Art Dubai 2014: putting the Caucasus on the creative map

Two works, side by side, from the Series “Poetic Entente or Occupation of the Heart,” by Stanislav Kharin, 2009. (Photo courtesy: North Caucasus Branch of the National Centre for Contemporary Art)

If geography is not your forte, the question: “what is the capital of Armenia?” could induce panic.

The answer is, of course, Yerevan and Art Dubai 2014 is trying to clear the air regarding the “relatively remote” Caucasus and Central Asia. This year, special attention will be given to the areas in the “Markers” exhibit.

The eighth edition of Art Dubai will see 85 galleries from 34 countries and around 500 artists descend on the city for four days, starting March 19.

Introduced in 2011, Markers highlights a different region each year with the aim of “celebrating the complexities of faith, identity and language in these regions,” according to a released statement.

PrayWay, 2012, is part installation, part sculpture, part seating area by Slavs and Tartars. (Photo courtesy: Benoit Pailley/ Slavs and Tartars)

PrayWay, 2012, is part installation, part sculpture, part seating area by Slavs and Tartars. (Photo courtesy: Benoit Pailley/ Slavs and Tartars)

This year, Central Asia and the Caucasus will take center stage in an exhibit curated by artist collaborative “Slavs and Tartars.”

“Central Asia and the Caucuses remain relatively remote to most people, even in the Gulf… You ask somebody today, what’s happening in Turkmenistan? You’re more likely to have an answer about what’s happening on Mars,” a member of “Slavs and Tatars” told Al Arabiya News.

The artist, who chose to remain anonymous for personal and creative reasons, added: “If this region remains remote, then the first thing we should do is demystify it.” The aim is to showcase how the artists of the region represent their peoples, landscapes and rituals.



“It’s important that this exhibition is taking place in Dubai and in the Gulf,” added the artist, who is curating an exhibition for the first time, “because the three regions – Central Asia, the Caucuses and the Gulf itself – all share a certain recent history of relatively recent nation state building.”

The potential for cross-cultural dialogue and the sharing of experiences is therefore promising, added the artist.

Islam across the Muslim world

Religion strengthens the bridge between all three regions; Islam is widely regarded as the most practiced faith in Central Asia, the Caucuses and the Gulf.

Despite the common belief in one God, the premise upon which Islam is based, “we forget that all three of these regions have very different experiences in drafting a modernist Islamist identity,” added the curator.



“What could the Gulf learn from Central Asia and culturally, in their approach to Islam?” the artist asks. The works on show will explore that question, as will a series of talks scheduled for the event.

One of the talks, headlined “Not Moscow, not Mecca” will discuss the Central Asian approach to Islam. “Central Asia’s approach to faith is actually quite progressive and pluralistic,” the Salvs and Tartars member said, “as opposed to the more doctrinal, ideological, ordinances about who is Muslim who is not, what is Islam, what is not that is unfortunately afflicting the rest of the Middle East.”



From thorny politics to the many strands of co-existing ethnicities and languages, the art aims to present Central Asia and the Caucasus as more than just remote lands on a spinning globe.

That is exactly why Kazakhstan’s public foundation Asia Art chose to get involved in the Markers show.

“We have this cultural gap. We are probably better known in Europe and the States than in the Middle East… so we thought, why not?” Asia Art’s representative Yuliya Sorokina told Al Arabiya News.

Get the full picture with Al Arabiya News’ exclusive coverage of Art Dubai 2014.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42