The first show in Concrete, the 600 sq m event venue designed by OMA for Alserkal Avenue, will be the highly topical Syria: Into the Light.
The exhibition of modern and contemporary Syrian art is presented with the Atassi Foundation and curated by Mouna Atassi in collaboration with exhibition designer Michel Zayat and curator Rasha Salti. It should be a good showcase for the new space’s potential as a venue for museum-quality exhibitions .
Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, founder of Alserkal Avenue, commended the standard of design and technology that the Office of Metropolitan Architecture has brought to this project. “The intersections of art and architecture … is indicative of the level of originality and inspiration that we hope Concrete will host in the months and years to come”, he enthused.
The exhibition will be supported by a programme of talks, films and commissions in Alserkal Avenue.
We don’t know too much about the exhibition, except that it is expected to feature works by Syrian masters as well as emerging artists, including Toufiq Tarek, Fateh Moudarres, Youssef Abdelke, and Omran Younes.
The Atassi Foundation is both well-respected and well-connected, though, and that bodes well for the size and quality of the show; an independent not-for-profit initiative, it was founded a couple of years ago by Sadek and Mouna Atassi as an extension of the Atassi Gallery – originally based in Homs and latterly in Damascus, the Gallery exhibited some of the country’s most important artists and played a pioneering role in Syria’s nascent independent cultural scene. The Foundation was established partly as a response to the strife in Syria over the past few years, predicated on the belief that art can play a role in responding to violence and repairing the wounds while preserving Syrian culture. It launched at last year’s Art Dubai, where it was the only non-profit to have a stand.
Mouna Atassi said: ” We couldn’t have a more iconic and notable venue or partner for our first exhibition in the region. The ability to design the show in a space like Concrete, gives us the ability to present modern and Syrian art to the world as it deserves to be seen, with all its nuances and complexities.”
Concrete is designed by the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, the studio founded by Pritzker Award winner Rem Koolhaas who is known for his striking, often gravity-defying structures. OMA’s broad portfolio of cultural projects includes Seoul’s Leeum, Samsung Museum of Arts; the Taipei Performing Arts Centre in Taiwan; Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art; the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec; the Faena Arts Centre in Miami; and of course the Design Museum in London.
The first OMA building in Dubai is a Bauhaus-inspired space that is clad with a customised concrete spray. Inside it has double-height ceilings, movable walls and a translucent front facade that can be positioned to create “a seamless indoor-outdoor experience”; the entrance is defined by full-height transparent sliding doors – “the main strategy for the design of the event space is to blur the boundary between interior and exterior by bringing view and daylight into the space, and extending the action and events to the public square outside”, said Iyad Alsaka, OMA’s MEA partner in charge.
Concrete has been designed to host large-scale art exhibitions, conferences, fashion, film, and of course the Dubai staples of private functions and corporate events.