ARTDubai : Will the real Art-Work please stand up!?


People covered by their religion, in a city covered by excess, where every street corner has a sheesha- bar and  a person speaking Hindi/Urdu – welcome to Dubai!

My sole purpose in visiting Dubai was to look, find and purchase Art being presented and showcased at Art Dubai (

Standing tall like a scaled up version of a leggo city, Phantasmal – my name for Dubai, stands like a mirage in the middle of the dessert. All reflective surfaces and glass, the sun beating down at 40 degrees Celsius was unforgiving. The cool waters surrounding it from three sides, provided respite in the evenings, however you could not escape the heady scent that filled your nostrils as you walked along the  boardwalk at Jumeirah Beach.  As the sun sets, the cool breezes can be safely labelled as the most beautiful of experiences to be had there. The contrast and void is so great, that this result of air currents interacting between land and water is a small celebration at the end of each day.  Where the laws of Mother Nature have been overcome according to the optimist and subverted according to the pessimist, the realist must acknowledge the forced air of celebration that envelopes the city and its inhabitants, like an aura of impending Doom!

Why doom you ask? As everywhere you look, be it the cuisine, the malls, the entertainment- it is all imported, supplanted, and borrowed.  This was reflected in the Art represented there. In the choices made by the curatorial teams. Where money is no object, taste is not always a given.

Dubai maybe perfect as a smorgasbord of international cultures and technologies, but when things and people have no roots, an explosion is waiting to happen. This aura of something disastrous about to happen can be felt in the aura of Dubai. With the reckless driving of expensive cars in the dessert dunes, the international ladies of the night at places of entertainment and the dissatisfaction etched on the local people who have come from far and wide to make money so their families back home may have better lives. This and more cumulatively are unpredictable elements that as they interact agitation is inevitable. For me this aura of dissatisfaction and greed took precedence over the Art on display.
The advertising and propaganda will have you believe that Dubai is glamorous, a lifestyle choice. But the only question I asked myself whilst there was what happens to a group of people who are geographically tied together due to their desire to make money? I am yet to find an answer that does not terrify me.

A friend of mine who got married there told me, that when she prayers she feels that Dubai is a city that has succumbed to the lure of the Shaitaan. Where decadence and greed are on display 24/7. Where the Azaan is heard 5 times a day and then the connection to Allah forgotten in daily activities.

In my personal experience the journey that I took in Dubai was an internal one – stimulated by the contrast that is present there. Where on one hand you are confronted by masses of people who have their faith literally on display through their dress, food choices and prayer practices. And on the other hand you have opportunities and metaphorical playpens for all vice to be explored, stoked and practiced. There is ultimate free will, in Dubai, what will you choose and will you be able to live with the consequences is the only relevant question. The real art-work being showcased at Art Dubai, is – Dubai!

There are many versions of Dubai- the city of lost souls, a city of Fantasies and Illusion, or then a City of Celebration. Which Dubai you enter is your choice!


2 thoughts on “ARTDubai : Will the real Art-Work please stand up!?

  1. Divvya, you have marvellously commented and summed up what could happen to human beings when they have immense wealth and a desire to own and display its various soul-less forms. I shudder to think of the consequences for those intoxicated with ‘living for the moment’ because your words sound almost premonitory. I get a feeling as if you are asking, ‘Can true art flourish where vulgar of wealth prevails?’ You have done a wonderful effort to help awaken an average individual to see beyond the obvious in the ecstatic Dubai. Thanks for an honest appraisal.


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