Dubai to hold global premiere of new Rancinan exhibit

The Opera Gallery exhibition will give 10 people the chance to be photographed by the man himself.

Neil Churchill August 24, 2016

Dubai is getting so good at attracting the world’s best artists that it’s at risk of no longer batting an eye when they come to town. Did people even blink when Mario Testino was here?

The local art scene will definitely be paying attention on October 5th however as the global premiere of world-renowned photographer Gerard Rancinan's personal exhibit opens at DIFC’s Opera Gallery.

Not only that but the French snapper has agreed for the first time to capture the portraits of ten fortunate Dubai residents, and when you consider the names who have sat for him in the past, it will put the local subjects in exalted company. 

When we interviewed Rancinan last year, we were surprised at how chirpy and pleasant he was. Sure, interviewees often put on their best personas for a sit down chat, but for an artist whose work has been described as twisted and grotesque we were expecting a much darker, complicated soul. 

Rancinan started his career as an 18-year-old photojournalist, working for a French newspaper. Covering wars, natural disasters and moments of history, Rancinan captured a wide range of life’s complexities and environments. He was pretty good too, becoming the only person to win the World Press Photo of the Year award six times, and was chosen to represent France for the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China.

Rancinan then moved into contemporary photography and honed his skills as a portraitist, and it seems he found his true calling, becoming a big deal not just in the world of photography but politics too. When world leaders want an iconic shot of themselves, to immortalise their image forever in a single frame, they go to Rancinan. Fidel Castro, Pope Jean Paul II, François Mitterrand, Yasser Arafat, Bill Clinton and Saudi Arabia's late Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz have all been prey to his lens.

Bill Gates, Paul McCarthy, Yan Pei Ming, Monica Belluci, Adriana Karembeu, Alexander McQueen, Michael Schumacher, Tiger Woods and Claudia Schieffer are also on his ticked list. In fact, there are very few iconic figures of the 20th century that haven’t been captured by the photographer. 

Speaking to EDGAR, Rancinan spoke of his love for photographing world leaders and how for a fraction of a second, they are afraid. "They understand the right image can make you iconic, the wrong one can be devastating. Their image is in your hands, so suddenly you become the boss."

However, for every famous face he has put in a frame he has also displayed work that has caused controversy and sometimes disapproval, often for their chaotic and sinister notions. It’s not unfair to say some of his pieces are at first-glance bizarre, and as weird as they are wonderful. 

It really is a major coup for the UAE's art and photography scene that Rancinan is holding the global premier of his new exhibition in the emirates. His work has featured in the world’s finest galleries: London’s Portrait Gallery; Louvre Lens; the Palais de Tokyo; the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco; the Triennale in Italy; the Himalayas Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai.

It’s not, however, the first time his work has been displayed in Dubai. In January this year, Icons of Art II also at Opera Gallery, featured some of his work alongside greats including Picasso, Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. Maybe that’s where negotiations began for this, his personal project. 


The unique opportunity to be photographed by Rancinan is upon request. Only 10 people will be permitted to book a session with him and his creative team, including stylists, hair and make-up artists, will be involved. 

Opera Gallery Dubai, DIFC, October 5th to October 20th, 2016. operagallery.com