(2 of 2)
THE FARJAM COLLECTION
A stone's throw from Cuadro and Opera sits Farjam, where the exhibits are culled from the private collection of its benefactor, the Iranian philanthropist Farhad Farjam. The airy two-story space (watch your step on the glass staircase) has become a center for hands-on art education, luring students and patrons to its regular talks and demonstrations.
The gallery has distinguished itself with an emphasis not on sales but on learning and is considered by many local artists to be a great forum for expanding their collector base and building market share. Equally notable is the gallery's emphasis on craft: an exhibition that closed in mid-March comprised 25 intricate silk carpets from Iran, with pieces hung between floors and stretched out on long wooden viewing tables.
"The money spent on art here is huge, but in terms of the population, the number of buyers is slim," says artist Sacha Jafri, offering an overview of the local arts scene. "We have to teach the investment value and how it can enhance your life." In that vein, a sign at Farjam's recent exhibition read, in what could be a first for a gallery: PLEASE TOUCH THE CARPETS.
The UAE space is one of two Etemad branches, with the other in Tehran. Dubai-size at a massive 930 sq m, the gallery is a local collector's go-to for pieces from contemporary Iranian artists the Gulf's biggest sellers. One of the largest galleries in the Middle East, Etemad is "challenging the notion of what it means to be a young artist working in the region," says spokeswoman Jareh Das.
New work from Iranians is at "the forefront of the market," Das says, and Etemad showcases the country as often as possible. Artists love going there its towering ceilings and the gallery's carte blanche mandate makes it a virtual playground. "We have vast space, and we give them the freedom to experiment," she says.
An exhibit that closed earlier in March featured large-scale foam mattresses hanging from the ceiling. During Art Dubai, renowned Iranian architect and artist Kamran Diba will present a series of abstract newspaper images, using the pieces to "comment on the idea that we're bombarded by news, and he's trying to bring the visual out of the text."
The first from business partners William Lawrie and Asmaa al-Shabibi, this gallery was one of the most anticipated of last year's numerous openings. The cavernous 280-sq-m space is located in the newly rejuvenated industrial al-Quoz district near Mall of the Emirates.
Lawrie Shabibi is the brainchild of local art royalty. Lawrie is the former director of contemporary Middle Eastern art at Christie's, which now holds auctions in the emirate, and al-Shabibi the former managing director of Art Dubai. The gallery's splashy opening-night party attracted a Who's Who of Dubai's glitterati and helped push art events onto the city's social scene. But it lives up to the hype. Its minimalist exhibits play on the physical space, often mirroring its sleek industrial chrome, white and concrete interior.
Lawrie Shabibi has become a champion of the burgeoning North African scene. A recent exhibition from Algerian artist Driss Ouadahi featured paintings of gridded skyscrapers and sterile cityscapes; during Art Dubai, Lawrie Shabibi hosts a monochromatic multimedia sculpture series from the Tunisian-born artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke.