E-Issue 05 –– VCE
Fall 2022

September 5th, 2022



  1. Editor’s Note
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  3. Pop(Corn): UAE National Pavilion
  4. Rapport: Venice
  5. Zeitgeist of our Time: Füsun Onur for the Turkish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale
  6. GAD’s Top Picks: National Pavilions
  7. Strangers to the Museum Wall: Kehinde Wiley’s Venice Exhibition Speaks of Violence and Portraiture
  8. Questioning Everyday Life: Alluvium by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian at OGR Torino in Venice

E-05++
Fall/Winter 2022-23


Artist Interview January 19th, 2023
NYC Reflecting on Her Southwestern Chinese Bai Roots, Peishan Huang Captures Human Traces on Objects and Spaces

Artist Interview January 8th, 2023 
TYO Shu Yonezawa and the Art of Animation

Artist Interview December 9th, 2022
DXB Navjot Altaf Unpacks Eco-Feminism and Post-Pandemic Reality at Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition December 2nd, 2022
TYO Wetland Lab Proposes Sustainable Cement Alternative in Tokyo

Exhibition November 11th, 2022
TYO
“Atami Blues” Brings Together UAE-Based and Japanese Artists in HOTEL ACAO ANNEX



E-Issue 04 –– IST 
Spring 2022

March 15th, 2022



  1. Editor’s Note
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  3. Pop(Corn): Refik Anadol
  4. Rapport: Istanbul
  5. Independent Spaces in Istanbul: Sarp Özer on Operating AVTO


E-04++ 
Spring/Summer 2022


Curator Interview July 9th, 2022
IST Creating an Artist Books Library in Istanbul: Aslı Özdoyuran on BAS

Market Interview June 28th, 2022
HK 
How Pearl Lam Built Her Gallery Between China and Europe

Exhibition June 27th, 2022
UAE
What’s On in the UAE: Our Top Summer Picks

Exhibition June 21st, 2022
DXB Art Jameel Joins The World Weather Network in a Groundbreaking Response to Global Climate Crisis

Artist Interview June 13th, 2022
DXB “Geometry is Everywhere”: An Interview and Walking Tour of Order of Magnitude, Jitish Kallat’s Solo Exhibition at Dubai’s Ishara Art Foundation

Artist Interview May 13th, 2022
DXB 
“We Are Witnessing History”: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian On Their Retrospective Exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Exhibition May 6th, 2022
IST
 Istanbul’s 5533 Presents Nazlı Khoshkhabar’s “Around and Round”

Exhibition April 23rd, 2022
HK Startbahn Presents “Made in Japan 3.0: Defining a New Phy-gital Reality”, an NFT Pop-Up at K11 Art Mall

Market Interview March 28th, 2022
DXB Dubai's Postmodern Architecture: Constructing the Future with 3dr Models

Curator Interview March 21st, 2022

E-Issue 03 –– TYO 
Fall 2021

October 1st, 2022



  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in TYO
  3. Pop(Corn): Nimyu
  4. Ahmad The Japanese: Bady Dalloul on Japan and Belonging
  5. Rapport: Tokyo 
  6. Alexandre Taalba Redefines Virtuality at The 5th Floor
  7. Imagining Distant Ecologies in Hypersonic Tokyo: A Review of “Floating Between the Tropical and Glacial Zones”
  8. Ruba Al-Sweel Curates “Garden of e-arthly Delights” at SUMAC Space
  9. Salwa Mikdadi Reflects on the Opening of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arab Center for the Study of Art

E-03++
Fall/Winter 2021-22


Exhibition Review March 14th, 2022
DXB Art Dubai Digital, An Alternative Art World?

Exhibition March 11th, 2022
DXB Must-See Exhibitions in Dubai - Art Week Edition 2022

Artist Interview March 10th, 2022
DXB Prepare The Ingredients and Let The Rest Flow: Miramar and Zaid’s “Pure Data” Premieres at Satellite for Quoz Arts Fest 2022

Artist Interview February 26th, 2022
TYO Akira Takayama on McDonald’s Radio University, Heterotopia, and Wagner Project

Exhibition Review February 11th, 2022
AUH Woman as a Noun, and a Practice: “As We Gaze Upon Her” at Warehouse421
Curator Interview October 15th, 2021
IST “Once Upon a Time Inconceivable”: A Review and a Conversation

Exhibition October 7th, 2021
RUH Misk Art Institute’s Annual Flagship Exhibition Explores the Universality of Identity

Market Interview October 6th, 2021
RUH HH Prince Fahad Al Saud Discusses Saudi Arabia’s Artistic Renaissance

Exhibition October 5th, 2021
DXB
Engage101 Presents “Connected, Collected” at Sotheby’s Dubai

E-Issue 02 –– NYC 
Spring 2021

February 21st, 2021



  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in NYC
  3. Pop(Corn): Zeid Jaouni
  4. You Can Take The Girl Out Of The City 
  5. Rapport: NYC
  6. Kindergarten Records Discuss The Future of Electronic Music
  7. Sole DXB Brings NY Hip-Hop To Abu Dhabi
  8. Wei Han Finds ‘Home’ In New York
  9. Vikram Divecha: Encounters and Negotiations

E-02++
Spring/Summer 2021


Exhibition Review August 9th, 2021
DXB “After The Beep”: A Review and Some Reflections

Artist Interview June 30th, 2021
OSA Rintaro Fuse Curates “Silent Category” at Creative Center Osaka

Exhibiton Review June 20th, 2021
AUH “Total Landscaping”at Warehouse 421

Exhibition June 11th, 2021
TYO “Mimicry of Hollows” Opens at The 5th Floor

Market Interview May 26th, 2021
TYO Startbahn, Japan’s Leading Art Blockchain Company, Builds a New Art Infrastructure for the Digital Age

Curator Interview May 20th, 2021
DXB There Is A You In The Cloud You Can’t Delete: A Review of “Age of You” at Jameel Arts Centre

Artist Interview May 11th, 2021
BAH Mihrab: Mysticism, Devotion, and Geo-Identity

Exhibition May 9th, 2021
LDN Fulfilment Services Ltd. Questions Techno-Capitalism on Billboards in London

Artist Interview April 28th, 2021
DXB Ana Escobar: Objects Revisited

Exhibition Review April 27th, 2021
TYO BIEN Opens Two Solo Exhibitions in Island Japan and Parcel

Artist Interview April 26th, 2021
CTU/AUH/YYZ Sabrina Zhao: Between Abu Dhabi, Sichuan, and Toronto

Exhibition April 16th, 2021
RUH Noor Riyadh Shines Light on Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Art Strategy

Exhibition Review April 5th, 2021
DXB A Riot Towards Landscapes

Exhibition Review April 1st, 2021
DXB A ‘Menu Poem’ and All That Follows

Exhibition March 28th, 2021
DXB Alserkal Art Week Top Picks 

Curator Interview March 21st, 2021
DXB Permeability and Regional Nodes: Sohrab Hura on Curating Growing Like a Tree at Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition Review March 7th, 2021
AUH Re-viewing Contrasts: Hyphenated Spaces at Warehouse421

Exhibition Review March 3rd, 2021
DXB There’s a Hurricane at the Foundry

E-Issue 01 –– AUH/DXB
Summer 2020 

August 1st, 2020



  1. Editor’s Note 
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Hashel Al Lamki
  4. Tailoring in Abu Dhabi
  5. Rapport: Dubai 
  6. Michael Rakowitz From the Diaspora

E-01++
Fall/Winter 2020-21


Exhibition Review February 21st, 2021
GRV MIA Anywhere Hosts First Virtual Exhibition of Female Chechen Artists    

Curator Interview January 25th, 2021
DXB Sa Tahanan Collective Redefines Home for Filipino Artists

Exhibition Review December 9th, 2020
SHJ Sharjah Art Foundation Jets Ahead on the Flying Saucer

Exhibition Review
November 23rd, 2020


AUH SEAF Cohort 7 at Warehouse 421 

Exhibition Review November 21st, 2020
DXB 101 Strikes Again with Second Sale at Alserkal Avenue

Exhibition Review November 19th, 2020
DXB Spotlight on Dubai Design Week 2020

Exhibition Review November 16th, 2021
DXB Melehi’s Waves Complicate Waving Goodbye

Exhibition Review November 13th, 2020
DXB
Kanye Says Listen to the Kids: Youth Takeover at Jameel Arts Centre

Book Review October 28th, 2020
DAM Investigating the Catalogues of the National Museum of Damascus

Exhibition Review October 22nd, 2020
AUH Ogamdo: Crossing a Cultural Highway between Korea and the UAE

Exhibition October 22nd, 2020
TYO James Jarvis Presents Latest Collages at 3110NZ

Exhibition Review October 19th, 2020
DXB Do You See Me How I See You?

Market Interview October 14th, 2021
DXB Thaely Kicks Off Sustainable Sneakers

Artist Interview September 27th, 2020
AUH BAIT 15 Welcomes New Member Zuhoor Al Sayegh

Exhibition Review September 24th, 2020
MIA a_part Gives Artists 36 Hours to React


Curator Interview September 14th, 2020
UAE Tawahadna Introduces MENA Artists to a Global Community

Artist Interview September 10th, 2020
LHR/CAI Alaa Hindia’s Jewelry Revives Egyptian Nostalgia

Artist Interview September 7th, 2020
DXB Taaboogah Infuses Comedy Into Khaleeji Menswear

Market Interview September 4th, 2020
DXB Meet Tamila Kochkarova Behind ‘No Boys Allowed’

Exhibition September 1st, 2020
DXB Alserkal Arts Foundation Presents Mohamed Melehi

Market Interview August 28th, 2020
AUH/DXB 101 Pioneers Ethical and Curious Art Collecting

Artist Interview August 26th, 2020
AUH Sarah Almehairi Initiates Conversations

Artist Interview August 24th, 2020
DXB Augustine Paredes Taking Up Space

Artist Interview August 23rd, 2020
LHR/MCT Hanan Sultan Rhymes Frankincense with Minimalism

Map August 16th, 2020
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7. Sole DXB Brings NY Hip-Hop to Abu Dhabi


By Larayb Abrar

Published on February 20, 2021

        The decades-long history of hip-hop finds a visual voice in Vikki Tobak’s book and exhibition, Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop. Through photographs that date back to New York City in the 1970s and up until the genre’s present global pull, the project captures the narrative of a culture developed primarily by Black, brown, and immigrant communities.

The exhibition includes nearly 150 works from over 60 photographers including Janette Beckman, Al Pereira, and Danny Clinch alongside original photo contact sheets that illuminate the photographers’ creative process.

Debuted outside of the U.S. for the first time on December 15th 2020 at Abu Dhabi’s cultural hub Manarat Al Saadiyat, and in partnership with Sole DXB, the curation documents up to four decades of hip-hop culture through photographs, album covers, magazine pages, and even iconic outfits such as the mask worn by the late MF DOOM.

The featured images reveal not only the development of a musical style, but also the mediums through which communities in the U.S. carved out a space for themselves amid a hostile media climate following the Civil Rights Movement in the ‘60s and President Reagan’s War on Drugs in the ‘80s. Hip-hop first emerged through underground parties and break dance battles in the Bronx, New York City, creating crucial spaces for self-expression. These were spaces where Black voices and bodies were cheered on, admired, and ultimately elevated to the status of art – and where the city-wide policing of the Black body could be drowned out by the beat and witty, self-celebrating rhymes.


1. Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop. December 15, 2020 - May 31, 2021. Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. Installation views. Photo: Farel Bisotto.

2. Photo: Joe Conzo, Tony Tone and Kool Herc, Backstage at T-Connection - The Bronx, 1979. Photo: Larayb Abrar


Organized chronologically, the show begins in the 1970s at the roots of hip-hop history in the Bronx.



Organized chronologically, the show begins in the 1970s at the roots of hip-hop history in the Bronx. The very first image, of DJ Kool Herc standing side by side with Tony Tone, invokes the musician’s early experimentation of isolating the instrumental portions of hard funk records to emphasize the drum beat — or “break” — in the music. Switching from one break-beat to another at his acclaimed house parties where b-boys and b-girls would compete for dance bragging rights, Kool Herc is said to have laid the foundations of hip-hop as we know it today: beats, entertainment, records, and showmanship.

As we move through the exhibit’s visual timeline, hip-hop’s evolution is further fleshed out – from an outlet of self-expression, to ultimately a movement of protest and self-assertion. With the emergence of groups such as Run-D.M.C., N.W.A., and Public Enemy in the 1980s, the image and voices within hip-hop developed a political edge. A defining feature of this turn, among changing social hierarchies and exacerbated race tensions, included the sartorial shift to streetwear and sneakers. Popularized by the powerful images of photographer Janette Beckman, sportswear and jewelry – used primarily as tools for subversion – became genre-defining for the industry. One must mention Dapper Dan, Harlem’s iconic stylist and designer, who cemented logo-mania in early hip-hop and arguably gave way to today’s global veneer surrounding streetwear and European luxury houses.


3. Drew Carolan, Eric B. & Rakim, Follow the Leader - New York, 1988. 
4. Janette Beckman, Run-DMC - Queens, 1984. Courtesy of Fahey Klein Gallery.

One popular image of Run-D.M.C. depicts each member of the group proudly wearing a pair of white Adidas sneakers sans laces, echoing the style of prison inmates as shoelaces were not allowed in jail. The group eschewed the flashy style choices of their predecessors in favor of sporting the everyday clothing of Hollis Avenue, the street they grew up on in Queens, New York. By embracing streetwear, they challenged the status quo, pushing back against policed attire, conduct, and other stereotypes based on looks.



Sportswear and jewelry – used primarily as tools for subversion – became genre-defining for the industry.



Beckman’s 1987 shoot of the femme group Salt-N-Pepa similarly demonstrates how fashion is a mainstay of hip-hop. The trio is wearing baggy baseball jackets, chunky gold chains, knee-high boots, and stretchy spandex tights. Meanwhile, the contact sheets show a certain fluid freedom. The women are at ease with their bodies and one another. They strike up playful poses, they take up space, and above all, they are having fun.


5. Janette Beckman, Salt N Pepa- Shake Your Thang New York City, 1987. Courtesy of Fahey Klein Gallery. 6. Installation view. Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop. Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. Photo: Farel Bisotto. 
7. Jayson Keeling, Lauryn Hill - Brooklyn, 1996.
8. Eric Johnson, Aaliyah - Manhattan, 2001.



These early photos pave the way for today’s rebellious, bold, and outspoken female artists like Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion. Perhaps most refreshingly, Contact High demonstrates the fluidity in female style, the early challenging of gender norms in a male-dominated industry, and spotlights the women who are typically excluded from historic narratives. We see icons from the likes of Lauryn Hill – staunch in her criticism of the industry – to Cardi B, now making calls to de-stigmatize female sexuality. The exhibition’s balanced inclusion of female rappers and photographers makes it clear that as the genre evolves, women will be at the forefront of change-making and disruption.

“We consciously did that,” smiles Farah Bushnaq, an event programmer at Manarat Al Saadiyat. “Even if that meant putting aside pictures traditionally deemed a bit more ‘iconic’, we felt it was necessary to equally include the women who were foundational to creating the hip-hop scene,” she added.



The exhibition’s balanced inclusion of female rappers and photographers makes it clear that as the genre evolves, women will be at the forefront of change-making and disruption.




9. Hassan Hajjaj, Cardi B - New York Magazine, 2017. Photo: Larayb Abrar


Power, fashion, and provoking image all coincide in what might be the literal crown jewel of the exhibition: Barron Claiborne’s famous photograph of Notorious B.I.G. donning a golden crown against a bright red background. Biggie is depicted here not only as rap royalty, but as the king of New York, a powerful Black man – an acclaimed symbol of Black excellence at a time when people of color had so few influential figures to look up to.

The genius of this exhibit’s curation is further seen as a precise dip in the wall, neatly frames a portrait of Tupac Shakur placed on the opposite side of the walkthrough. The placement perfectly distills Claiborne’s words from the original photobook, “Biggie ... was a big Black dude. Tupac was the complete opposite. I like the duality of it. They’re both considered kings. But Biggie has the crown.” The viewer’s eye seamlessly connects and compares these two rap kings, automatically depicting the tension between the two rivals, as well as the East/West Coast hip-hop rivalry.



The viewer’s eye seamlessly connects and compares these two rap kings, automatically depicting the tension between the two rivals, as well as the East/West Coast hip-hop rivalry.






9. Installation view. Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop. Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. Photo: Larayb Abrar.  10. Barron Claiborne, Biggie Smalls, King Of New York - Wall Street, New York, 1997. 11. Biggie Smalls’s Crown. Photo: Larayb Abrar.


Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop first opened in Los Angeles at the Annenberg Space for Photography, before essentially “coming home” to the International Center of Photography in New York City. Now, as the exhibition has made its way to Abu Dhabi in partnership with creative agency Sole DXB, the genre and culture clearly demonstrates a global pull, resonating much beyond its origins.

From Arab rapper N1YAH to Dubai-based R&B singer Sobhhï, the hip-hop scene in the Gulf has been primed for the opening of the exhibition. While Dubai or Abu Dhabi may not be the first cities one thinks of when it comes to street culture and hip-hop, it makes sense that a genre largely concerned with identity and finding our place in society appeals to youth in the UAE. As a country made up of mostly expats, it is admittedly difficult finding that sense of identity whilst navigating the confusion of being part of a third culture. Sole DXB’s programming reflects a very global outlook on street culture, having previously showcased Japanese street culture, South African artists, and Jamaican designers.



While Dubai or Abu Dhabi may not be the first cities one thinks of when it comes to street culture and hip-hop, it makes sense that a genre largely concerned with identity and finding our place in society appeals to youth in the UAE.




“[Hip-hop] is a medium for people in the region to be able to tell their own stories, and it offers a shared connection to communities in other cities,” says Raj Malhotra, partner at Sole. Indeed, each of the more than 8 million expat-residents of the UAE play an important role in the perception, progress, and narrative of the country. Finding the space to express our unique identities while asserting the importance of belonging becomes all the more essential.

Contact High speaks to that need for community and connection through a selection of mixed media, including album covers and magazine spreads. These items include the iconic XXL magazine spread of A Great Day in Hip-Hop taken by Gordon Parks in 1998. The photograph featured over 200 MCs, DJs, and dancers the likes of Rakim, Slick Rick, and A Tribe Called Quest. The shot was taken at the historic 126th Street in Harlem, between Fifth and Madison Avenues – the original site of the 1958 photo A Great Day in Harlem capturing a similar class picture of renowned jazz musicians.

A glossy magazine cover photo of Aaliyah further testifies to the success of hip-hop-pioneered publications like The Source, Rap Pages, and Vibe in centering the voices and images of those at the origins of what is today the most popular music genre in the world. With the hip-hop industry organizing its own photoshoots and stories, the convergence of the right photographer and editorial staff built a thriving artistic community while ensuring authentic representation.


12. XXL magazine spread of A Great Day in Hip-Hop taken by Gordon Parks in 1998. Photo: Larayb Abrar.


Through Contact High — both the book and curated show — Tobak illustrates not only the evolution of hip-hop, but also that in-between space, the lull where hip-hop was still finding its footing and image. The more than 50 featured photographers capture the nearly universal importance of being seen. Tobak realizes that many featured rappers — from Questlove and Mos Def to more recently acclaimed Kendrick Lamar — were not looking to get into the mainstream. Many were not even famous at the time their photos were taken. All they were looking to do was impress their close buddies, their crew, the kids on their block who were scratching records and inventing the genre with the same improvisation of jazz.

“I want the readers [and viewers] to come away appreciating that hip-hop was born from a community where there were all these amazing image makers that pointed their cameras at a moment that wasn’t mainstream,” Tobak says in a CNN interview. “They just thought it was important.”

In fact, much like the make-up of the Gulf, these image-makers hail from a variety of diasporic backgrounds. From Beirut-born Ahmed Klink, to Tunisian-French Sophie Bramly, to Saudi Arabia-born Mo Daoud – the visual culture of hip hop has been created by those who historically haven’t fit the neat, tidy box of identity. And perhaps that fact is exactly what makes this such a relevant show in a city like Abu Dhabi – a city created out of a multitude of identities, a city in which many are questioning their own identities, and within a larger region that produces a record number of third-culture kids.

The early MCs in the Bronx were outsiders looking into society, and who had a complex ethnic and cultural make-up that they needed to express and celebrate to their own beat. And today, that longing to express and be seen continues to resonate globally.

Malhotra ends our conversation on an apt note, “We don’t believe the function of hip-hop in the regional context needs to be any different than anywhere around the world. It’s the most popular musical genre in the world. It has been since the late ‘90s. It inspires, educates, entertains – and where the opportunity arises, it can continue serving as the voice of the underdog.”


From Beirut-born Ahmed Klink, to Tunisian-French Sophie Bramly, to Saudi Arabia-born Mo Daoud – the visual culture of hip hop has been created by those who historically haven’t fit the neat, tidy box of identity.



13. Installation views. Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop. Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. Photo: Farel Bisotto. 
14. Clay Patrick McBride, Kanye West and Jay-Z - New York, 2005.



Larayb Abrar is an arts journalist, cultural critic, and hip-hop fan based in Abu Dhabi. She graduated from NYU Abu Dhabi with a major in Literature and Creative Writing, and minors in Social Research and Public Policy and French Language. A global thinker, she has accumulated work experience in Toronto, Jeddah, New York City, Paris, Sydney, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and has previously written for Musée Magazine and Postscript Magazine. Follow her on Twitter for more of her work.

Many thanks to Farah Bushnaq, Raj Malhotra, and Sole DXB. Unless otherwise stated, photography was provided by Sole DXB.