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Three Artists from The MENA Region to Have on Your Radar

Ahead of Art Dubai, Middle East's leading art fair, I have selected three artists originally from the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region to spotlight. Please continue reading to find out who they are.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of Dubai, visits the 2019 edition of Art Dubai. Photo courtesy Art Dubai.

Since 2007 Art Dubai has broadened the discourse of art beyond the Western perspective by championing art and artists from across the Middle East. From March 29th to April 3rd of this year, Art Dubai will host its 14th edition featuring 50 galleries from 31 countries focusing on artists from the MENA Region and the Global South. As an emerging art market, this region has a lot to offer to new collectors looking to buy art within a wide price range without compromising quality.

If you cannot travel to Dubai due to travel restrictions still in place because of the ongoing pandemic, do not worry! I have chosen three artists from the MENA region so that you can begin your exploration without leaving your house. The artists you will learn about are natives of the MENA region and are currently part of the diaspora living in Western countries. Different circumstances have led all three artists to live nomadic lives and their artwork reflects the diversity of their backgrounds. Their diverse perspectives and voices enrich the art world.

Aya Haidar

Who? Aya Haidar (b.1985) is a multimedia artist whose work focuses on using found and recycled objects that explore migration, memory, and loss. She takes existing things and gives them alternative narratives to offer a new way to live a shared memory that contributes to identity. In her artist statement, she states, "My focus on developing inter-cultural dialogues is a vital step in support of offering alternative ways to see the world and initiate a debate about the globalized world we live in. I see my work contributing to dialogues around global cultures, media, and questions of identity, both national and personal." Haidar's diverse background allows her to create such dialogues because she can see the same story from different perspectives. Haidar was born in the USA with Lebanese roots, lived in Saudi Arabia, and was raised in London, where she currently lives and works. This diversity is felt in her artwork.

Haidar holds a B.A. in Fine Art from Slade School of Fine Art, London, and an MSc in NGOs and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has exhibited in a plethora of solo and group shows within the Middle East and Europe. She also works independently on curatorial and educational projects. In 2016 Haidar was selected for Hans Ulrich Obrist and Hoor Al Qasemi's Do It Arab project. Athr Gallery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is the gallery currently representing her.

Recent Exhibitions: Collier Brystow Gallery, London: Me, Myself and I (2020); Cubitt Arts, London: Out of Service (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art, Slovenia: Southern Constellations (2019); Athr Gallery, Jeddah: Out of Place (2019).

Career Stage: Established

You can follow Aya Haidar on Instagram @iamayahaidar

Works available for sale through gallery mentioned above and Artsy here.

Amir H. Fallah

Who? Amir H. Fallah (b. 1979) is an Iranian artist who lives in Los Angeles, USA. The artist is best known for his vibrant portraits of obscured subjects whose identities are represented by objects and fabrics that reflect their culture. His work speaks of the different immigrant identities that exist within the United States. The artwork from his most recent exhibition, Better a Cruel Truth Than a Comfortable Delusion, Fallah addresses political division issues, immigration, racism, xenophobia, and climate change. The artworks are a reflection of how different cultures shape the way we see the world.

Fallah received his BFA in Fine Art & Painting from Maryland Institute College of Art and his MFA in Painting from UCLA. His career has been busy with extensive solo and group shows across the United States and in the Middle East since 2001. The artist is in the permanent collection throughout the USA and Dubai, AUE. The galleries currently representing him are Shulamit Nazarian in Los Angeles, Denny Dimin Gallery in New York, and The Third Line in Dubai.

Recent Exhibitions: Lux Art Institute Encinitas, California: Amir H. Fallah (2021); Ringel Gallery, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana: Symbols (2021); Denny Dimin Gallery, New York: Better A Cruel Truth Than A Comfortable Delusion (2021); The Landing, Los Angeles, CA: New Iconography: Artists Raising Children (2021); Orlando Museum Of Art, Orlando, NY: A Boundless Drop To A Boundless Ocean (2021); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA: Set In Motion (2021).

Career Stage: Established

You can follow Amir H. Fallah on Instagram @amirhfallah

Works available for sale through galleries mentioned above and Artsy here.

Hassan Hajjaj

Who? Entirely self-taught, Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj (b. 1961) is known for his colorful photographs of portraits that blend Moroccan tradition, street culture, and the glossy aesthetic of a fashion photo-shoot. The models who pose before his camera range from regular people to big-name celebrities, such as Cardi B. and Riz Ahmed, to name a few. Hajjaj curates the entire vision for the photo-shoot, from the textiles and plastic mats used as backdrops to the outfits he designs and styles with colorful patterns, all the way down to the custom handcrafted frame for the portrait, which the artist usually uses consumer products with Arabic logos. Hassan Hajjaj: My Rockstars exhibition text states, "The uninterrupted border of commercial packaging and corporate logos mimics with irreverent Warholian flare the repetitive motifs framing traditional Islamic mosaics and offers clues about the subject of each photograph." For this reason, Hajjaj is sometimes referred to as the "Andy Warhol of Marrakech." The portraits aim to make the viewer question his/her cultural beliefs and values, especially his/her Western perception of Arabic culture.

Hassan Hajjaj has exhibited internationally and his works are in private collections throughout the world. Examples of the private collections with Hajjaj's artwork are The British Museum, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi, UAE; MAXXI National Museum, Rome; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Farjam Collection, Dubai, UAE; among many others. The galleries currently representing him are Yossi Milo Gallery in New York and The Third Line Gallery in Dubai, and 193 Gallery in Paris. Hajjaj spends his time living and working between London and Marrakech.

Current Exhibition: Yossi Milo Gallery, New York: Hassan Hajjaj: My Rockstars, March 25 to May 29, 2021. Visit their ONLINE VIEWING ROOM here.

Recent Exhibitions: WORKPLACE, London: Come Together (2021); The Photographers' Gallery | Print Sales, The Photographers' Gallery Golden Editions (2021); Barakat Contemporary, Seoul: Hassan Hajjaj: A Taste of Things to Come (2020).

Career Stage: Established

You can follow Hassan Hajjaj on Instagram @hassanhajjaj_larache

Works available for sale through galleries mentioned above and Artsy here.


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