From the geometric work of Tunisian artist Nicène Kossentini – who spent time in Córdoba’s Great Mosque while on a residency in Andalusia and produced abstracted drawings based on Tawq Al Hamamah (The Ring of the Dove), a 11th-century treatise of love written by Ibn Hazm – to the paintings of Ahmed Morsi, the pieces displayed as part of the 11th edition of Art Dubai hold fascinating stories.
While the event is technically a commercial fair for galleries and collectors to meet and trade in art, it has been bolstered with a robust, non-profit programme. This year, Art Dubai will feature artistic performances throughout the fair grounds, with organisers predicting 30,000 visitors, which would be up from last year’s 27,000 .
“It is all about telling stories,” says Myrna Ayad, the fair’s new director. She views her new role as complimentary to her previous experience as an art journalist.
“As a writer and editor I was telling stories but, as the director of an art fair, I am still doing that. When we receive a gallery application, we lend support by allowing that gallery to tell a story through their booth and then there is the curation, that is about telling stories, too.
“Finally, when we are working with artists, we try to understand what they want to say and then we support them and help them in how they want to say it.”
In that sense, wandering around the halls of Madinat Jumeirah, which is filled with booths from the 93 participating galleries from 44 countries, audiences will get to be a part of a conversation spanning histories and continents.
The work of Kossentini will be on show in Madrid’s Sabrina Amrani’s booth and Morsi’s paintings are being brought by Cairo’s Gypsum Gallery.
Meem Gallery, one of the participating galleries from Dubai, will be showing works by the Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi. The showpiece will be Jenin Jenin, a large-scale tapestry comprising three panels, each containing a twisted, androgynous human form that was created in response to a massacre that took place at the Jenin refugee camp in West Bank in 2002.
Azzawi has often referenced the plight of the Palestinian people in his work, and it is a tale bound to be picked up by several artists and galleries at the fair, not least Zawyeh Gallery from Ramallah, the only Palestinian gallery in attendance.
There are also a number of notable South Asian artists and galleries exhibiting, which not only affirms the fair’s position as a cornerstone of the regional art scene, but also offers a fascinating insight into the shared influences that exist across different cultures. A leading Mumbai gallery, Chatterjee & Lal, will be devoting their booth to the duo Thukral & Tagra, who will be attempting to tell the history of civilisation, politics and entertainment through the story of bread.
Chittrovanu Mazumdar, one of India’s most important living artists, is showing at Dubai’s 1x1 Gallery booth. His work contains fragments of text, sheet metal, incandescent light bulbs and porcelain flower petals. He is attempting to blur boundaries between natural and man-made objects, as well as make a comment on the assigned significance we give to them.
What gives Art Dubai its character is that it prides itself on being a truly global art fair – so while the focus is largely on the region – the net is being cast wider every year to bring in new artists.
This year, flying in from Tbilisi, Georgia, are representatives of the Project ArtBeat gallery, with works from Konstantin Mindadze and Levan Miniashvili. Paris-born Turkish photography and video artist Sarp is having a solo exhibition at Singapore-based Yavuz Gallery, and Kasia Michalski Gallery in Warsaw is presenting a solo booth devoted to Daniel Boccato.
There is also a stronger South- American contingent than was seen in previous years – perhaps due to the appointment of Pablo del Val – the new international director, who joined the team in 2015 after being a part of Latin America’s leading art fair, Zona Maco.
From Peru are artists Elena Damiani and Andrea Galvani showcased by Revolver Galeria; São Paulo’s Vermelho will exhibit large-scale installations by Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade, and Iván Argote, from Colombia, who is well known for filming himself scrawling graffiti over Piet Mondrian paintings in Paris will be performing a special commission.
• The 11th edition of Art Dubai will take place from tomorrow to Sunday at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. For more information, visit www.artdubai.ae