Confession time: I am a Philistine.
I do not do art galleries regularly because I live in Al Ain and there are a dearth of them here. The best galleries are in Dubai, and unless I book into a hotel or stay at my home away from home, friend Ruth’s place, I do not get to see all the wonders the art world has to offer.
So I was sad to miss the launch of the African Art Exhibition at Create Hub Gallery the evening of the launch(car trouble and Sharjah!), but Lidija (the curator and owner) kindly invited me back to a private viewing. I’m glad I went.
Finding the gallery is a schlep since it’s located in a part of Dubai that is not as well-known for galleries: Al Quoz 3. Driving around for an hour using various GPS functions didn’t help and about three calls later we eventually found the gallery. It’s situated near the Al Jazeerah cemetry, about 5-10 minutes (depending on traffic) from the Oasis Mall. There are a lot of car maintenance warehouses around and even a doggie kennel and grooming salon can be found nearby.
Once we used our Google Maps instead of the GPS I/we usually use, it led us straight to the gallery. Stumbling inside into the pure white space, I found an oasis of calm and a welcome breeze from the AC Lidija cranked up to cool us off.
She’s a tiny person, gracious and soft-spoken. She welcome hugged me ( doesn’t know me from a bar of soap!) and asked if I needed water. While I thankfully dropped my workbag on a USE ME table and gulped down the water, I looked around.
Whenever I hear the term “African Art”, I expect wooden masks and the Big 5 animal sculptures. I think most people think that. So when I saw very modern, striking, even sculptural pieces I was intrigued.
I started asking questions. The first being “If I don’t know art, what do you suggest I buy to start my collection?” Lidija’s answer gave me food for thought,
“Buy what you love, what speaks to you, because it will be a part of your life and a part of your home, so you have to love it.”
I’d always thought arty people were snooty and buying art just to show off and accrue more valuables. Art as something you love and with a place in your home did not even occur to me. Soon I’d fallen in love with at least a dozen pieces in the gallery.
As some of you may know I have a newly purchased home in SA. It’s empty still (a container is on its way) but the biggest problem is the amount of empty wall space it has. The living and dining room wall measures about 6-8 metres! That’s alot of wall.
I also have a long empty wall facing the front door. A large piece of art would suit beautifully there. Lidija and her husband (shamefully, I forget his name!) showed me various pieces that would work.
There’s an alcove in the hallway that begs to be filled with a sculpture. I saw several glass and bronzed pieces that would be perfectly at home there. A wooden bowl or two wouldn’t look amiss on the coffee table in my living room either!
Besides the amount of enormously talented artists the gallery has sourced from all over Africa( South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and more), what struck me was the very personal relationship Lidija and her husband have with each of the artists. They knew minute details about each of the artists: where they were from, what they did to create the art, even if they enjoyed a tipple or not! They describe the artists as friends. I liked that.
The art is not just for looking at. I found myself running my fingers wonderingly over the pieces time after time. I forgot the strict rules galleries usually have about not touching. But this art was different. It begged you to reach out and touch it. It draws you in. Each time I looked at some of the pieces I saw something different: my favourite kind of art!
I took hubby and G with me. It was G’s very first art gallery visit. She was so taken that she made me promise we’d return soon. And I will, because I have some purchase arrangements to make and because I have to see the next round of artists they display.
Another pleasantly surprising thing about the gallery were its prices. The most expensive piece was priced at 55,000 dirhams. The cheapest piece at just over 1000 dirhams. Absolutely affordable if you want to start your collection. The pieces are truly unique and the passion each artist works with is obvious. The labour of love in placing minute pieces of paper and then painstakingly painting an image into it, is breathtaking. Printing and then cutting and pasting hundreds of tiny pictures to form a Dubai skyline and cityscape complete with miniature shoppers is…simply awe-inspiring.
Lidija and her hubby enjoy what they do. You can tell by the way their eyes light up when they talk about this artist who’s still at school and doing beautiful intricate pen drawings or that artist who’s using detritus of an Africa civil war and making haunting, ghostly, ghastly sculptures that fascinate as they revile. Her husband ( darn, I really have to call to ask his name again!) is travelling back to Africa soon to source more talented artists for the gallery. I can’t wait to see what he returns with!
As a South African it makes me glad to see Africa displayed in a way that smashes the sad stereotypical view of my continent. I am glad to see others seeing her as I do.
Please do visit this little gem hidden in Dubai. Take your family and enjoy an afternoon at what is truly an awesome space.
Until next I blog,