Innovative and renowned galleries from around the world descended on Saadiyat Cultural District for this year’s Abu Dhabi Art
The Gulf’s younger fair, now in its sixth edition, ran at the beginning of November at its traditional location in Saadiyat Cultural District. After last year’s event was marred by wind and rain that caused the fair to close temporarily, and for some galleries to relocate, the boutique fair returned with some 45 galleries, including new names, strong international players and the predictable global elite of art visiting the emirate.
During the week Abu Dhabi also offered a sneak peak of some of the artworks that will be displayed at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, slated to open in 2017. With strong institutional support from the emirate, the fair is continuously embedded in the expansion of the Cultural District, which is set to include the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.
Regional galleries have been present at the fair since its inception and return every year with a smaller and more exclusive display than they take to other fairs. From Lebanon, Agial’s booth was exclusively devoted to previously unknown modernist painter Gebran Tarazi; Janine Rubeiz presented a broad Beirut-themed booth, including a signature painting by modernist Jamil Molaeb and works by Huguette Caland and Hanibal Srouji; and Sfeir-Semler showcased embroidered work by Etel Adnan and conceptual sculpture by German artist Günther Haese. From Dubai, Ayyam presented works by Syrian modernists Mostafa Fathi, Safwan Dahoul and Palestinian pioneer Samia Halaby, while Lawrie Shabibi had in its roster a large signature painting by Algerian painter Driss Ouadahi.
The international selection was heterogeneous and broad, raising eyebrows with the presence of Western blue chips. David Zwirner featured 20th century American artists Dan Flavin and Donald Judd; Lisson, Anish Kapour and Ai Weiwei; Acquavella brought an exquisite selection of European modern art, including French old master Degas; and Hauser & Wirth showcased abstract work by Martin Creed. But there were a number of very surprising and fabulous works in other medium-size galleries. Parisian gallery Kamel Mennour presented a spectacular installation by Korean artist Lee Ufan; Mona Hatoum was on show at Galleria Continua; and British artist Patrick Hughes’ celebrated Matisse Fair was showcased by South Korean gallery Park Ryu Sook.
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Other highlights of the fair were a performance by American singer Patti Smith, a talk by the prominent French architect Jean Nouvel, and a panel discussion moderated by Georgina Adam about fake and looted art with Saleh Barakat, Venetia Porter, Michael Jeha and Charles Pocock.
New York’s Taymour Grahne was featured as the emerging gallery, with a strong focus on the Middle East and representing some of the region’s leading artists. The fair was complemented by an exhibition of public art, with artists present at Abu Dhabi Art slated to remain on view for several months.
Despite the limitations in size, the sales at the fair are always reportedly strong and galleries from unusually distant markets such as Turkey and the Far East insist on coming back.
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Rose Tinted issue #28, on page 48.