very different to last year. However, I’m not sure if this is just my perception or if there really was an objective shift in focus. It definitely seemed less ‘European’ but perhaps this is because one of the first gallery stands in the main hall was the UK's Waterhouse and Dodds. This stand contained a who’s who of regional big hitters and earners. Farhad Moshiri – check, Shirin Neshat – check, Parviz Tanavoli – check, Charles Hossein Zenderoudi – check. Yawn – check.

Most prominently displayed was Lalla Essaydi’s triptych of a figure reclining in an interior with everything covered in Arabic script. Displayed below, was the centrefold of the National with the same image reproduced as part of a feature on the art collection of Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Zayed which magically appeared two days before the opening! Worries that sales would be affected by the global downturn was evidently not something Essaydi had to worrry about nor probably any other artists in MBZ's collection!

This start set a slightly weary tone for my trip around the fair this year although a few other things did register. Enrico Navarra had an event-specific graffiti work drawn on paper around the wall of one part of its stand. This was absolutely inspired and I sincerely hope that it was snapped up for the MBZ collection.

Patrice Trigano, had several works by photographer Julien Leclerc including one mesmerising image of a bullfight. The merging of the component parts of the image was reminscent of Picassos ‘Death of a Female Toreador’ although it was a defintive victory for the toreador in this case. Another work which was essentially a study of wet sand, was also mesmerising in its textured and shadowed simplicity. Both of these images were like strong silent types providing a reassuring antidote to the political noise of some of the middle eastern work.

This perception of noise also struck me at the Tamenaga gallery showing the work of Cheng Jiang Hong and Kyosuke Tchinai. Both artists were obviously absorbed in a purely creative process which reconstructed and reinterpreted parts of their own art histories. There was a narrative thread in Hong’s work which almost read like a book and Tchinai had merged all the most recognisable features of traditional Japanese technique into images that were 2D but sculptural in their impact. One image in particular was so breathtaking I understood for the first time in my life why people spend money they don’t have.

After this I wandered aimlessly around the rest of the fair feeling slightly guilty for being irritated with ‘modern middle eastern art’ although perhaps it’s just the Iranians I’m bored with. Ahmad Mualla’s huge painting at Green Art Gallery was stunning and Lara Baladi’s beach collages at B21 are pure entertainment.

Guy Ferrer and Bernard Pras, the only artists being shown by Nathalie Gaillard, were also memorable. In a context where many small spaces are often overstuffed with multiple artists and styles, a minimal display technique can be very effective!