Israeli art is on display in the United Arab Emirates for the first time ever, as Dubai’s “Abyss of Bliss” art exhibition opens its doors to the public. The exhibition, running from the end of March until mid-May, features the work of three Israeli artists, Ariela Wertheimer, Keren Shpilsher, and 18-year-old photographer Yinon Gal-On.
The decision made by the Oblong Contemporary Art Gallery to showcase Israeli art has drawn criticism from BDS groups across the globe, and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has called on the general public to boycott all the gallery’s future events and exhibitions.
Despite the criticism they have attracted, the co-founders of Oblong Gallery, Paola Marucci and Emanuela Venturini, released a joint statement saying that they are “very pleased to bring this unprecedented exhibition with three renowned and established artists for the first time in the history of the Middle East art world to Dubai.
“The art scene in the region generally has been witnessing growth,” they said, “and Dubai has a vibrant arts scene, showcasing various exhibitions, and is home to the most internationally diverse fairs in the world.”
As one of the three artists featured at the exhibition, Wertheimer expressed admiration for the owners’ bravery and willingness to showcase Israeli art. She mentioned the interest she and her fellow artists have received from the Emiratis, saying that she is glad for this opportunity to bring her work and language to the country for the first time.
Wertheimer is showcasing three abstract multimedia pieces from her 2014 Jaffa Port Surface series, which she has described as “a dialogue between the new and the old, told through the story of Jaffa.” The artist, whose career spans more than 30 years, considers her life experiences and cultural environment to be the inspiration for her work.
Her fellow artist Yinon Gal-On never imagined that he would be presented with this opportunity so soon after the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE. Gal-On first showed an interest in photography at the age of seven and has since gone on to build an impressive career, with his work having been featured in London’s Saatchi Gallery. Throughout the exhibition, the Emirati public will be able to view 14 of his underwater photography pieces.
The third artist displaying work at the Abyss of Bliss exhibition, Keren Sphilsher, created three paintings specifically for the occasion. The paintings combine historical art, Judaica, consumerism, current events and folklore. Her work reflects the way she views the world, as being full of color and joy.
The Abyss of Bliss exhibition will be open until May 20, and 10% of proceeds will be donated to the Emirates Red Crescent.