Art Dubai’s ninth edition features a roll call of more than 90 galleries from across the world and the largest single showcase of Arab artists of any art fair globally
The ninth edition of Art Dubai runs from 18 to 21 March with an impressive line-up of more than 90 galleries from 40 countries spread across three programmes — Contemporary, Modern, and Marker. Although it is grounded in the Middle East and represents the largest single showcase of Arab artists of any art fair worldwide, Art Dubai appears to be pushing for recognition as an international fair with a foot in East and West, a position that can only ultimately help the region’s art market to grow.
This cosmopolitan philosophy is most evident in the Art Dubai Contemporary section, which is guest-curated by Kate Fowle and will bring together a wonderfully eclectic mix of 70 galleries, including newcomers from the rising art cities of Baku, Cape Town, Abidjan and Budapest, anchored by strong returning galleries, including Victoria Miro (London), Leila Heller Gallery (New York), and Isabelle Van Den Eynde (Dubai).
The Art Dubai Modern section returns for its second year at the fair, with a focus on work from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa conceived by noteworthy 20th century artists before the year 2000, with the debate towards defining modern art for these regions remaining fluid. Participating galleries will be exhibiting either a solo show or two artists at most, allowing for an immersive experience for visitors. This year’s decidedly masculine stable includes the late Lebanese painter Shafic Abboud (Agial Art Gallery, Beirut), the abstract painter Mohsen Vaziri Moghadam (Gallery Etemad, Tehran), and legendary self-taught sculptor Shahid Sajjad (ArtChowk, Karachi).
Refreshingly, this year’s Marker section exposes Art Dubai visitors to contemporary art from Latin America, a region that has yet to make a significant entrance into the Middle East art scene. Perhaps we are witnessing that moment. The section will examine the interconnectedness between Latin America’s art and the Arab world through a fresh multidisciplinary approach, including a salon-esque group exhibition and a performance directed by Maria José Arjona, who will lead a group of UAE students in re-enacting key works of art from the fair.
The intellectually curious who might like to remove their collectors’ hats for a few hours can attend a rigorous talk, panel, or book signing at the Global Art Forum, all orbiting around this year’s theme of Technologies. The Abraaj Group Art Prize has been awarded to a single artist this time around (with others shortlisted), with the 2015 honour going to Yto Barrada, whose prints, films, and sculptures poetically wrestle with the notion of borders.
Those who are ready to understand how Dubai’s art scene weaves into the city’s bustle can view work by six artists in residence, who have been working in a traditional Emirati home in a Fahidi historical district for several months. Curated by Lara Khaldi, the A.i.R programme runs alongside a number of commissioned projects set to dapple Madinat Jumeirah. Additional projects include an intervention by Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves, who will cultivate a garden from reclaimed dormant seeds in the UAE to bloom at Alserkal Avenua in Al Quoz. Overall, it appears that Art Dubai has planted solid roots and is positioned to grow in strength and scope this year.
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Art Issue #29, on page 23