ABU DHABI // The fourth Abu Dhabi Art Fair kicks off tomorrow, showcasing a handful of new and emerging talent.
The event features 50 galleries representing 20 countries, 400 artists and 600 pieces at the capital's Manarat Al Saadiyat art exhibition centre on Saadiyat Island.
This is the second year the art fair is being held at the centre after two years at Emirates Palace.
The exhibit, organised by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), will include more Asian galleries this year, with a focus on emerging artists such as Hamdan Al Shamsi and Shamsa Al Amera. Organisers said these new artists are needed in the capital.
"Abu Dhabi acknowledges the lack of art infrastructure," said Rita Aoun-Abdo, TDIC's executive director of culture. "It recognises the absence of a thriving and balanced cultural ecosystem, but a strong vision is driving this city to resolve these missing elements. There is a cultural scene that is evolving."
This year's fair will include art by Picasso, Alexander Calder, Sam Francis, Joan Miro and Chafic Abboud. Contemporary artists include Hassan Sharif, Rachid Koraichi and Jeff Koons.
New programmes will be introduced. Contemporary design and craft techniques will merge, showcasing work on the crafts of khoos, or palm-frond weaving, and telle embroidery, which will be developed by Emirati artisans.
Stuart Haygarth, a UK-based designer, will have his artwork on display at the fair for the first time after working with local artisans.
"My work crosses between art and design," he said. "My pieces normally have a narrative to them and my work revolves around collections of objects that have a story behind them."
Mr Haygarth created six dark cones that hang from the centre's ceiling, with colours lighting them up from inside. The piece was inspired by Abu Dhabi's culture.
"This is a step away from what I normally do," he said. "It was an interesting project, working with these artisans."
After touring the capital's cultural areas five weeks ago, Mr Haygarth came up with the idea to include the conical makabbah in his work.
"It's a kitchen utensil that sits on top of a circular mat and Emiratis put food on the mat," he said. "The cone keeps flies off and the food warm."
Another inspiration for the cone shapes was Emirati women dressing up in their abayas.
"I was struck by how beautiful these women were in their abayas, they're very elegant in black," he said. "But inside, they have these very colourful, embroidered dresses, so I quite like the idea of the inner beauty that is concealed."
The fair, which runs until Saturday, will include 20 talks with global artists, architects, designers and gallerists including Barthi Kher, Jean Nouvel and Marina Abromovic.
Visitors can also view live performances and installations by contemporary artists at the exhibition Art, Talks and Sensations, which will run from tomorrow until January 6 from 7pm to 9pm. Workshops, films and evening events, such as live bands on Thursday and Friday nights, will also be held.
"Abu Dhabi Art is transnational," said Ms Aoun-Abdo. "It is not planned to be a platform for the Middle East and North Africa region but a tool to include Abu Dhabi in the international art landscape and to allow the capital to take its legitimate place in the global circuit."
The fair will be open on Wednesday and Thursday from 3pm to 10pm, and Friday and Saturday from 2pm to 10pm. Manarat Al Saadiyat will be open from 10am each day.