The growth of Art Dubai over the past seven years reflects the rising prominence of the UAE as a centre of art and cultural discourse. We see Art Dubai as a powerful venue for regional and international talents to reach out to new audiences, explore new markets and connect with likeminded collaborators.”
Antonia Carver, Fair Director, Art Dubai.
Indeed, the 7th edition of Art Dubai is an extension of success marked over the past years; making Dubai not only a business-attraction city, but also a cultural hub regionally and internationally. From March 20 – 23, art-involved people from around the world gathered at Madinat Jumeriah to visit Art Dubai!
Comparing to last year, Art Dubai is bigger in terms of cultural expansion. Starting with selection of galleries and artworks displayed were divert, MARKER’s choice, multinational winners of Abraaj Group Art Prize with triggering sociopolitical art projects, and the exposure of non-profit organizations, initiatives, commissioned work and interactive programs. As part of its growing programming, Art Dubai introduced two new elements this year, chief among them Sculpture on the Beach, with signature pieces by Chris Burden and Hassan Sharif.
The most eye catching in Art Dubai 7th edition was the huge interest in getting children & youths involved in the growing art scene of the fast-booming city. Aiming to reach out to a new generation of art lovers through discovery tours and activities geared at children and teenagers, Art Dubai launched Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program. Moreover, internship program in Art Dubai continues attracting high school and university students. Over a chit-chat at Bidon magazine stand, Aysha Al Shamsi, a senior highschool student & intern in Art Dubai, told Al Mahha Art Blog “it’s an opportunity to meet different people from around the world, and understand art in a different way”.
So the reasons for Art Dubai to succeed for the 7th year is clear: it is an multicultural venue, a geographic boundaries breaker where artists from Africa, Asia, Europe North and South Americas meet in the Middle East to exchange ideas & philosophies, you will be surprised with the similarities between nations with different backgrounds! Not only individuals are involved in Art Dubai – which is open for everyone to take part of it by visits, internships or all-year programs – but also supported from both private & government sectors, which means all sectors in Dubai are participating in the yearly cultural phenomena, all year long. Once again, Art Dubai edition 7 distinctively created a daily scene of interaction between art and individuals.
The only minus in the fair was the repetition of some artworks – like Kusama and stainless steel train! The blame falls on both the gallery; who should present something new to viewers especially in a contemporary art fairs, and artist who should never fall in ‘trend-trap’ because if an art piece is not original it will never be a masterpiece! Plus, art is not seasonal where if artist came up with something for the first time and was a massive success, he/she duplicate it! Artworks should have an unexpired date, some artists succeed in presenting series that fall under one theme -sometimes same techniques- but the elements of innovation and invigorate is obvious; never a duplicate. So regardless how successful ‘sales’ were for a artwork, if the next work is not original, its another art deco!
Now let’s talk numbers:
Over 25,000 visitors, including curators, collectors, gallerists, artists, and 75 museum groups, alongside 300 individual museum and institutional representatives, flocked to the seventh edition of Art Dubai, the leading contemporary art fairin the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.
An estimated 45 million USD worth of artworks were exhibited at Art Dubai over the course of the four-day fair. Strong sales – including major acquisitions by collectors and visiting museum groups – were reported at Pilar Corrias (London), Nubuke Foundation (Accra), Athr Gallery (Jeddah) Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde (Dubai), and Galerie Rodolphe Janssen (Brussels).
Of the 500 artists participating this year through exhibiting galleries or Art Dubai’s various programmes, over 50% were from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Moreover, Art Dubai featured the largest not-for-profit programme in the fair’s history, with over 40 artists participating in Art Dubai Projects – including residencies, commissions, performances, screenings, and a mobile art gallery, as well as dXb store, an initiative that supports UAE based designers.
Highlights of Art Dubai
The First West African Exhibition in Middle East!
Focusing this year on West Africa, MARKER continues to introduce new cultures as viewed in artist’s eyes. Curator Bisi Silva explained why the selection was on one part rather than the entire of the continent saying “We asked ourselves how to represent Africa when it is massively rich in various and different cultures & tradition?! Therefore, the best was to focus on one region and give it full exposure”.
Marker 2013 featured artspaces from Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Ghana and Senegal. The diverse offerings ranged from Emeka Ogboh’s sound installation at Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA, Lagos) to organic carved wooden figures by Amahiguéré Dolo’s at Carpe Diem (Ségou). During Art Dubai’s press conference, Fair Director Antonia Carver announced Central Asia and the Caucasus as the focus for Marker 2014.
Abraaj Group Art Prize
The Abraaj Group Art Prize’s 5th edition set a new benchmark in Middle East contemporary art. Curated by Murtaza Vali, ‘extra | ordinary’ is an exhibition that featured a floor installation of thousands of pieces of lead by Rayyane Tabet, miniature gold statues encased in acrylic by Vartan Avakian; text panels, photographs and sculptures by Iman Issa, a cabinet of curiosities, home to a variety of objects by Huma Mulji and large scale photography by Hrair Sarkissian.
The winning art projects either carried political, social or sociopolitical messages. Lebanese artist Vartan Avakian captivated stories of 7 leaders from the Middle East in A Very Short History of Tall Men who’s leadership didn’t last for long, or failed, because they were deposed at an eye blink and made it hard for anyone to find their trace. Identities were kept anonymous, Avakian depicted the leaders’ short life in a small statue of gold floating in a synthetic glass, as if they were floating in history’s memory. presents
In his ‘Backgroud’ photography series, Syrian artist Hrair Sarkissian captured 6 backgrounds from studios in 6 major cities; Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Byblos, Cairo and Istanbul. Sarkissian’s work didn’t only mark the eclipse of a tradition of studio portraiture integral to the twentieth century history of photography in the Middle East, but also shed the light on objects people don’t usually pay attention to though its importance of a scene in their life.
Meanwhile; Egyptian artist Iman Issa drew her interest in autobiographies and museums in Common Elements, using fragments of this research, presented as text panels, photographs and sculptures, to create a collective narrative of a life dedicated to the pursuit of thought, culture and justice. Huma Mulji (Pakistan) created The Miraculous Lives of This and That, a twenty-first century Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, slightly larger than life, full of objects such as taxidermy animals and porcelain imitations of cheap plastic dolls, meditating on the mortality of all things. And finally, Lebanese artist Rayyane Tabet’s FIRE/CAST/DRAW is a sprawling floor piece comprised of thousands of unique lead pieces, inspired by art history, numismatics, folklore and superstition and the Middle East’s conflict-ridden recent past.
If you haven’t heard of them, start doing your homework because these galleries – according to me – exceeded common standards in terms of space and presented artworks. The selection of galleries was based on the several things: artworks selection & its contribution to the art scene. Curating because displaying amount of various works in art fairs is challenging. & my favorite 30 pieces – which will be revealed soon!
Al Mahha Art Blog eye-catching galleries in Art Dubai 2013 are:
Galerie Krinzinger – Vienna
Galerie Janine Rubeiz – Beirut
Bolsa de Arte – Brazil
Athr Gallery – Jeddah
Albareh Art Gallery – Manama
Galerie Daniel Templon – Paris
The Third Line – Dubai
Edwin’s Gallery – Jakarta
Rampa Art Gallery – Istanbul
Raw Material Company – Dakar
Nubuke Foundation – Accra (Ghana)
Sfeir – Semler Gallery Hamburg/Beirut.
Galleria Continua Tuscany/Beijing/Paris
Galerie Tanit – Beirut/Munich
Aicon Gallery – London/NYC
Ayyam Gallery – Dubai / Damascus / Beirut / Jeddah / London
Yvon Lambart – Paris/NYC
Alexander Gray – NYC
Leila Heller Gallery – NYC
Pilar Corrias – London
Paradise Row – London
Selma Feriani – London
Rose Issa Projects – London
October Gallery – London
Etemad Gallery – Dubai
Last But Not Least…
Art Dubai further strengthened its credentials as one of the foremost platforms for cultural discussion through the Global Art Forum_7. Entitled ‘It Means This’, the six-day forum explored ‘definitionism’: with at times standing-room-only presentations by artists such as Michael Stipe, Tarek Atoui, Hassan Khan, Ala Younis, and Manal Al Dowayan; curators Reem Fadda, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Koyo Kouoh; composer and musician André Vida; and Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, professor of political science.
Campus Art Dubai in 2013, in partnership with Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture). Campus Art Dubai runs for 6 months (January-June 2013), offering UAE-based artists and curators monthly Saturday School sessions, culminating in an exhibition in Fall 2013. The programme also includes monthly public seminars. If you missed Art Dubai 7th edition, make sure you don’t next year because it has definitely escalated from a regular art fair into a cultural fiesta!