Installation view of Portrait Sessions by Vikram Divecha '19 (Courtesy of the artist and Tashkeel)

Alumnus Vikram Divecha '19 in Group Show at Goethe-Institut in Abu Dhabi

BY Catherine Fisher, October 25, 2021

Alumnus Vikram Divecha ‘19 is included in a group show at Goethe-Institut in Abu Dhabi. This show, Love Labour Leisure, takes as its point of departure the cultural life of migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Through the mediums of visual art, film, performance and music, the show explores the fact that foreign nationals make up the majority of the population in the United Arab Emirates. This online exhibition interrogates the cultural implications of these demographics.


Divecha’s work in this show is Portrait Sessions. This collection was completed over the course of six months. In this painting project, Divecha invited a variety of self-identified non-professional painters to become the artist. He asked each of the participants to paint a portrait of him, then he paid each person AED 150. 


The length of time spent working on each portrait was determined by the person painting’s normal professional rate. For example, if a participant made AED 150 in their daily job, the portrait session would last one hour. The genesis for this project was Divecha’s experience of paying workers AED 150 as a daily wage for nine hours of work. The collection of portraits is taken as one singular work and the names of those who painted the portraits are not mentioned. These paintings were previously on view at Tashkeel Gallery in Dubai.


This project raises themes addressed in other facets of Divecha’s work such as authorship, time, and value. Born in Beirut to Indian parents, Divecha is now based in Dubai and New York. He was a participant in the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study program from 2019 to 2020. ​​His exhibitions include Towards Opacity, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai (2020); Second Hand, Jameel Arts Center, UAE (2019); Living Room: UIT (Use it together), ISCP, New York (2019); Who Are We Now?, Land Art Mongolia 5th Biennial, Mongolia (2018); Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play, National Pavilion UAE, 57th Venice Biennale (2017); and Accented, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah (2015) among others. Recipient of the 2014 Middle East Emergent Artist Prize, he has also created projects for The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture's public art commission InVisible in 2014.

In an ode to diversity and disenfranchisement, Love, Labour, Leisure will travel to Berlin, Karachi, Mumbai and Manila, as soon as the pandemic allows.

Portrait Sessions, 2016, Private studio within the exhibition space (courtesy of the artist and Tashkeel)