Emirati artists prepare for one of the UAE’s main art fairs, the international Art Dubai Fair, which will showcase the country's rather new art scene in the region.
The sixth edition of Art Dubai takes place March 21-24, opening its doors to art lovers as well as collectors.
Nasir Nasrallah, an Emirati artist is thrilled to be having his debut at this year's fair.
Nasrallah aims to encourage and inspire local artists to showcase their talent in international exhibits frequented by galleries, curators and collectors from around the globe.
The Emirati artist has spent the last seven months working on his conceptual art project made-up of wooden boxes. Each box has various different objects attached to it.
"The idea is based on many of the machines invented by people over centuries which now exist in very large numbers. If we take each machine by itself it might seem as useful but in general throughout the course of life many are useless, especially in the presence of so many other machines," said Nasrallah, a telecommunication graduate.
Last year's Art Dubai Fair attracted more than 20,000 people.
"Well I think, year on year we have seen percentage increase. Well, this year we have 10 galleries in the UAE, that's the highest representation ever and also more and more artists that are based here, whether they be Emirati or local," said Antonia Carver the fair's director who is also part of the selection committee of another fair -- 'SIKKA' -- which solely focuses on promoting local art.
Most of the Art is no older than the 40-year-old country with most of it being locally produced art following the traditional 2D forms of painting and drawing.
However, local artists are encouraged to explore modern techniques.
Nasrallah says it took time for his family to accept and understand his passion for art, especially it being difficult to make a living from it in the region. He keeps a side job in telecommunications to support his family.
Sultan al-Qassemi, an Emirati collector and blogger, explains that Emirati artists benefit from competitive art fairs, even if their work is not the centerpiece.
“There is an English expression that goes 'It's better to be a big fish in a small pond than another fish in the sea.' So it all depends on how one looks at it. I personally think that if one was in the sea then there is a whole world to explore and learn from. So Art Dubai and other fairs that come to the Emirates, made from the small pond that is Emirati art, they made it into a big sea," al-Qassemi said.
The UAE hosts two main art fairs: the more established Art Dubai, which is six years old this year, and a the smaller four-year-old Abu Dhabi Art Fair.
Al-Qassemi says that for the relatively young Emirati art to develop; artists need to look abroad for wider exposure.
"As a collector I wish there was more effort by local artists to exhibit internationally outside the UAE. Of course the UAE and Gulf are important but how do we take Emirati art to European art markets? Emirati artists have to approach galleries in Europe," said al-Qassemi who owns 650 art pieces, a third of which are Emirati, he said.
Artists like Nasrallah, who has had some of his previous work bought up by al-Qassemi to go in the latter's private collection, can only hope that fairs like Art Dubai will bring him more international acclaim and exposure.