Winter 2020

Art & Auctions
A World of Discovery

Ninety galleries from 38 countries and an exceptionally diverse range of artworks, artists and artistic practices – that is what art enthusiasts of the region can expect at Art Dubai 2020.

The show, from March 25 to 28 at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, will further cement itself as a key meeting point for international art, reflecting the multicultural identity of the city. The event is held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The fair welcomes 21 first-time exhibitors including galleries from Nigeria, Sudan and Vietnam, and will feature the largest selection of galleries from around the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) to date.

“Art Dubai is one of the leading international art fairs because it plays an essential role as a meeting point for an entire region — that extends beyond the Middle East to include the Global South. Dubai itself is often seen as a connecting point, and that in itself encourages a world of discovery,” says Art Dubai’s Artistic Director Pablo del Val in an exclusive interview with Arabian Knight.

For the 2020 edition, Art Dubai is working with leading curators spanning diverse geographies, including India, Lebanon, Germany and South Africa. It features four sections: Art Dubai Modern, Contemporary, Bawwaba, and Residents.

Residents, curated by Johannesburg-based Kabelo Malatsie, will focus on the African continent, leading visitors through an exploratory experience of artwork created specifically for the fair through a UAE-based residency.

Art Dubai Modern is the largest edition to date, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, showcasing solo presentations of Modern masters from across the MENASA region who are often overlooked in the Western canon. It will showcase focused, individual presentations of 19 leading modernist artists from 11 countries in the MENASA region making it the largest edition to date.

Bawwaba – meaning ‘gateway’ in Arabic – curated by Mumbai-based curator Nancy Adajania, showcases solo presentations by artists from, based in, and/or focused on projects about the Middle East, Africa, Central, South and Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The Contemporary section will feature a selection of 55 galleries that align with the fair’s focus on expanding conversations beyond traditional art production centres.

The 2020 Commissions programme will see installations by artists from Spain, India, Taiwan and Yemen. The site-specific works will be woven through the venue and are curated by Paris-based Natasa Petresin-Bachelez.

“A visit to Art Dubai leads to a shift in perception of where the art world is heading in the 21st century, and how art empowers these transformations,” says de Val.


Excerpts from the interview:

Art Dubai is claimed to be one of the most international art fairs. How is the diversity this time?

Art Dubai reflects the unique qualities of the city it takes place in: future-facing, ambitiously international and culturally vibrant. Going into its 14th iteration, Art Dubai will feature galleries from over 38 countries across the four gallery sections.

Overall, a visit to Art Dubai leads to a shift in perception of where the art world is heading in the 21st century, and how art empowers these transformations.


What is the main focus of the show, this edition?

At Art Dubai, we don’t necessarily focus on highlighting works from any one region. Through its history, the fair works to provide a platform for meaningful engagement with the rich cultural heritage and contemporary art practices of the region and extending to territories across what is known as “The Global South”, including South East Asia, the African continent, Latin America and Australasia. We bring works that are in dialogue with one another so visitors have a curated and interconnected experience.


What are some of the major aspects of Art Dubai that have made the show a global draw?

Art Dubai is one of the leading international art fairs because it plays an essential role as a meeting point for an entire region — that extends beyond the Middle East to include the Global South. Dubai itself is often seen as a connecting point, and that in itself encourages a world of discovery.

A sense of diversity is particularly underlined by the seven international guest curators that are working across the different sections of the programme. This breadth of experience, background and perspective introduce a divergent set of perspectives and further showcases the scope of diversity that Art Dubai has to offer.


What's different/new this year compared to the previous years?

For the first time ever, we have worked with seven international guest curators to develop a programme for Art Dubai. The curators, hailing from India, France, Germany, USA, Africa, Greece and the UAE will work across the different sections of the fair to cultivate an atmosphere of fresh new perspectives.

A new initiative for 2020, Gulf Now is a curated segment of the fair that highlights artist-run platforms from around the region. Exploring the various creative synergies, the section will see representation from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

At the centre of our not-for-profit programme is Art Dubai Commissions, a platform that invites artists to produce site-specific works, further enhancing the cultural landscape and supporting artistic production by local and international artists.

The Art Dubai 2020 Commissions will introduce multi-disciplinary site-specific projects with an ecological focus, curated by Paris-based, independent curator Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez. For the first time, the Commissions will be undertaken in collaboration with the Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai’s leading contemporary art institution. The collaboration will see a months-long season continuum in Dubai, which takes the form of artists’ projects that will be developed, hosted and researched at Jameel Arts Centre, with iterations of the projects to be showcased at Art Dubai in March 2020. The site-specific works will be woven through the venue and will focus on the environment around us.


Art Dubai has worked as a catalyst for local art. How will the show further this role this year? How is the art market growing in Dubai and the Gulf?

The fair’s international scope is uniquely positioned to offer exciting new global perspectives and broaden conversations about art from diverse geographies. Very much like its host city, Art Dubai brings together and represents a divergent scope of art for an international audience.

Key features of the extended Art Dubai programming are initiatives focused solely on recognising and providing emerging artists with a platform, further broadening said conversations in the region. Campus Art Dubai, the year-round residency programme, works with UAE-based artists to create works around a given theme and are unveiled as a group show at the fair.

After the success of UAE Now in 2019, the curated segment was expanded to include creative synergies from the region. Gulf Now will provides a space for impressive artist-run collectives to showcase their projects.

The Ithra Art Prize, held in collaboration with King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, awards emerging Saudi and Saudi-based talents to create pieces of work. The winner of the third iteration, Fahad bin Naif, will unveil his proposed commission Rakhm at Art Dubai 2020, before it becomes part of the Ithra permanent collection.


Art conversation, education and mentorship are some of the key elements of the show. What are the major programmes in this area this time?

An essential part of Art Dubai’s mission extends to cultivating an ecosystem of not only art, but also education, mentorship and thought leadership. Programmes such as the celebrated transdisciplinary conference The Global Art Forum, returns for its 14th edition under the title “Do you Story?”

Modern Talks, focused on narratives around Modernist Masters from the MENASA, and the unique mentorship platform Campus Art Dubai, which invites UAE-based artists to participate in a six-month residency to produce work that will be unveiled in a group exhibition at the fair.

Through one-of-a-kind professional platforms such as the International Curators Programme, we aim to foster cross-continental dialogue and exchange throughout the year, enhancing the international curatorial landscape.


Dubai is a melting pot of various cultures. How challenging is it to incorporate these cultures into your scheme?

Throughout the year, Chloe (Art Dubai International Director Chloe Vaitsou) and I work with international curators to develop a programme that is dynamic and interconnected. The overall programme is curated through a dialogue and nothing is developed in isolation. This process of cultivating relations with the different elements culminates into a fair that includes divergent narratives yet is very tied together.


– By Sree Bhat

NB: Since this article was published, Art Dubai has announced that due to the situation arising from the new Coronavirus outbreak globally, the international art fair will be postponed and only a programme tailored to the local cultural community will be held in March.

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