Monira Al Qadiri and Art in the United Arab Emirates

Early morning in the Dubai Marina

The Middle East is quickly becoming a prominent place for art fairs, museums, film festivals, and vast public and private collections of international artwork. With this new interest in art comes a complex web of history and interesting desires for the future of the Gulf region.

In the United Arab Emirates alone, there will be a Guggenheim Abu Dhabi designed by Frank Gerry as well as an Abu Dhabi Louvre by Jean Nouv and a Performing Arts Center designed by Zaha Hadid.

In Qatar, Doha boasts of the Museum of Islamic Art which was done by designer by I.M. Pei, the organization of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival which ran for a number of years, not to mention all the museums funded by the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani as part of Qatar Museums Authority.

There is no doubt that across the Gulf, governments and organizations alike are trying to bring the best of the art world, from architecture to collections to staff to the Gulf region. Although it appears to be of great benefit for the region as well as for the art world, this push for a new art movement is not without a sense of irony or a type of inconsistency.

No one taps into the complexities of the expansion of western-based museums in the Middle East like Monira Al-Qadiri’s Myth Busters artwork, which is based in part on the work of Dr. Alexandre Kazerouni entitled, Mirror Museums on the Sea, Heritage Museums on the Land: The Rise of Patrimonial States and The Fall of National Bureaucracies in Qatar and Abu Dhabi after the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

The collection of photographs by Al-Qadiri begins to provide a visual for what it means to integrate the history of the region with its hope for the future. In many ways, this series toys with the ideas of local versus global, past versus future, and art versus culture.

Through the process it begins to make evident that international art becomes a tool or idea for overcoming difficult histories of war, instability or injustice in the region, which are often overlooked. The work of Al-Qadiri becomes significant because it places the history and affect of war in juxtaposition within the plans for new museums, thus implying how surreal reality can be.

While many have theorized and researched the art boom throughout the Gulf region, this series of photographs resonates with us because it questions what elements of culture we chose to connect with, honor, and foster.

Moreover, it suggests that the glitz and glitter of the international art world caters to specific understandings of high culture, history, and progress while leaving behind local struggles, traditions, and questions.

*Note: you can view Monira Al Qadiri’s Myth Busters artwork here.

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