This year’s Art Dubai, the first organised under the leadership of Fair Director Antonia Carver, is also the most diverse and forward-looking to date for the Middle East’s largest contemporary art event.
“Dubai has been a trading post and meeting point for South Asia, Iran, the Arab world and Africa for hundreds of years,” said Antonia Carver. “Over the past decade, Dubai has become the commercial art centre of the region and a city of ideas and entrepreneurship, providing homegrown support for artists, exhibitions and galleries. Through the fair and our platforms for dialogue, Art Dubai has been an integral part of this development and while rooted in the region, we are committed to looking to the future and continuing our role as a catalyst linking Asia and the Middle East with the rest of the world.”
Showcasing paintings, sculpture, photography, works on paper and video installations from a host of first-timers as well as returning galleries, the fifth edition of Art Dubai features exciting work from emerging artists and museum-quality masterworks. The fair features an ambitious range of galleries, with more than a dozen significant, curatorially focused galleries to the Middle East for the first time; an increased number of single-artist gallery shows, allowing viewers to delve into an artist’s practice in depth; and the strongest showing of galleries from Turkey and South Asia to date.
This year also sees the debut of Marker, a new platform for experimental art spaces from Asia and the Middle East showcasing projects by emerging artists. Curated by Nav Haq, this section includes five dynamic project spaces: Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (Alexandria, Egypt), Grey Noise (Lahore, Pakistan), Liu Ding’s Store (Beijing, China), Makan (Amman, Jordan) and Ruangrupa (Jakarta, Indonesia). Each organisation will present new projects that have been conceived specifically for Art Dubai and that bridge the gap between the commercial and curatorial components of the art fair.
Programming for the fair includes Global Art Forum_5, a four-day series of discussions curated by a committee chaired by Shumon Basar, which explores how a changed world has changed audiences for contemporary art, how expectations have affected artists and their work, and how art and fashion collide. The result of a dynamic partnership between Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage (ADACH), Ministry of Culture, Kingdom of Bahrain, this year’s forum is the most collaborative yet. Speakers include: Hans Ulrich Olbrist, Co-Director, Exhibitions and Programmes, and Director of International Projects, Serpentine Gallery, London; Francesco Vezzoli, artist; Germano Celant, Director, Fondazione Prada; Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Founder, Barjeel Art Foundation; Wassan Al Khudyairi, Director, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art; and Vasif Kortun, Director of Research and Programs, SALT, Istanbul; Curator, UAE Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 2011. Natascha Sadr Haghighian, this year’s Global Art Forum Artist-in-Residence, responds to the discussions through a bibliographic journey hosted on www.artdubai.ae. 2011 also marks the launch of Forum Fellows, a programme that offers a group of young curators and artists from Abu Dhabi, Antakya, Dhaka, Karachi, Jerusalem and Tehran the opportunity to engage with all aspects of the fair.
In addition to the Global Art Forum, Art Dubai hosts a series of talks including On Collecting, focusing on arts patronage; Art Park Talks, which include performances, conversations and practical workshops; and The Big Idea, a dynamic forum for UAE-based artists and designers, organised by Bidoun Projects.
Art Dubai Projects takes an observational, almost anthropological approach to the gallery metropolis created by Art Dubai. The rich programme of new works and performances includes painters Ali Chitsaz and Mounira Al Sohl in collaboration with Bassam Ramlawi taking on the theme of ‘labour’ in a live mural; the commissioning of Oraib Toukan to create a new work within the grounds of the fair while Hrair Sarkissian has adapted an existing work that -in its new state – plays with the faÃ§ade of Madinat Jumeirah; works created by Abbas Akhavan and Shaikha Al Mazrou during the Delfina Foundation’s eight-week residency programme in Bastakiya, with the support of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) and Tashkeel; performative tours of the fair by Malak Helmy and Abhishek Hazra; a bank of radio dispatches from artists’ studios curated by The Island (Victoria Brooks and Andrew Bonacina); and Art Park, a series of films, talks and projects curated by Bidoun Projects that features retrospectives of video artists Wael Shawky and Sherif El-Azma.
Visitors to the fair will be the first in the world to see the completed works of the five recipients of the third annual Abraaj Capital Art Prize (ACAP). Winners of this year’s prize include Hamra Abbas, Jananne Al-Ani, Shezad Dawood, Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Timo Nasseri with guest curator Sharmini Perreira. Footnotes to a Project, a specially commissioned book project tracing the process of production for each artist’s work for ACAP 2011 and launches on the fair’s closing day.
In addition, visitors to Art Dubai can enter the fantasy world created in the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibition Les Voyages Extraordinaires, inspired by four stories by the French writer Jules Verne: Five Weeks in a Balloon, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, From the Earth to the Moon and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.
This year Art Dubai also launched Art Week, an initiative showcasing the broad programme of cultural events taking place across the UAE and Qatar in March.