The ninth edition of Art Dubai opens on Wednesday, March 18, featuring the work of more than 500 artists from 40 countries over four days. Here's the low-down of what to expect.
Your guide to Art Dubai 2015
Art Dubai can now claim to be the largest single showcase of Arab artists in the world.
This is the primary reason that collectors, museums, gallery owners and art enthusiasts travel from all over to visit. But as Antonia Carver, the fair director, points out, it is also one of the most global of art fairs: this year more than 500 artists and 92 galleries from 40 countries are showing – quite an achievement for a fair that is less than 10 years old.
As usual, the galleries are divided into three primary sections: Contemporary, Modern and Marker. The majority (72) are in the two contemporary halls. Carver says it is a sign of confidence in the fair that many of the galleries have chosen to bring solo exhibitions or a maximum of two artists.
From London, Victoria Miro is showing a series of works by the British artist Idris Khan, who had a large solo show in Dubai in 2013. A highlight of the display will be Seven Times (2010), a monumental floor installation consisting of 144 sandblasted steel cubes with layered Arabic inscriptions.
Khan, who will not be in Dubai for the fair but has exhibited there since Art Dubai launched, says: “[Art Dubai] feels different from other fairs because it feels incredibly optimistic and there is a real high-energy towards the buzz of collecting and talking about art. On a personal level, it has been excellent to reach a different collector-base and viewers for the works.”
Kashya Hildebrand, also from London, will bring paintings by the Lebanese artist Marwan Sahmarani, who won the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2013.
Galleria Continua, which was founded in Italy in 1990 and later went on to become one of the first contemporary galleries to establish itself in China, has an impressive roster of artists. Visitors are likely to be drawn to Plastic Tree C by Pascale Marthine Tayou, a prominent artist from Cameroon. His use of plastic bags, which have become a symbol of our consumerist society, offer a colourful critique of capitalism and widespread pollution.
Tayou’s work is a pertinent choice because there is a marked increase in African artists showing their works.
“We see more and more participation from Africa and that is very strategic for us to make sure that Dubai becomes a home for the various African art scenes,” says Carver.
An example of a strong booth is Whatiftheworld, a gallery from Cape Town that will be exhibiting new work by John Murray, Cameron Platter, Lyndi Sales and Athi-Patra Ruga, whose wool-and-thread ...Manhostage. Uddermaker blurs the boundaries between fashion and art. Galerie Cécile Fakhoury from the Ivory Coast is a first timer at the fair, with pieces by François-Xavier Gbré and Yéanzi.
Another first is the inclusion of African art in the Modern section. Launched last year, the section is dedicated to art made between the 1940s and 1980s. Mydrim Gallery from Lagos will show the work of the Nigerian printmaker Bruce Onobrakpeya. His colourful pieces have shown at London’s Tate Modern and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington.
Also in this section, Dubai’s Meem Gallery will present a selection of works by the Iraqi modernist Dia Azzawi and the Syrian master Marwan. Green Art Gallery will show pieces from Mahmoud Hammad, a pioneer of modern Syrian art.
UAE galleries will have a dominant presence at the fair. Ayyam, which has two branches in Dubai and four others in the region, will show work from Nadim Karam, Faisal Samra, Safwan Dahoul, Sama Alshaibi, Kais Salman, Mouteea Murad, Athier Mousawi and Alireza Fani.
The art on display will be a mix of sculpture, installation and painting. The colourful horizontal lines of Murad’s Trial No 91: When Spring Blooms challenge the use of the season in the term The Arab Spring, which has become increasingly associated with violence and claims back the positive promise.
Each year, the Marker section is dedicated to a different geographical area: this year the spotlight is on Latin America. Curator Luiza Teixeira de Freitas has selected 42 contemporary artists who explore the connections between the Arab world and Latin America. The selection includes sound work, film and performance as well as more traditional art forms and it will be the largest exhibition of Latin American art ever to be shown in the Gulf.
The fair’s non-profit programme is also its largest to date. It includes 12 commissioned artists’ projects: six are the result of the artist-in-residence programme that began in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in January, and six are from international artists – all are curated by Lara Khaldi.
• Art Dubai opens on Wednesday, March 18, and runs until Saturday at Madinat Jumeirah. Visit www.artdubai.ae