By Rasha Eleyan

Art Dubai Director Myrna Ayad: her vision for the region’s most important art fair

Art Dubai, running from the 21st to the 24th of March this year, highlighted some of the best visual artwork from modern and contemporary artists around the globe. For just over a decade this international art fair has consistently brought refreshing modern art and new perspectives to an eager audience of art lovers, artists, critics, and collectors. In today’s interview we spoke to Myrna Ayad, the Director of Art Dubai, about this amazing fair’s role in the world of art and culture.
Myrna Ayad, Director Art Dubai, Courtesy Art Dubai

Myrna Ayad, Director Art Dubai, Courtesy Art Dubai

Can you tell us about the significance of the city of Dubai as the home for UAE’s, and the region’s, most important fairs?

Art Dubai mirrors the multiculturalism of its host city – Dubai is cosmopolitan, a main cultural hub, home to a multitude of nationalities and its geographic position also allows it to be a gateway in the Middle East between Asia and Europe – these are all attributes that Art Dubai reflects. The fair has been and will continue to be a platform for artists and galleries, particularly from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, to launch themselves onto the international scene; it is also a platform where trends are set and is very much a fair of discovery. Art Dubai Director Myrna Ayad We are the most global of art fairs and what attests to this is 105 galleries coming from 48 countries to our 12th edition. Art Dubai activates a robust community programme both, at the fair, and year-round through the Global Art Forum, Campus Art Dubai and The Room. Over the years, our programming has diversified and allowed us to redefine an art fair’s role so that we extend to more than just a moment in March, but rather an institution that activates programming on a year-round basis. We are committed to continuing to act as a catalyst in the local and regional art scenes. Art Dubai Director Myrna Ayad

How do you, as fair director, ensure that the event stays contemporary and current in the fast-paced world that is the art market?

We believe in offering our visitors an experience; of course, our participating galleries are at the core of this, and in addition, we present an active programme that includes talks, book launches, a seminal Prize, a symposium and so much more. Among the elements that make Art Dubai stand out among other fairs is that we are an art fair that is the preeminent platform for one to discover modern and contemporary art from the MENASA. Art Dubai Director Myrna Ayad We are also the world’s only venue that showcases modernist art from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia through Art Dubai Modern (established 2014) and which presents museum quality works. Moreover, we are the most global of art fairs. Among the aspects that make this year’s edition different is our size and diversity. While it is not our intention to become a bigger fair, it is our constant mission to be a better fair and one that exhibits the very best from around the world with a particular emphasis on art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Diversity is key and we are keen on reflecting this at the fair. From Peru and Buenos Aires, Beirut to Jeddah, Egypt to Ethiopia, India to Pakistan and more, the world is present at Art Dubai. Just as diverse as the fair is in its gallery representation, so too in its programming with multiple projects, initiatives and events. We hope to continue to ‘showcase the world’ at Art Dubai and support artists and initiatives through our community programming. Art Dubai Director Myrna Ayad We welcome new aspects to our programming – we inaugurated Residents, a novel feature of the fair through which we have invited 11 artists from around the world to spend 4-8 weeks in the UAE. The works produced during this time were exhibited at the fair. Also for the first time this year, Art Dubai presented a non-selling exhibition in the Modern hall; this seminal show, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, surveyed various modern movements in five Arab nations and is supported by the MiSK Art Institute. We celebrated 10 years of the Abraaj Group Art Prize and the unveiling of Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s winning work this year. We’re delighted with The Room, an immersive, engaging space at which artists are invited to create an environment that includes performances, installation, gastronomy etc. In the name of allowing artists to negotiate spaces and explore their practices, the third iteration of The Room saw artist collective GCC present an immersive, interactive installation inspired by a TV studio, entitled Good Morning GCC. Art Dubai Director Myrna Ayad

What did the artworks and booths being presented at this year’s fair reveal about current trends and tastes in the Middle East art market and the direction in which it is heading?

Art Dubai is very much a platform where trends are set and made; it is a venue where one can take the cultural pulse of the region. We saw a fair amount of galleries present sculptural works created in various ceramic techniques; as well as a sense of figuration in paintings exhibited throughout. We will continue to rely on artists as documentarians, archivists and historians to tell us more about the times that we live in.
Art Dubai Director Myrna Ayad, Photography by Abbi Kemp

Art Dubai Director Myrna Ayad, Photography by Abbi Kemp

Art Salon is a private collectors club that was Launched in 2014 by Art Dubai Group as an engaging platform that provides MENASA based collectors and patrons guidance. What advice do you have for the collectors that attended ART SALON this year?

Art Salon is a collectors-only group that is operated by Art Dubai and for which we host monthly events. These individuals are close to the fair and form a core group of supporters. In a sense, they act as ambassadors of Art Dubai. We have been delighted to see many of our members begin their collections at Art Dubai, and others transition into patrons and now sit on the acquisitions and advisory committees of major cultural institutions. We help facilitate introductions, and make sure that above all, they enjoy Art Dubai and walk away having made a new discovery, whether that’s meeting someone or exploring the work of an artist or attending a stimulating talk.

In the 21st Century what problems are plaguing the Art Industry Globally? And as a director what changes would you want to make?

A congested art calendar!