Dubai Public Art
Dubai Public Art: Union of Artists, 2024
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At Art Dubai 2023, five artists based in the Emirates were selected from 250+ applications responding to an open call for a single artist to propose a new permanent public artwork as part of the Dubai Public Art project by Dubai Culture. The chosen artists (Afra Al Dhaheri, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Asma Belhamar, and Khalid Al Banna) unexpectedly suggested this commission go to all five of them, which was approved by the jury.

Their collaborative art piece, a sculpture titled Union of Artists, has been installed in the Al Hudaiba park. Overlooking the Etihad Museum and Union House, the huge sculpture consists of seven pillars inspired by Areesh (Arish), traditional Emirati structures built using dried fronds of palm leaves. Placed vertically as poles, they are tied with palm fibre ropes to create simple huts where one can hide from the sun, rain, or wind. The seven pillars also represent the seven emirates making up the UAE.

The Union of Artists symbolises the collective spirit of its creators’ diverse backgrounds and perspectives and blends their creative ideas and artistic visions. The scale and height of the sculpture are rooted in Khaled Al Banna’s initial proposal of a boat’s sail. The use of the marble effect is one of the distinctive features of Afra Al Dhaheri’s art. The pillars are carved with the pattern in Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s iconic style, and the visual language incorporates the architectural elements of Asma Belhamar’s work and Shaikha Al Mazrou’s exploration of tension and the interplay between form and content.

Union of Artists, 2024. Photo: Getty Images.

About the artists

Afra Al Dhaheri (b. 1988, Abu Dhabi, UAE) employs sculpture, drawing, painting, installation, photography, and printmaking to explore time, adaptation, rigour, fragility, loss, and memory. She invites one to contemplate social constructs, using contrasting materials such as concrete and hair.

The practice of Shaikha Al Mazrou (b. 1988, UAE), a professor of Visual Art at NYUAD, borrows formally from Minimalism and intellectually from Conceptual Art. To create her sculptures and installations (abstract geometric arrangements), she often uses mass-produced materials (for example, electronic waste or construction materials). Fascinated with materiality in art, Al Mazrou’s art pieces materialise as simple gestures emphasising the representation of tension, weight, and space.

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim (b. 1962, UAE) is among the trailblazing conceptual Emirati artists. His art is deeply influenced by Khorfakkan, a place where he was born and still resides, which is demonstrated by his works and the materials he employs to produce them. The objects that Ibrahim creates look similar to primitive tools, bones, or tree parts, while his drawings depict inscriptions, lines, and abstract forms resembling ancient cave paintings.

In her work, Asma Belhamar (b. 1988, Dubai, UAE) uses installation, print, video, and 3D modelling to examine the phenomenon of the megastructure in her home country and the impact it has on the topographical memory of local landscapes. She blends the architectural and the organic to create hybrid spaces focusing on temporality and spatial memory. The artist’s creations illustrate the effect various architectural trends have had on perceptions of the UAE.

Khalid Al Banna‘s (b. 1975, Sharjah, UAE) practice encompasses painting, sculpture, mixed media, and etching; he is particularly known for his black and white collages and bright textile compositions. Al Banna aims to connect to his Emirati roots through his art, exploring his homeland’s history and rapid transformation.

To get more information about the Union of Artists sculpture, please visit Art Dubai’s official website.

You may also be interested in reading our article about some beautiful public murals in Dubai. Besides, we would recommend you to look at Formation III: The Dappled Light of the Sun by Conrad Shawcross.

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