More than 70 journalists and guests attended the Art Dubai press conference that took place earlier today at Madinat Jumeirah, ahead of the fair’s opening on Wednesday 19 March.
Fair director Antonia Carver believes that “over the years, Art Dubai has become known as a point of discovery.” This year, there are approximately 500 artists from across the world showcased in the various gallery programmes. The works are on display until 22 March at Madinat Jumeira and are estimated to be worth between $40 and 45 million.
While Art Dubai has emerged as the biggest international showcase of regional art, the fair is very keen on maintaining and extending its global reach “Each year we see the global footprint of the fair expand," says Carver.
Returning as fair director for the fourth time, Carver highlighted the web of partnerships that the fair has established over the years. She also emphasized the “collegiate, open character of the fair.”
It is perhaps these relationships that propel Dubai’s art fair to the forefront of the regional art events calendar. This year, for instance, Art Dubai is collaborating with the Dubai International Film Festival and the Sharjah Art Foundation on an ongoing film project dubbed Moving Image. The film uses film and video screenings and footnote events, to explore artists’ films and filmmakers’ art.
There are more than 70 galleries exhibiting new works in the Art Dubai Contemporary exposition hailing from the world over. Marker, a dynamic programme of invited art spaces that is dedicated to showcasing a different theme or geographical location each year, and which focused on West Africa in last year’s edition of the fair, zooms in on art from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Marker is curated by Slavs and Tartars this year.
This year’s fair programme features an unprecedented showcase of Middle Eastern and South Asian modern art dating back to the twentieth century. Art Dubai Modern, features 11 galleries, includes Cairo’s very own Karim Francis gallery, which showcases the works of painter Hamed Abdalla and sculptor Adam Henein.
One of the curators that worked on building the Art Dubai Modern, Kristine Khouri, explained at the press conference that extensive research was necessary to curate this gallery programme. “A lot of research is required to be able to tell the story of these artists’ work,” she said.
Alongside the commercial gallery halls, comprised of Contemporary, Modern, and Marker, Art Dubai’s strong suit is its expansive not-for-profit programme.
Perhaps the highlight of this programme is the Global Art Forum, which this year is titled Meanwhile...History. Commissioner Shumon Basar explained how the GAF will reflect on years, days, minutes in history that have led to shifts in the understanding of the world and history. Charismatic and quirky as ever, Basar says “It’s not a conference, it’s not a TED 'x,' ‘y’ or ‘z’. It’s not a wedding speech, you won’t see any wedding furniture, although people have been known to fall in love during the Global Art Forum.”
“Meanwhile…History, you see, is an imagined timeline of turning points of the past, many of which have been lost, erased or forgotten,” he says.
Also taking place, for the sixth time, is the Abraaj Group Art Prize, which, according to Abraaj Capital Group Managing Director Fred Sicre, is committed to empowering cultural and artistic potential in the region. The prize rewards Middle Eastern and North African artists based on proposals, enabling the awarded artists to use the prize to create a completed artwork and exhibit it at Art Dubai. This year’s exhibition was curated by Nada Raza.
Another element within the not-for-profit realm of the fair’s programme is Art Dubai Projects, composed of site-specific works. This year, 12 commissioned installations and performances will be showcased, inviting the audience to interact with the works. The projects this year are curated by UAE/New York based curator Fawz Kabra and feature artists and artist groups from the world over.
The speakers at the press conference seemed to be in harmony over the predominant trait of this year’s fair as a “voyage of discovery through geography and history. Yet Carver maintains that contemporary art remains the “backbone” of the fair.
Ahram Online is one of the media partners of this year's Art Dubai.