Art Dubai 2018 reaffirms role as top venue for dialogue and partnerships

The fair reaffirmed its position as a place of discovery.
April 15, 2018
Globally diverse. A visitor checks  artwork at the Art Dubai Contemporary section.      (Photo Solutions)
Globally diverse. A visitor checks artwork at the Art Dubai Contemporary section. (Photo Solutions)

DUBAI - Described as the “most globally diverse to date,” the 12th Art Dubai was attended by 28,000 visitors thronging gallery halls across the venue in Madinat Jumeirah.

Organisers reported an 18% increase in ticket sales over last year. Representations by 106 international museums and cultural institutions displayed works from regional and international art scene across the Contemporary, Modern and Residents sections.

The Art Dubai Contemporary section had 78 galleries from 42 countries, including first-time participants Ethiopia, Iceland, Ghana and Kazakhstan.

The Art Dubai Modern section featured 16 galleries from 14 countries with solo, two-artist and group exhibits of museum-quality work by masters from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, whose work was influential in the 20th century.

Premiering this year was a section called Residents, which featured 11 artists whose exhibited works were produced during residencies of four to eight weeks in the United Arab Emirates. The artists engaged with the local community, worked with one another and participated in talks and conducted open studios.

Art Dubai Director Myrna Ayad said the fair “reflects the multicultural and diverse nature of Dubai itself and our platform is the only one representing the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.”

“Art Dubai is where initiatives are formed or announced, artists’ careers launched onto the international stage and new partnerships and discoveries are made. There is so much on offer that there is something for everybody,” Ayad added.

The fair reaffirmed its position as a place of discovery with galleries from new markets exhibiting alongside leading galleries from established art centres.

Maria Mumtaz, director at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, one of Dubai’s leading galleries and long-time exhibitor at Art Dubai, said: “It’s so wonderful to see new galleries and artists from South America, Azerbaijan and other areas that were not present in previous years.”

Mark Hachem, director of Mark Hachem Gallery and a first-time exhibitor, said: “We’ve met wonderful collectors and the sales were fantastic. The interest we’ve had in our programme was amazing. It’s our first time in Art Dubai. We’re very happy to be here and we will definitely be back.”

Ziad Anani, director of Zawyeh Gallery from Ramallah and who was participating for the third time, said: “I hope that Art Dubai will continue to be a successful platform for us to showcase contemporary Palestinian artists for many years to come.”

Zawyeh Gallery presented an exhibition of new artwork featuring Palestinian artists Samah Shihadi and Aissa Deebi. Both use powerful black-and-white drawings and paintings to explore the complex and distant relationship with an elusive homeland.

Art Dubai featured major link with art institutions from Saudi Arabia such as Misk Art Institute and Art Jameel, among others. As part of its partnership with Misk, the fair presented a museum-quality exhibition titled “That Feverish Leap into the Fierceness of Life,” featuring rarely seen modern works from across the region.

The Modern Symposium programme, also supported by Misk, examined the Modernist period in the Gulf as well as some of the major artists and movements of that era in the Middle East, Africa and India.

At the start of the symposium, a publication titled “Modern Art in the Arab World” was introduced by the Museum of Modern Art. The volume investigates modernism in the Arab world from 1880-1980 and includes manifestos, essays and transcripts of roundtable discussions. Nada Shabout, professor of art history at the University of North Texas, noted that was “a shift from the post-colonial lens” and an attempt to bring the voices of the artists to the foreground.

Outside the gallery halls, highlights of the fair included the unveiling of “Walled Unwalled,” Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s winning work for the Abraaj Group Art Prize. Hamdan investigates the concept of wall in the present age and how it is no longer physically or conceptually solid or impenetrable.

The Abraaj Group Art Prize (2009-18) announced that its full collection of works commissioned through the ten years of the prize will move to the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai on long-term loan, to be displayed there from the opening of the centre on November 11.

As part of Art Dubai’s educational programming, the 12th Global Art Forum discussed artificial intelligence and automation, titled “I AM NOT A ROBOT.” One of the issues discussed was how automation would affect creativity.

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