Eastern promise: Alif Gallery

As one international gallery finds a new home in Dubai, the myths and legends of ancient Silk Road cities fuse with a concept that seeks to expand the vocabulary of fine art across the Middle East

Ancient legends, modernist forms and vibrant colours are resplendent on the walls of Alif Gallery, a new mover on the arts scene in Dubai. Alif’s inaugural show, which opens in January 2013, showcases artist Timur D’Vatz, widely regarded as one of Uzbekistan’s most successful figurative painters. Born in 1968, D’Vatz draws his inspiration from ancient histories, early Byzantine art, medieval tapestries and mythology and often uses the subject of the hunt as a symbolic and forceful motif.

The exhibition at Alif Gallery will be the first of many that aim to turn attention eastwards by focusing on arresting works from leading contemporary artists. The gallery centres its attention on emerging and established artists from Uzbekistan and Central Asia, regions which have illustrious histories founded on ancient trade routes and that are now realigning their identities with dynamic economic models for the 21st century.

Alif Gallery acts as a figurative Silk Road to Dubai. Instead of trading carpets and camels, Samarkand and other Central Asian cities are producing artistic talent to take note of. Other fine artists the gallery represents include Andrey Krikis, Bobur Ismoilov, Jamol Usmanov, Daima Rakhmanbekova and Maxime Vardanyan, all of whom channel rich spiritual and cultural heritage into their work.

The gallery, which is co-founded by Uzbekistan-born Natalya Andakulova and Gayane Umerova, is located at Damac Park Tower, part of Dubai International Financial Centre and one of the emirate’s arts hubs. “Over the years, Dubai has gained a reputation as a multicultural hub of creativity and innovation, with dedicated cultural and artistic spaces, and over 70 galleries active throughout the year,” comments Andakulova.

The venue is the first gallery in the Gulf to concentrate on visual arts from Central Asian and aims to make a name for itself with both commercial and non-commercial exhibitions. “We wanted to be part of this community, and offer something that is currently unrepresented – Central Asian art,” adds Andakulova.  “With such a strong historical link between the Gulf and Central Asia through the Silk Route and shared Islamic traditions, it seems like a natural home for Alif Art Gallery.”

As managing director of the gallery, Umerova is committed to promoting what she sees as the contemporary representation of a rich Central Asian culture. As well as a series of solo and group shows, the gallery plans a year-long calendar of educational programmes, through talks, workshops and tours, to reflect Central Asia’s colourful heritage.