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In partnership with BMW Middle East, Art Dubai Portraits is a film series that provides a short perspective into the lives and workspaces of artists that are connected to the fair through its programming or participating galleries. The series is produced in collaboration with Forward James Filmmakers. Follow the links below to watch the films:

Sara Rahbar

Iranian artist living and working in New York, Sara Rahbar expresses dark and complex concepts surrounding nationalism and belonging within her artistic practice, stemming from personal experiences and leaving Tehran during a period of immense upheaval that followed the revolution and the start of the Iran-Iraq war. Often using abstract objects that she actively collects, Rahbar pieces together her creations which take form in a variety of mediums ranging from photography, sculpture and installation. Her approach of dissecting and assembling components is reflective of her need to deconstruct these emotions and apocalyptic memories that have moulded her into the artist and activist she is today.

Rahbar has exhibited widely in art institutions including Queensland Museum, Brisbane; Sharjah Art Foundation; Venice Biennial; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Mannheimer Kunstverein. Her works are included in the permanent collections of the British Museum, London; The Centre Pompidou, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; The Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Boston; and Sharjah Art Foundation amongst others.

Naqsh Collective

Created by sisters Nisreen and Nermeen Abudail, Amman-based design studio Naqsh Collective is known for creating contemporary design-art pieces featuring traditional Palestinian motifs.

Naqsh Collective instantly became a conceptual framework reflected in the unique pieces of art and their intricate collaboration with design. A harmonious union between the oriental and the modern, Naqsh integrates aspects of art, architecture and heritage through sophisticated minimalism. The two sisters find inspiration from the contemporary simplicity and a traditional arabic aesthetic, combined with high quality craftsmanship.

Mona Saudi

One of the few artists of her generation to sculpt mainly in stone, Mona Saudi’s forms are full of vitality, beauty and clear sense of equilibrium, often exploring ideas of fertility and growth. A dreamer with a strong propensity to always make art, Saudi creates from a place of serenity, starting with a basic shape or movement that she repeats in different sizes and cuts across resulting in graceful sculptures.

Saudi’s works have been exhibited at renowned institutions internationally and are in the collections of Sharjah Art Foundation; the British Museum, London; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, among others.

Mona Saudi lives and works in Beirut and Amman.

Mohammed Kazem

Watch Mohammed Kazem in his hometown of Dubai discuss his practice that encompasses video, photography and performance to find new ways of apprehending his environment and experiences. The foundations of his work are informed by his training as a musician, and Kazem is deeply engaged with developing processes that can render transient phenomena, such as sound and light, in tangible terms. Often positioning himself within his work, Kazem responds to geographical location, materiality and the elements as a means to assert his subjectivity, particularly in relation to the rapid pace of modernisation in the Emirates since the country’s founding.

Kazem was a member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society early in his career and is acknowledged as one of the ‘Five’, an informal group of Emirati artists at the vanguard of conceptual and interdisciplinary art practice. He lives and works in Dubai and is represented by Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai.

Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim

Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim (b. 1962, Khorfakkan, UAE) is part of the UAE’s first generation of contemporary artists. Coming of age as an artist in the UAE when the visual arts were not yet valued culturally or taught in degree programs, Ibrahim was pulled out of a secluded practice – and life as a police officer – when he met the late artist Hassan Sharif in 1986 and become a founding member of the Emirates Fine Art Society, and he helped to form the foundation for the creative community that defines the UAE today.

Ibrahim’s practice has been inspired by a lifelong relationship with the environment of Khorfakkan, his place of birth, with the Gulf of Oman on one side and the Hajar Mountains on the other. His fascination with the desolate, rocky terrain on this eastern shore of the UAE recalls not only Judd’s attraction to the barrenness of his Texan hideaway, but also the earthy toils of a generation of land artists, with whom Ibrahim shares a spiritual lineage.

Ibrahim works and lives in Khorfakkan, United Arab Emirates and is represeented by Lawrie Shabibi (Dubai).

Nadia Kaabi-Linke

The art of Nadia Kaabi-Linke is related to places and their histories; it is as time-specific as it is site-specific. Across her work are constellations of cultural and historical, social and political contexts that refer to certain places or to coincidental events. Making use of many different media, artefacts, symbolisms and codes, her work is intertwined with socio-psychological topics: perception, memory, and geographically and politically constructed identities.

Her works are part of several public and private collections including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Solomon R. Guggenheim , NYC; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah; Samdani Art Foundation, Dhaka and the Abraaj Group Art Collection, Dubai, UAE

Kaabi-Linke was born in Tunis in 1978, and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tunis, and later at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Kaabi-Linke currently lives and works in Berlin. The artist is represented by Lawrie Shabibi (Dubai) and Experimenter (Kolkata).

Hassan Hajjaj

Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj is known for his vivid and uniquely composed portrait photography.

Sometimes referred to as the ‘Andy Warhol of Marrakech’, Hajjaj is very much a child of the pop art generation. His work encompasses many techniques and fields, from designing and producing furniture including lamps, stools and poufs made from recycled North African objects to custom made clothes and photography. The artist lives and works between London, England and Marrakech, Morocco and is represented by The Third Line (Dubai).

Mithu Sen

Born in 1971 in West Bengal, Mithu Sen obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in painting from Kala Bhavan at Santiniketan, and later, completed a postgraduate program at the Glasgow School of Art in the United Kingdom on the prestigious Charles Wallace India Trust Award for 2000-2001. An enthusiastic traveler, Sen has explored several countries and many of her works have evolved from these experiences.

In her works, Sen contrasts scale, subject and genre to give life to her remarkable imagination. She works spontaneously in installations and paintings – one mark or symbol leading to another, with no preconceived narrative or definitive meaning, they consist of a peculiar collection of motifs that playfully subvert commonly held beliefs about femininity and sexuality. Juxtaposing intricate and large forms, conflating animals, humans and inanimate objects, and combining drawing, painting and collage, Sen’s works provoke both humour and serious consideration on the part of the viewer. Sen lives and works in New Delhi and is represented by Nature Morte and Galerie Krinzinger.

Sudarshan Shetty

Sudarshan Shetty (born 1961) lives and works in Mumbai, India. Initially trained as a painter, Shetty later turned to sculpture and installations which now account for all of his practice. A conceptual artist, he is renowned for his enigmatic, sculptural installations, his hybrid constructions questioning the fusion of Indian and Western traditions.

He has exhibited widely in India and around the world, including at the Biennale of Sydney (2016), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2012) Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011) and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010), amongst others. Shetty was the curator of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 in addition to participating as an artist in the inaugural edition of the Biennale in 2012. He is represented by Galerie Templon (Paris/Brussels) and Galerie Krinzinger (Vienna).

Jitish Kallat

Jitish Kallat was born in Mumbai in 1974, the city where he continues to live and work. The artist’s vast oeuvre spans painting, photography, drawing, video and sculptural installations, revealing a constant engagement with ideas of time, sustenance, recursion and historical recall.

His works traverse varying focal lengths and time-scales; from close details of the skin of a fruit or the brimming shirt-pocket of a passerby. Some works might be meditations on the transient present while others reach back into history and overlay the past onto the present through citations of momentous historical utterances.

Kallat has exhibited widely at museums and institutions across the world including representing India at the Venice Biennale this year, with his installation ‘Covering Letter’. Additionally, in 2017 the National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi) presented a major mid-career survey of his work and in 2014, Kallat was the curator and artistic director of Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Kallat is represented by Galerie Templon (Paris/Brussels).

Marwan Sahmarani

Marwan Sahmarani is a Lebanese artist based between Beirut and the small Mediterranean mountain village of Tarbena, Spain. With strong brushstrokes and vivid colours, Sahmarani’s practice reflects on the increasing political turmoil and tension felt throughout his native Lebanon. His textured paintings have abstract, expressionist tendencies but are rooted in the early traditions of landscape painting. Sahmarani is represented by Leila Heller Gallery (Dubai/New York)

Nikhil Chopra

The artistic practice of Nikhil Chopra ranges between live art, theatre, painting, photography, sculpture, and installation. His performances, in large part improvised, dwell on issues such as identity, the role of autobiography, the pose, and self-portraiture, reflecting on the process of transformation and the part played by the duration of each performance.

Taking autobiographical elements as his starting point, Chopra combines everyday life and collective history; daily acts such as eating, resting, washing and dressing, but also drawing and making clothes, acquire the value of ritual, becoming an essential part of the show. Born in Kolkata in 1974, Chopra lives and works in Goa and has exhibited and performed globally since 2005. He is represented by Galleria Continua, San Gimignano/Beijing/Les Moulins/Habana.

Samir Sayegh

Born in Lebanon, 1945, Samir Sayegh is a pioneer of modernism in the Arab world. An art critic and historian, he wrote about the contemporary art of the Arab world in the Arabic press from 1970 to 1985. His own practice is driven by a deep interest in the formal power of letters and he was one of the first who sought to liberate calligraphy from language and meaning in an effort to create a universal visual language. Also a prolific writer, Sayegh has published numerous articles and essays on art and aesthetics as well as being the author of several books. Sayegh lives and works in Beirut and is represented by Agial Art Gallery (Beirut).

Michael Tsegaye

Represented by Addis Fine Art, Michael Tsegaye lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He received his diploma in painting from Addis Ababa University’s School of Fine Arts and Design in 2002, but soon gave up painting after he developed an allergy to oil paint. He subsequently found his real passion in photography and has made of it not only a profession, but a way of expressing a very particular voice.

Raed Yassin

Represented by Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Raed Yassin lives and works in Beirut. A graduate from the Theatre Department of the Institute of Fine Arts in Beirut, Yassin is an artist and musician, with his work often originating from an examination of his personal narratives and their position within a collective history, through the lens of consumer culture and mass production.

Tadesse Mesfin

Born in Ethiopia and represented by Addis Fine Art, artist Tadesse Mesfin discovered his passion for drawing and painting at a young age. After attending the Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts and Design, he went on to study at the Repin Academy of Painting, Architecture & Sculpture in St. Petersburg. His recent works are contemporary interpretations of frontal figures in columnar arrangements, influenced by ancient Egyptian sculptures and mythological drawings, infused with local colours, hinting at Ethiopian cities.

Marwan Rechmaoui

Sfeir-Semler Gallery artist Marwan Rechmaoui (b.1964) was born in Beirut and studied sculpture and painting at Massachusetts College of Art & Design between 1987 and 1993. In his work, Rechmaoui derives inspiration from the geography and complex multi-cultural history of Beirut, reflecting on themes of urbanization and contemporary social and behavioral demographics. In lieu of mapping urban spaces, the artist does not view the city according to typical urban planning standards, instead he points to socio-political affiliations and etymological histories from each community.

Hayv Kahraman

Hayv Kahraman was born in Baghdad, Iraq and now lives and works in Los Angeles. The Third Line Gallery artist’s practice pulls on her personal experiences of migration to Europe (and then the United States), and reflects on the placelessness and experiences of the diaspora. The body as object and subject have a central role in her work with female figures featuring heavily in her paintings, reflecting on controversial issues of gender and the female identity.

Kamal Boullata

Born in Jerusalem in 1942 (Berlin 2019) Kamal Boullata is a painter and writer who studied art in Rome and Washington D.C. He found in abstraction an affinity with the geometric compositional principles of Islamic art and Eastern Christian iconography. A major and highly original innovator in the history of modernism in the Arab world, he is the recipient of awards for his work that is held in private and public collections.

Haleh Redjaian

Haleh Redjaian, represented by Dubai’s Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde, is an Iranian-German artist who works with a variety of artistic mediums: drawing, watercolour, textile, and wall installation. Through her geometrical and minimalistic work, Redjaian seeks a sense of order and system, while revealing her thoughtful study of space. Redjaian studied art history, graphic design, printmaking and sculpture in Germany and Belgium in the 1990s. She also went on to participate in solo and group shows in Berlin, Munich, Antwerp, Ghent, and Dubai.

Timo Nasseri

For the inquisitive German-Iranian photographer-turned-sculptor Timo Nasseri, the concept of infinity has held a dominant presence in his body of sculptural and illustrative works. The Sfeir-Semler Gallery artist’s bedazzling, small and large drawings demonstrate his fascination with the intricacies of mathematics, geometry, constellations, and Islamic ornamentation. Recipient of Art Dubai’s Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2011, Nasseri has participated in solo and group exhibitions in Berlin, New York, Paris, Dubai, Tehran, and New Delhi.

Chaoki Choukini

Represented by Green Art Gallery in Dubai, Chaouki Choukini is a Lebanese-born, Paris-based artist, who is known for his bold yet poetic wooden sculptures. It was Choukini’s early experiences of observing landscapes in his native South Lebanon that initially inspired him to pursue a decades-long career in sculpture. Aside from showing his works in the UAE, the award-winning Choukini has been widely exhibited in France. In addition, his sculptures have been acquired by Amman’s National Gallery of Fine Arts, Sharjah’s Barjeel Art Foundation, and Paris’ Centre National des Arts Plastiques, among others.

Setareh Shahbazi

Based in Berlin, the Tehran-born, Gypsum Gallery digital artist Setareh Shahbazi draws inspiration from visual objects that surround her, from old family photographs to newspaper clippings, feeding into her conceptual installations, multi-coloured prints, and digitally manipulated photomontages. Through her artistic practice, Shahbazi offers reconstructed narratives simultaneously provided by her personal stories and the forgotten items that she comes across. Educated in scenography in Germany, Shahbazi’s works have been displayed in exhibitions in Iran, Lebanon, Germany, Italy, and France.

Ali Cherri

Based between Beirut and Paris, Ali Cherri is a video and installation artist, who focuses on recording and displaying multilayered narratives that revolve around delicate matters of heritage, archaeology, and conservation. Cherri’s projects prove diverse and equally fascinating, leading him to discover a 5000-year-old necropolis in Sharjah’s desert and reconstructing a Syrian astronaut’s historic journey to space in 1987. Represented by Galerie Imane Farès in Paris, Cherri’s works have been exhibited worldwide in prominent galleries, museums and film festivals across Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and the Far East.

Sherin Guirguis

Represented by The Third Line in Dubai, Sherin Guirguis is an Egyptian-born, California-based visual artist. Her artistic practice predominantly explores the multifaceted links between ornamentation, social and historical issues, particularly feminism. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Guirguis furthered her education in painting and sculpting in Santa Barbara and Nevada. Over the past 16 years, she has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. In addition, Guirguis’ works have been acquired by notable institutions in the United States, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Orange County Museum of Art, and the Houston Museum of Fine Art.

Farzad Kohan

Ayyam Gallery artist Farzad Kohan is a Tehran-born, Los Angeles-based painter and sculptor, whose text-infused, mixed media works explore the themes of identity, migration, and human emotion. Participating in several solo and group exhibitions since 2001, Kohan has showcased his art in Dubai, Beirut, and Los Angeles. In recent years, Kohan’s works have been acquired by museum and private collections in the United States, most notably the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Basmah Felemban

Born in 1993, Athr Gallery artist Basmah Felemban is a Saudi graphic designer, whose intricate artworks – from works on paper to installations – focus on Islamic art and calligraphy. In 2013, she earned her Master’s degree in Traditional and Islamic Art from London’s Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. Since 2011, Felemban has exhibited her research-driven works in notable group exhibitions in Dubai, Sharjah, Jeddah, Venice, and London.

Ania Soliman

Ania Soliman is an interdisciplinary artist, based in Paris and New York. Born in Warsaw in 1970 to a Polish mother and an Egyptian father, she lived in Cairo and Baghdad before leaving for the USA, where she studied at Harvard (BA 1989-1992) and Columbia (MA 1993-1996) University. Soliman has a research-based practice and works across a wide range of media such as drawing, video, text, installation and performance. Soliman is represented by Sfeir-Semler Gallery (Hamburg/Beirut).

Dia al-Azzawi

Recognized as one of the pioneers of modern Arab art, the London-based, Iraqi artist Dia al-Azzawi’s body of work spans over forty years. Born in 1939, in Baghdad, Iraq, al-Azzawi’s art draws inspiration from his homeland, and covers a range of subjects executed in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, prints, drawings, and book art.

Al-Azzawi started his artistic career in 1964, after graduating from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad and completing a degree in archaeology from Baghdad University in 1962; his studies of ancient civilizations and Iraqi heritage have had a profound impact and continued impact on his art.

Amir H. Fallah

In his work, The Third Line artist Amir H Fallah explores the idea of creating someone’s portrait without showing their physical likeness. Fallah, who began his artistic practice at the age of 12, has a sheer unquenchable thirst for work. He is interested in opposites as a way to create tension, which is, amongst others, a result from his two-fold artistic background of having had a very formal academic training on the one hand and worked on graffiti on the other.

Fallah was born in Tehran in 1979. He received his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2001 and his MFA from UCLA in 2005, and has exhibited widely in solo shows across the United States and in the Middle East.

Shezad Dawood

Shezad Dawood is a London-based multi-media artist of Pakistani and Indian descent and winner of the 2011 edition of the Abraaj Group Art Prize.

He works across film, painting and sculpture, and his practice often involves collaboration with different groups and individuals. His latest major body of work is his ten-part film cycle Leviathan, in which he explores notions of marine welfare, migration, mental health and their possible interconnections. The film was conceived in dialogue with a wide range of marine biologists, oceanographers, political scientists, neurologists and trauma specialists.

Aya Haidar

Aya Haidar’s Lebanese roots as well as the history of the Middle East inform much of her multimedia practice. Based in London where she grew up, Haidar poses questions focused on memory, loss and migration. In relooking at existing objects and offering them alternative readings, she attempts to propose new narratives that aim to contribute to wider dialogues on remembrance, shared stories and identity. With degrees from the Slade School of Fine Art and the London School of Economics, Haidar has exhibited around the world and is represented by Athr in Jeddah. She also works independently on curatorial and educational projects, most recently, ‘Do It’ with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hoor Al Qasimi.

Meriem Benanni

Born in 1988, Brooklyn-based artist Meriem Bennani spent her childhood between Rabat and Paris, earning an MFA from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and a BFA from The Cooper Union in New York. Drawing inspiration from her native Morocco, the radically different cultures of Morocco and New York City are combined with Bennani’s invented cast of animated digital characters, immersing the viewer in an environment of brightly colored, geometric forms and surfaces. When she is not online, she doubles as a designer for JNOUN, a creative studio she founded with her sister, Zahra Bennani. Commissioned by Art Dubai projects, Bennani produced Ghariba/Stranger, the 2017 Art Dubai Bar – an interactive installation featuring playful video portraits of Moroccan women in a series of viewing stations, sending visitors on a game-like journey through the installation to uncover a larger narrative.

Khalil Rabah

Khalil Rabah’s work is laced with humour and wit as the Ramallah-based artist continues to offer his version of an alternative history through the invention of the fictional Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind at the Sharjah Biennal. Galleries that form this imagined institution have been exhibited around the world, in the biennials of Venice, Sharjah, Marrakech and Istanbul as well as in venues in Beirut, New York and London, among others. Fiction aside, Rabah, who was born in Jerusalem in 1961, employs a sense of forward thinking to his work that is rooted in issues of identity, displacement and politics – one such example is his launch of the Riwaq Biennale, an institution founded to safeguard and promote Palestine’s cultural heritage across various cities and towns and for the duration of a year. Rabah is represented by Sfeir Semler Gallery in Beirut/Hamburg and has held solo exhibitions at e-Flux, New York (2013), Beirut Art Center (2012), Kunsthaus Hamburg (2015) and Casa Arabe in Madrid (2016), among others.

Ramin & Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian

Dubai-based Iranian artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian are constantly redefining the limits of their practice as individual artists and as a collaborative, fervently developing their work to tackle issues that constitute nowadays reality. Permanently researching, reflecting, experimenting and creating, the trio’s first collective exhibition, I Put It There, You Name It, took pace in 2012 at their Dubai gallery, Isabelle van den Eynde, and they have since gone on to stage shows around the world. Most recently, they touched upon subjects of displacement at the recent Speak, Lokal exhibition at the Zurich Kunsthalle, the constraints inherent to the logistics required by the art system in the 9th Liverpool Biennale, the fluxus strategies in their immersive multi-room and multi-disciplinary installation at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s The Creative Act. In all subjects, they seek to embrace the positive while they also explore alienation, disorientation and loss of meaning.

Abdul Rahman Katanani

Born in 1983 in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, Abdul Rahman Katanani spent his childhood painting, using the realities of the Palestinian refugees’ everyday life in the camp as his subject matter. Over the years, Palestine became a metaphor for themes of hope, homeland, resilience and displacement – issues that are currently globally pertinent. In his work, and following a post graduate degree from the Lebanese University, Katanani has come to incorporate found objects from the camp such as bottle caps, rags and utensils, with corrugated iron and barbed wire – materials indigenous to the camp’s structure. Some of his more recent work include olive trees that are native to Palestine, rendered in barbed wire; as well as children made from corrugated iron flying kites formed from tin cans. Among his monumental pieces is a 200-kilogram tornado made from barbed wire and another of a gigantic wave, both of which serve as allegories for a void, political unrest and change. Katanani has completed residencies in France and has held solo and group shows in Beirut, Doha, Munich and Paris, among other cities. He is represented by Beirut’s Agial Art Gallery.