By Ann Marie McQueen

DUBAI // Hundreds of photos that captured Dubai as it emerged fully on to the global stage, and before the world was rocked by the economic downturn, go on display today for the first time in the UAE.

Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa

Most of the pictures were taken by the Dutch artist Charlie Koolhaas, daughter of the architect Rem Koolhaas, in 2006 and 2007 for an installation commissioned by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority. They were displayed at Weil am Rhein in Germany in 2008 as part of an exhibition called Dubai Next.

The photos are reappearing at the Pavilion Downtown Dubai, reflecting the dramatic changes the city has since undergone in a show called Dubai Then.

Koolhaas, 34, said she has been trying to get the installation shown in Dubai since 2008. Three years later, the original photos almost serve as an “historical document”.

“The title Dubai Next was all about this euphoric moment of pure potential and anything being possible that was the world at the time, and Dubai was a good example of that. Now we are in a completely different world, and Dubai Then is almost about this nostalgia we have for this euphoric past that’s only three years ago.”

The 400 older photographs are put in context by 10 more recently shot images, one depicting a bus carrying labourers and another showing a building under construction next to an abandoned road project. Some of the original shots feature the Burj Khalifa just as the glass cladding was being applied, export goods piled up on the decks of dhows, fabric shops, cafes and jewellery displays. Photographs of different people reflect the emirate’s many backgrounds and personalities.

“The things that made Dubai really interesting, like the multiculturalism and the way that so many nationalities are able to live together, remain – and they are Dubai’s strong points,” Koolhaas said. “Dubai is creating a model of tolerance that is unique.”

She said she was inspired to print the images on photographic canvas by the sight of cloth hanging in the city’s souqs. “For me the most interesting and immersive part of Dubai are the fabric markets, where you can really touch things and it’s very sensual, and that’s what I wanted to have as well.”

Koolhaas is delighted that her photos are finally going on show in the city where they were taken. “I’m really excited, I really like Dubai, I feel really close to it, so to me this feels like a great moment.” The exhibition continues until August 18.