Abu Dhabi museums are becoming game-changers back in the West
Sharjah opens its New Art Spaces with extreme creations
Meanwhile, two hours’ drive away in the emirate of Sharjah, the funkiest art scene in the Middle East by far, the New Art Spaces of the old city opened with “I Look to You and I See Nothing” (until 16 February), an exhibition literally about how we see and feel, with the most alarming art experience I have ever had, Kurt Hentschläger’s Zee, which is a smoke-filled room through which you walk guided by a rail, seeing nothing but a violent strobing light; a guard hovers outside to rescue anyone who is overcome. To mention just a few of the artists in the show, which originated in Mona, the Tasmanian-based collector David Walsh’s museum: Penone, Pistoletto, De Dominicis, Anish Kapoor, Lawrence Weiner and Sophie Calle. Ilya and Emilia Kabakov have a personal show at the same time (subtitled “A Collective Memory”, until 23 February), with a sly exhibit that gets us kneeling in a carpeted room with a kind of mihrab (the niche in a mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca) up high because that is the only way we can study the postcard-sized works all around the skirting. Is it about the idolatry of art or is it a Kabakovian joke? Whatever it is, it is quite edgy in a neighbourhood with two popular mosques just round the corner.