Art Dubai: UAE NOW

L-R: The core team behind Bait 15, one of Abu Dhabi’s homegrown artistic collectives. Hashel Al Lamki, from Al Ain; Afra Al Dhaheri, from Abu Dhabi; Maitha Abdalla, originally from Khorfakkan. Courtesy Bait15

L-R: The core team behind Bait 15, one of Abu Dhabi’s homegrown artistic collectives. Hashel Al Lamki, from Al Ain; Afra Al Dhaheri, from Abu Dhabi; Maitha Abdalla, originally from Khorfakkan. Courtesy Bait15

Curated by Munira Al Sayegh, UAE NOW is a new segment of Art Dubai exploring the country’s independent local artist-run platforms. These collectives and community groups offer a crucial counterpoint to the public and commercial sectors and add an essential layer to the local contemporary art ecosystem. UAE NOW highlights the depth in these organisations and their place in the evolving landscape, bringing to the fore the important contribution of grassroots platforms and the underground in creating new ways of thinking, theory and artistic movements.

The participating platforms include, Bait 15, Banat Collective, Jaffat el Aqlam, PAC (Public Art Collective) and Daftar Asfar. These platforms have been invited to showcase their respective institutions in their way of choice and it is hoped that their introduction to the fair will act as a counter narrative, creating a symbiotic push and pull between institutional and non-institutional thinking and action.


The programming for this segment will be one that reflects the organic nature of these self-organised platforms. Bait15 will act as the nucleus for the programme to encourage an open dialogue on fundamental topics within the art scene and its practice in the UAE, such as: critical discourse within an artist’s studio practice, surviving within the booming art scene, understanding reoccurring trends in the region, the importance of the role of a collector at the start of a new art movement, and exploring the role of the public realm as artists.

Within UAE NOW, a clear network will be built through the participating groups; one that is reliant on collaboration, conversation and community. The participants will exist individually within their allocated spaces within the segment but will come together to activate the overall space for a programme that will include workshops, talks and other forms of programming.



BAIT15 artist run studio and exhibition space located in a residential neighborhood of downtown Abu Dhabi founded in late 2017 by Afra Al Dhaheri, Hashel Al Lamki, and Maitha Abdalla. The villa housing BAIT15 includes; studios, one for each of the members; a dedicated studio for the use of visiting artists; and an exhibition space.


Banat Collective is a creative community made in response to the lack of artist spaces and discussions about intersectionality, feminism, gender and identity politics from a ‘Middle Eastern’ perspective. Banat collective offers a space for discussion and creation and to address these questions and issues that course through our everyday lives.


Jaffat El Aqlam is an independent platform that celebrates work by artists from/based in the MENA region, establishing its digital existence through zines, open calls, workshops, and collaborative dialogue. Established in 2014, Jaffat El Aqlam has grown to become an open space for artists/designers, writers, musicians, poets, start-ups and researchers to feature their work and contribute to the exploration of identities for those within and out of the MENA region. Jaffat El Aqlam is an Arabic phrase that loosely translates to ‘Dried Out Pens’, chosen to reflect the gradual disappearing use and consumption of traditional media.


PAC (Public Art Collective) is a platform that researches and questions the idea of what, why and how Public Art in the UAE should be shaped. The platform brings forth robust thinking that allows artists to engage in a space hypothetically, and in realms outside of the conventional.


Daftar Asfar is a collaborative, travelling sketchbook, inspired by the overwhelming collection of sketchbooks in the Brooklyn Sketchbook Library in New York and founded by Sarah Hatahet, Lena Kassicieh and Nahla Tabbaa. While process-based sketches, doodles and ephemeral thoughts often take the back burner in galleries and museums, this library paid homage to the intimate, explorative moments found in an artist’s practice. This notion sparked the concept of Daftar Asfar: a sketchbook that would allow artists to explore their own practice while synchronously connecting and interacting with other artists’ work – often artists they had never met before. Daftar Asfar has pioneered a new approach to creative expression and the platform has grown organically to celebrate and encourage interdisciplinary creative collaboration.
Instagram: @daftarasfar