Curated by Amanda Abi Khalil, White Cube… Literally featured work by 27 artists who investigated the physical and metaphorical properties of the white cube
Dubai’s ruthless vertical growth and urban construction prescribes a drastic twist of one’s inner focal lens. Detail versus desert and identical structures versus clashing designs give an odd, but charming character to the city. The dilemma between traditional and modern aesthetics is a growing topic of debate within the confines of the city’s artistic community. Of course, the old is unquestionably bound to give way to the new, but the ambitious group exhibition White Cube… Literally, curated by Amanda Abi Khalil, unmasked these ideological notions of spaces assigned to art exhibitions.
A minimalist white structure in the shape of a cube determined the walls of this temporary gallery, set up at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde from January 18 to March 3. The insistence upon immaculate whiteness in a perfect structure is almost a formal rule if art is to be taken seriously by today’s public. Khalil’s show questioned to what degree these semi-arbitrary presets dictate our sense of regard towards the art itself.
To further steer the collective consciousness of the audience, participants were asked to reduce each artwork to its “formal aspect.” They were also instructed to confront the cube as a structural boundary. Critical responses to the formal geometry, topics and materials were the only artistic freedoms preserved in the process, leaving a room full of white cubes startling in their variety, as artistic context became artistic content.
It was impossible not to wonder how the 27 participating artists, who included Gilbert Hage, Yann Serandour, Vikram Divecha, Illya and Emilia Kabacov, Omar Fakhoury, Saba Innad, Randa Mirza, Hassan Sharif, Eduardo Abaroa, Haleh Redjaian and Evariste Richer, felt about subjugating work that had existed thus far only in the confidentially of a solitary practice to the vastness of such a naked room.
Hage, for instance, created an undivided account of this social and architectural mold through a sculpture altering the image of the gallery space, while the Kabakovs drew the installation in its absolute integrity.
In the spirit of diversity, Khalil endeavoured to break the common misconception that it is all already set in in stone. Viewers were left to contemplate a crucial question. How can Dubai establish a more inventive mindset with regards to art spaces, in the hope of contributing to a global artistic change?
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The One – on – One Issue #35, on page 36-37.