“Art Dubai Portraits”: Stories from the MENASA

Taking place every March in Dubai, Art Dubai is the Middle East’s leading international art fair. Over the past 13 years, it has cemented its role in being a major catalyst in the local, regional and international conversations on art from the Middle East and surrounding region (MENASA – Middle East, North Africa and South Asia), and putting art from these territories onto the global map.

In its role as talent incubator, Art Dubai has been the launch pad and development platform of the successful careers of artists, curators and art professionals, continues to celebrate art excellence through our extended fair Programming, our artist Commissions and initiatives such as the Ithra Art Prize, while platforms such as UAE NOW highlight community building and promote grassroots perspectives by showcasing the Gulf’s emerging, independent, self-organised art communities.


Visitors at Art Dubai


Art Dubai’s mission extends to cultivating an ecosystem of not only art, but also education, mentorship and thought leadership, through programmes such as the Global Art Forum, the Modern Symposium, Bawwaba Talks Programme and Campus Art Dubai. Through unique platforms such as the International Curators Programme, the initiative aims to foster cross-continental dialogue and exchange, enhancing the international curatorial landscape and building lasting relationships.

Supported by members of Art Salon, “Art Dubai Portraits” is a film series that provides a short perspective into the lives and workspaces of artists that are connected to the fair through its programming or participating galleries. The series is produced in collaboration with Forward James Filmmakers. Here are eight artists from the collection:

Jitish Kallat

Jitish Kallat was born in Mumbai in 1974, the city where he continues to live and work. The artist’s vast oeuvre spans painting, photography, drawing, video and sculptural installations, revealing a constant engagement with ideas of time, sustenance, recursion and historical recall.

His works traverse varying focal lengths and time-scales; from close details of the skin of a fruit or the brimming shirt-pocket of a passerby. Some works might be meditations on the transient present while others reach back into history and overlay the past onto the present through citations of momentous historical utterances.

Kallat has exhibited widely at museums and institutions across the world including representing India at the Venice Biennale this year, with his installation ‘Covering Letter’. Additionally, in 2017 the National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi) presented a major mid-career survey of his work and in 2014, Kallat was the curator and artistic director of Kochi-Muziris Biennale.



Marwan Sahmarani

Marwan Sahmarani is a Lebanese artist based between Beirut and the small Mediterranean mountain village of Tarbena, Spain. With strong brushstrokes and vivid colours, Sahmarani’s practice reflects on the increasing political turmoil and tension felt throughout his native Lebanon. His textured paintings have abstract, expressionist tendencies but are rooted in the early traditions of landscape painting.



Michael Tsegaye

Represented by Addis Fine Art, Michael Tsegaye lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He received his diploma in painting from Addis Ababa University’s School of Fine Arts and Design in 2002, but soon gave up painting after he developed an allergy to oil paint. He subsequently found his real passion in photography and has made of it not only a profession, but a way of expressing a very particular voice.



Hayv Kahraman

Hayv Kahraman was born in Baghdad, Iraq and now lives and works in Los Angeles. The Third Line Gallery artist’s practice pulls on her personal experiences of migration to Europe (and then the United States), and reflects on the placelessness and experiences of the diaspora. The body as object and subject have a central role in her work with female figures featuring heavily in her paintings, reflecting on controversial issues of gender and the female identity.



Kamal Boullata

Born in Jerusalem in 1942, Meem Gallery artist Kamal Boullata is a Berlin-based painter, writer and historian. As a painter, Boullata’s colourful and modern silkscreens reveal a dedication to exploring calligraphy and abstraction. As an historian, the subjects of the history of Palestinian art and Arab culture have dominated his writing. A worldly figure, Boullata has studied in Rome and Washington D.C., exhibited in Dubai and London, and received awards in Morocco and New York.



Farzad Kohan

Ayyam Gallery artist Farzad Kohan is a Tehran-born, Los Angeles-based painter and sculptor, whose text-infused, mixed media works explore the themes of identity, migration, and human emotion. Participating in several solo and group exhibitions since 2001, Kohan has showcased his art in Dubai, Beirut, and Los Angeles. In recent years, Kohan’s works have been acquired by museum and private collections in the United States, most notably the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.




Basmah Felemban

Born in 1993, Athr Gallery artist Basmah Felemban is a Saudi graphic designer, whose intricate artworks – from works on paper to installations – focus on Islamic art and calligraphy. In 2013, she earned her Master’s degree in Traditional and Islamic Art from London’s Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. Since 2011, Felemban has exhibited her research-driven works in notable group exhibitions in Dubai, Sharjah, Jeddah, Venice, and London.



Dia Azzawi

Recognized as one of the pioneers of modern Arab art, the London-based, Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi’s body of work spans over forty years. Born in 1939, in Baghdad, Iraq, Azzawi’s art draws inspiration from his homeland, and covers a range of subjects executed in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, prints, drawings, and book art.

Azzawi started his artistic career in 1964, after graduating from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad and completing a degree in archaeology from Baghdad University in 1962; his studies of ancient civilizations and Iraqi heritage have had a profound impact and continued impact on his art.