Art Dubai opened yesterday but what it showcases has been centuries in the making. As Antonia Carver, the event's new director, explained: "I looked at what Dubai and the UAE have been most successful at for hundreds of years ... as a meeting point and a place of business and trade." And while 82 galleries from 34 countries and 500 artists from 50 museum groups have arrived in Madinat Jumeirah for the four-day event, this year's fair has a much more regional focus.
The blossoming of the art scene in the Arab world is a testament to the success of Art Dubai four years after the event was first held. "Two years ago, there were very few speakers from the Middle East," said Asmaa al Shabibi, the co-founder of the Lawrie Shabibi gallery. Now speakers have "real, in-depth expertise on the region".
Art Dubai has helped to build this expertise; its series of talks featuring high-profile speakers from the art world has helped to inspire similar events in Doha, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. This year they are joining forces as part of the Global Art Forum.
Local projects and smaller boutiques will also be participating. "We wanted to encourage a new group of dynamic, experimental art spaces," Ms Carver said. By developing an organic arts scene and introducing emerging talents on the world stage, Art Dubai helps to ensure that art will flourish in Dubai and throughout the region for many years to come.