Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi’s State of Mind, 2011. Courtesy of the artist.

LONDON - On July 22, near the hour of iftaar as the sun sets, Sotheby’s will open its doors to welcome Londoners to a preview of Three Generations, the first-ever group show of Emirati artists in the UK.

Ten artists from the region will be highlighted in this landmark event, and the public will have a chance to view a sample of the kind of art that impressed everyone at Venice this year. Scents of the region, impressions of local heritage, witty and contemporary commentaries will all rub shoulders in a rich mix of styles and media.

Originally curated to accompany the important 25 Years of Arab Creativity exhibition from the Institut du Monde Arabe, Three Generations garnered favourable reviews from critics and audiences alike when it first opened at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. How British audiences will perceive this art from a nation that has risen to heights of cultural prominence in a region where the pace of growth is nothing short of exceptional remains to be seen.

Ebtisam Abdulaziz’s Autobiography 07. 2003-2007. Image courtesy of the artist and The Third Line, Dubai. Part of the ADMAF Collection.

For my part, I find that artistic expression is the best form of understanding a culture’s direction and preoccupations. We can read endless commentaries in the Weekend FT about the curve of economic growth in the Gulf, weighty op-eds about its politics and sociology – but nothing can quite convey how the Emiratis think about themselves, their own vision and their artistic output. 

Al Suwaidi’s gentle comment on the female form, Jalal Luqman’s play on the Mona Lisa, Al Qubaisi’s stark use of medium – all portray a dynamic interpretation of the world around us. To see this exhibition, is to see through Emirati eyes, and this we are long overdue.

I myself can’t wait for the crates to be opened and the art works to be hung…