ADA 'Them Makes a Splash'
‘Them’ makes a splash!
By Majoor Arts
Dubai— On 09 June 2023 twenty-three established and emerging artists based in the
UAE showcased their latest artworks at Sahra Art Galleria’s debut exhibition ‘THEM’. Sahra Art
Galleria opened its doors to members of the public with an all new, bright, large, custom-made,
gallery space in the center of the prestigious Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). The
featured artists opened with Soraya Sikander, Cat Cordahi, Maria Faridi, Ali Ebrahim, Armin-
Cribdecore, Nairika Danapour, Akshay Arora, Ali Bahmani, Jasbir Saggu, Gigi Gorlova, Nidal
Khaddour, Anja Bamberg, Axel A, Anna Chekh, Asareh Ebrahimpour, Zahra Khalid, Aanya Das,
Tarek Basha, Sarah El Hawary, Abda Fayyaz and Sahra Abaspour.
The artworks exhibited are a mix of oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas, digital art, sculpture
and installations. ‘Them’ the exhibition opened to resounding success with paintings by: Soraya
Sikander ‘Birds Gold’, Caty Cordahi ‘Woman Patchwork’, Nairika Danapour ‘Join’ sold out
completely at the exhibition and the artists received appreciation for their new paintings, created
especially for the gallery opening exhibition. Each participating artist created one or a maximum
of two, new and original, artworks, exhibited on the occasion.
The exhibition ‘Them’ was attended by UAE’s art world stalwarts such as Muhammad
Yusuf (Senior art writer, Gulf News) Khalil Abdulwahid (Dubai Culture & Arts Authority,
Director of Fine Arts Department, Government of UAE), Patricia Millns (Fellow of Royal
Society of Arts UK, member of the Executive Advisory Board of CIAAD (Council for Int.
Accreditation of Architecture and Design) as well as the Advisory Board – American University
of Dubai and a member of IAPA, UNESCO), Marco Fraschetti (Italy) from Emaar Gallery
Foundry, Izzat Hachem from Belvedere Art Space (Lebanon), Bedia Gallery curatorial team
from Al Khayat Avenue, and several other distinguished and notable personalities from Dubai’s
art and culture scene including gallery owners, senior art critics, Government officials, and art
collectors from Europe.
The United Arab Emirates is recognized as a global art powerhouse including being
home to some of the region’s most powerful art organizations such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi,
Alserkal Art Avenue and Al Khayat Avenue galleries and significant art events like the Sharjah
Biennial. Guggenheim New York is making Abu Dhabi its new home, with a new, custom-built
museum, to make its debut in the Capital city, scheduled for later in 2023/2024. Zayed National
Museum, Etihad Museum, Emirates Fine Arts Society, and NYU Abu Dhabi boast of the finest
selections in modern and contemporary art in the region. Given the country’s reputation as being
one of the safest for women, equal opportunity monitor, high level of investments and
flourishing businesses, it is no wonder international museums from the US, UK, Europe and
galleries from Singapore, Hong Kong, Russia, India and China are now making UAE their
Sahra Art Galleria is a very welcome edition to the country’s arts and culture landscape.
Located in the prestigious Damac Park Towers building, the gallery is neighbors with Russian
Masters art gallery Andakulova Gallery and Indian fine art auction house Artiana. Other
important neighbor galleries include the prestigious: Belvedere Art Space, Sconci Gallery, The
Farjam Foundation, Opera Gallery, The Empty Quarter, Van de Goudenberg, Sotheby’s Auction
House, AnYahh!! Art, AnYahh!! Art, Cuadro Art, Akka Project Art Gallery, to name a few.
These are powerhouses operate from the DIFC Financial Centre, formally home to the Art Dubai
Fair, now relocated to Madinat Jumeirah.
One of the key highlights of the exhibition ‘Them’ was the painting ‘Birds’ by Soraya
Sikander. An intricate, detailed, meticulous artwork, the painting is treated in a mix of European
pointillist techniques, coupled with sensibilities of Persian manuscript painting. A richly
rendered work, the painting marks a departure in the artist’s subject and style. About her new
work, the Pakistani artist comments:
“Painting outdoors and experiencing nature directly, by the sea or in a garden, has always
been an integral aspect of my art practice. But the pandemic forced me to change that —
spending months indoors at the height of 2020, led me to rethink my painting process,
approaching my work in an entirely new manner. This resulted in the creation of a new series of
artworks - exploring South Asian frescoes - inherent to techniques prevalent in the Indian
subcontinent. Inspired by Mughal murals, Pahari paintings and Islamic architecture across
Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan, my new work etches motifs and patterns on handmade paper and
treated canvas, resembling frescoes from these regions. Instead of looking outwards, I now
turned inwards for my inspiration. Through my new artworks, I am telling a classic story in a
contemporary context” said the Karachi born, Dubai based artist, Soraya Sikander (Pakistan).
Pakistan has a rich tradition of painting, drawing, arts and crafts, dating back to pre-
partition, the country boasts of a rich legacy of art history. Pakistani art has contributed
significantly to South Asia’s art heritage. Through her new work, Soraya Sikander has managed
to revive South Asian formalist art and develop it in a new context. Her past work, the
‘Calligraphy Landscape’ series, was described by significant art critics as Anna Seaman (co-
founder of MORROW collective, Former editor and lead art writer The National Arts & Culture)
as: pioneering, innovative and a major milestone, combining elements of Arabic calligraphy
using the letter alif to create powerful silhouette paintings of trees. Trained in fine arts from
University College London’s Summer Slade School of Fine Art, London Atelier of
Representational Arts and Beaconhouse National University Lahore, Soraya Sikander is a reader
of art history and is inspired by the art of South Asian masters. Combining elements of European
romanticism, suggesting impressionistic influences bearing expressionism with prominent
overtones of geometry, calligraphy and miniature – the cultural fusion has led to the birth of an
entirely new visual vocabulary. Soraya Sikander paintings have featured prominently at
international art auction houses including: Bonhams London, auctioning for £1,785.00, and at the
TCF Foundation Art Gala auction for $ 6000 and $ 12,000 USD respectively.
The exhibition ‘Them’ is curated by eminent Arab curator Ahmad Al Rashid (Kuwait).
Al Rashid is a well-known name in the UAE’s vibrant art landscape, host of Emaar gallery, The
Foundry’s art podcasts. In the curator’s own words: “The exhibition is meant to be a platform for
dialogue and introspection, fostering a better understanding of diverse identities and the
universal threads that connect everyone. It sets the melody and tone for the new modular creative
space.” The exhibition is managed by art curator, collector and director, Sahra Abaspour (Iran)
and the artworks are on display until 4 August 2023.
‘Them’ marks the opening a series of critically engaging art exhibitions by established
and upcoming contemporary artists based in the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, South Asia and
expanded MENASA region. The gallery aims to create powerful dialogues, showcasing the
highest standards in contemporary art in the Emirates. Sahra Art Galleria represented artist
Soraya Sikander (managed by The Fame Collective Gallery, Middle East) is currently painting a
new series of enlarged fresco paintings, akin to Persian carpet painting, executing these on mural
like canvases. The new paintings exhibition details, dates and announcements will be announced
officially on the art gallery website and social media official handles and the artist’s official