x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A daunting list of possibilities

Cultural calender Never mind the quadruple threat of Art Dubai, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, the start of the Sharjah Biennial and the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival.

The Arab world's first-ever antiquarian book market will take place this week in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
The Arab world's first-ever antiquarian book market will take place this week in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Looking ahead at the coming week in Emirates culture, the appropriate attitude is probably one of frozen terror. Never mind the quadruple threat of Art Dubai, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, the start of the Sharjah Biennial and the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival. There's also a show by the British heavy metal legends Deep Purple at the Dubai Bike Show on Friday. There's a widely praised Arabic reworking of Shakespeare's Richard III at Al Ain's Al Jahili Fort on the same night. There's a new exhibition and book from the ever-industrious Third Line Gallery. The prize-winning work from the 2009 Emirates Photography Competition is going on show at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation from tomorrow. And there are half a dozen other art shows opening across the country, at Artsawa, 1x1 Gallery, Boutique 1 and elsewhere. Boredom is not an option.

The excitement really kicks off tomorrow, when the winner of the first International Prize for Arabic Fiction, familiarly known as the Arab Booker, is announced. If you happened to pick up a copy of The National last Sunday, you'll have seen translated extracts from each of the six shortlisted novels. The following day the book fair proper gets under way, furnishing opportunities to meet the excellent Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh along with Sweden's most celebrated purveyor of dreich police procedurals, Henning Mankell, and Saudi's ubiquitous Rajaa Alsanea, fresh from her headline-grabbing stint at the EAIFL a fortnight ago, when she declared that the internet had abolished censorship.

Bibliomanes of the dustier sort (I include myself) will appreciate the Arab world's first-ever antiquarian book market, also taking place under the aegis of the ADIBF. Treasures of East and West will be there for the coveting. Diversion comes in the conjoined shapes of Art Dubai and the Sharjah Biennale. With 70-odd international galleries participating in the former and more than 80 artists from around the world exhibiting in the latter, that's a lot of distraction to take in.

Among the highlights, don't miss the winning entries of the first Abraaj Capital art prize, which at Dh735,000 a head is the most generous award in the art world. The idea was that the three winning artists used the endowment to buy time and resources to produce something really spectacular. Thus the Turkish video artist Kutlug Ataman, a one-time Turner nominee, has made a film based on the Mesopotamian folk tale Layla and Majnun. The Algerian artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah has made a brace of geometrical stars, reflected in a mirror-like surface on which the viewer stands so as to create the illusion that they are standing in space. And Nazgol Ansarinia has made a Persian rug whose design contains lively depictions of modern life in Iran; all sound highly intriguing.

Finally, the opening gala concert of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival sneaks into the end of this week's schedule, with an operatic performance by the almost suspiciously good-looking duo of Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann, accompanied by the conductor Ion Marin and the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. They'll be playing a selection from Puccini, Verdi, Gounod and others. An ideal balm for the nerves after the excitement of the week before.

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair National Exhibition Centre, Tuesday to March 22, www.adbookfair.com Art Dubai Madinat Jumeirah, Wednesday to Saturday, www.artdubai.ae Sharjah Biennial Sharjah, tomorrow to May 16, www.sharjahbiennial.org Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival Emirates Palace auditorium, Abu Dhabi, Saturday to April 2, www.admafestival.com