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Dubai Walls

25 July 2016

You might not instantly associate Dubai with a thriving street art scene, but thanks to Dubai’s City Walk, 15 of the world’s best have used the walls as their canvas

When you fly to any part of the world, as your flight prepares to land, you notice the landscape. It could be patchwork fields or towering skyscrapers, but every city has it’s own unique look and feel. Things can change, of course, and the beige haze that is Dubai has had a significant colour injection in recent months, thanks to Dubai Walls.

The project has seen some of the world’s top street artists take to the city, claiming its walls as their canvas, making the new shopping destination in Jumeirah like a walking gallery and gaining some serious international love in the process.

Artists taking part include the French ‘Godfather’ of stencil art, Blek le Rat, the creator of pop surrealism Ron English, Aiko from Japan and the US’s Magda Sayeg, founder of the global ‘yarn-bombing’ movement. UK street art is represented by EINE, whose signature artwork was gifted to the White House by David Cameron, alongside D*FACE, Nick Walker and The London Police.

A supersized portrait of a woman has been painted by Australian muralist, RONE, while a visually arresting 3D masterpiece has been created by Beau Stanton of the US. In-demand Polish art duo, ETAM CRU, have added the largest mural ever seen in the Middle East. While representing the street art movement in our own region are Iranian brothers, Icy and Sot.

The art works can be found among the streets of City Walk at Al Safa Street – a treasure-trail of creativity – and will remain on permanent display. Here’s what some of the artists have to say about their time in Dubai...

Nick Walker, UK
I was invited because the owner of the development liked my Vandal character painting the heart and wanted the airport name DXB incorporated into it. I’ve also produced a life-sized stencil work featuring The Vandal who, dressed as a quintessential English businessman, can be seen on one of the other walls riding a penny-farthing and writing the words: ‘I love Dubai’.

RONE, Australia
The city walls project was an amazing experience. It gave me a chance to work alongside so many amazing artists from all over the world in one place. It felt like we were contributing to a huge outdoor walking gallery. The wall I painted is replication of a wall I painted in Cuba. The wall there has seen a city held back from progress and has the scars to tell the tale. The woman is Nadila, she has lived in Havana her whole life. Now she’s transported to Dubai in a cultural exchange to look upon the ever-growing landscape.

Magda Sayeg, US
My role in City Walls was quite unique because I didn’t have a blank wall, I had more than 20 palm trees instead. My work fit perfectly in this setting, because the other artists obviously couldn’t paint the palm trees. This was meant for me, and it added a sculptural element to the overall exhibit.
This isn’t just going to be seen by the people living in Dubai. This is the kind of project where people will travel from other parts of the world just to see it, and I’m certain that other developments will try to emulate it because of just how successful it has become. Dubai Walls has some of the most notable street artists in the world, and to see such a concentrated group of stellar artists in an outdoor setting is unprecedented. I am more than proud to be included – I’m honoured.

Words / Images: Sandra Tinari

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