Winter 2019

Art & Auctions
Diverse Fair

Art Dubai is the world’s most internationally diverse art fair with more than 90 galleries from 41 countries taking part. At the fair, you can explore art and new perspectives from so many cities worldwide, says Artistic Director Pablo del Val


Dubai will yet again become the global meeting point for arts, artists, art-lovers, and of course, critics as Art Dubai’s 13th edition unfolds this March.

The world’s most internationally diverse art fair will showcase more than 90 galleries from 41 countries.

Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Art Dubai 2019 will take place from March 20-23, 2019 at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai.

Art Dubai has launched a new structure that includes four main sections complementing each other, which will offer visitors greater access and deeper engagement with artists and galleries from non-Western geographies.

The new format positions Contemporary as the core section of the fair, with Modern presented alongside the Contemporary galleries, enabling an elevated understanding of the region’s art history.

The inaugural Bawwaba gallery section, taking its title from the Arabic word for ‘gateway’, focuses on different geographies and viewpoints from new markets and features solo presentations of works produced specifically for the fair.

The programme-cum-gallery section Residents, a project inviting international artists for a six to eight-week residency in the UAE to produce new work and immerse themselves in the local art scene, will see its second edition in 2019 and will specifically focus on Latin America.


CONTEMPORARY & MODERN: Reflecting the new structure of the fair, the participating 69 Contemporary and Modern galleries will be presented alongside each other in one of the two main gallery halls, with Modern taking place in a specific designated area, allowing for a better reading of the art history and contextualisation of Contemporary art from the region.

BAWWABA: The new Bawwaba is a unique gallery section, located within the main gallery halls. The section will feature projects by individual artists or galleries, located in or focused on the Middle East, Africa, Central and South Asia as well as Latin America. The inaugural edition of Bawwaba will be curated by French-Cameroonian curator Élise Atangana, and focus on highly conceptual works including videos, installations and murals. The section aims to give visitors a curated reading of the Global South, acting, as its name suggests, as a gateway to current artistic developments from these regions.


RESIDENTS: Following the success of its inaugural edition, Residents will return for its second iteration in 2019, with 12 exhibiting galleries. The geographic focus for Residents results in further streamlining the visitors’ experience across all sections. It will, crucially, allow dialogue to take place between practices in the UAE and Latin America.

In an interview with Arabian Knight, Art Dubai’s Artistic Director Pablo del Val says Art Dubai has been an instrumental platform for shining a spotlight on art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Beyond the diversity and quality of its art programming is a commitment to being a place of discovery for art from geographies that are usually outside of art’s mainstream dialogue.


Excerpts from the interview:

What will be the major highlights of Art Dubai 2019?

It’s always so hard to pick highlights as we like to think of Art Dubai as the sum of all parts and a place where you can really make a day – and night – of it. From the Contemporary and Modern gallery halls to the always-popular talks programmes such as Global Art Forum, our performance programme which this year includes the ‘carnival artist’ Marlon Griffith, installation commissions, and of course our after-dark music programme and F&B pop-ups on Fort Island.

A true gem of new content I think is ‘UAE NOW’ which will explore the country’s independent local artist-run platforms – collectives and community groups – that add an exciting and emerging layer to the local art ecosystem.


What makes Art Dubai the world’s most internationally diverse art fair?

Since its inception in 2007, Art Dubai has been an instrumental platform for shining a spotlight on art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Beyond the diversity and quality of its art programming is a commitment to being a place of discovery for art from geographies that are usually outside of art’s mainstream dialogue. The 2019’s edition is no exception with representation from 42 countries across the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.


What are the main themes that will run across the show?

Following on from the above, we not only explore themes of diversity and inclusion but also counter to that displacement, identity and what it means to be an artist – or to live, even – in an interconnected but imbalanced world. At the fair, you can explore art and new perspectives from so many cities in so many countries one wouldn’t usually encounter: from Bandung (Indonesia) to Beirut (Lebanon), Berlin (Germany), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Beijing (China). That’s powerful.


Tell us more about the Bawwaba gallery section. What’s the thought behind this new section …

Taking its title from the Arabic word for ‘gateway’, Bawwaba aims to give visitors a curated reading of current artistic developments, via 10 solo shows from artists either living in, from or focused on what has become known in transnational and postcolonial studies as ‘the Global South’.

Our intention is for Bawwaba to present a cross-section of the Global South, addressing themes of global migration, politics and social economics as well as more formalist concerns such as colour and material. 


How many artists will join the Residents programme this year and what will be the focus of these artists?

We have a dozen artists currently in the UAE or en route from Latin America for this year’s Residents programme. The artists are spending four to eight weeks in the studio and making spaces in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, immersing themselves in the UAE art scene and creating new artworks to be shown at the fair. Works will range from paintings, to sculpture, to video work and we’re really excited to show visitors the results in March. We’ll also be filming them during their residency so keep an eye on our social feeds – Instagram, in particular – to see them as they work!


How do you describe the artistic landscape in Dubai and the Middle East?

One word, well two: vibrant and diverse. There really is no regional ‘style’ or school here: the depth and diversity of the landscape in the Middle East should not be underestimated. And there’s even more of a collector appeal if we add art from North Africa and South Asia. Dubai is the leading city of arts and culture; it’s a meeting point for the region’s art community and international collectors and curators which makes it so incredibly vibrant.


There have been big buys in recent years by museums and individuals in the region. How does it impact on the art scene in the region?

The impact is largely positive. One of the advantages of the regional art market is that it is a more thoughtful market; it is more intuitive and more about what you like and what fits in your collection rather than a rush to speculatively buy the next big trend. Locally, the scene still very much operates on a “your success is my success basis” and much-publicised acquisitions have a ripple effect, increasing desirability of other local and regional artists amongst collectors.


How is Art Dubai contributing towards enhancing the art scene in Dubai and in the region, the regional art market and appreciation of art among the local community?

Art Dubai is a vital part of the art economy here in Dubai. In fact, we commissioned an independent study a few years back. In 2015, we assessed the economic impact of the fair, not just on the art economy, but on the city as a whole. The Repucom study found that $35 million was brought into Dubai during the week in which Art Dubai was held. Moreover, as much as 60 per cent of local art organisations’ annual sales revenue was made during Art Week.

Each major art market has at least one international art fair… But these fairs don’t take place in isolation. Here in Dubai we have the recently-opened independent art museum, Jameel Arts Centre; commercial gallery areas, Alserkal Avenue, DIFC and d3; studio spaces such as Tashkeel; and organisations such as Dubai Culture & Arts Authority – all factor into the UAE’s thriving art ecosystem.


– By Sree Bhat  

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