By Rasha Eleyan
Art and culture are an intrinsic aspect of the human experience
All people, from all walks of life, appreciate abstract creations in some form or another, from simple drawings in the sand, to elaborate portraits and symphonies. Likewise, art is what bonds our modern cultures
, connecting people who a few hundred or thousand years ago would have considered one another too strange for friendship to be possible.
Portrait of GCC, 2017. Courtesy the artists
This year, from the 21st to the 24th of March, an event is taking place that is unique in much of human history
, art lovers
, and critics
gather in Dubai
to see contemporary and modern art
from all across the globe, attend workshops and exhibitions, and generally experience the intricate connections between modern cultures
Hiromi Tango, Imaginarium at Singapore Art Museum, 2017. Courtesy the Artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney
For the last decade and a bit, the Art Dubai Group has been working tirelessly to transform Dubai into a desirable destination for art lovers, artist and critics. A huge part of this had been through their internationally recognized art and design fairs, which bring affordable exhibitions and artwork to the people, sales and exposure to the artists, and new artists to galleries, studios and patrons. This brings us back to that primal connection our ancestors once shared, painting cave walls together by firelight. It brings the humanity back to art.
Art Dubai always collaborates with a studio or company invested in the world of art. These collaborations showcase a broad spectrum of cultural experience in a modern context, highlighting creativity and ensuring that the fairs never become too niche, pretentious, or stale. You never know quite what you are going to see at an Art Dubai Group event.
Hiromi Tango, Hiromi Hotel, Peformance Installation, 2017. Photography Sarah Malone. Courtesy the Artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney
As is always the case with anything creative, the art world has changed and evolved much since Art Dubai
first began, and this year they are seeing more diversity than ever before. They have a contemporary gallery that features 78 galleries from 42 different countries
, featuring young artists
alongside established professionals
. The contemporary galleries feature all sorts of artistic disciplines, from painting and drawing to installations and performances, including video, photography and sculpture
Their modern gallery, refreshingly, includes museum-quality works from artists
from across the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa
. These artists are highly influential individuals who may not be commonly known named in the West, but are nevertheless a crucial part of global art history that all art lovers need to know about
Rashed al Shashai, Artist featured in Reframe Saudi.
Finally, this year they have a new addition in the form of a gallery program dedicated to solo presentations from a group of artists who will reside with Art Dubai
for 4-8 weeks, creating new work
. This encourages the artists to immerse themselves in the local culture and art scene
and create a body of work which truly represents Dubai
. These 11 intimate presentations are central to this year’s theme.
This willingness to encompass the whole of the artistic experience, no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your medium is, is what makes Art Dubai
such a valuable addition to the world of art.
Raed Yassin, Manual for Disasters, 2017. Courtesy Kalfayan Galleries
What is more, Art Dubai
has developed and currently runs the largest non-commercial education and commissioning art program. Thousands of people, more than half of them children, have benefited from their education schemes, and hundreds of artists have received the exposure, recognition, and employment possibilities that they deserve. Art Dubai
understands the importance of fostering love
and respect for art early on
, and of encouraging children to make the most of this wonderful age we live in, when being an artist can open so many doors
for you. And what better way than by holding the world’s most connected, diverse art fair?
What is more, Art Dubai creates a melting pot of international talent and culture
that a wide range of people have access to. Children and students get in for free, encouraging access to the arts, and persuading students to take the art world more seriously in general. They are offered bespoke Education Guides
to support them in their discovery of the exhibits. Entry also includes educational workshops, courses, and talks, which encourage people of all ages to learn more about art, culture, and the modern world. This is a quality of education
you would expect to get at a university lecture, all available for anyone who is interested
Global Art Forum
And if you want to buy an item? Let’s say a painting or a sculpture steals your heart and you simply have to have it. There are thousands of items on display, and most of the artists are interested in selling. Some up and coming artists are happy to sell their works for a little less, to cover their stay in Dubai
. In the age of the internet and advanced printing software, the thrill of wishing to possess original artwork is often dampened by frauds, the risk of unethical labour, and the concern that you will not receive a product as advertised
. At Art Dubai
you will be able to see the work in front of you, admire it, and work out if it truly is right for you. You will be guaranteed that this is an original work
(or, in some cases, an original print) by the artist, who worked hard to produce something singular and beautiful for you to enjoy. For less money than most of us spend on a weekly shop, or a nice pair of shoes, you could support an up and coming artist and own something truly unique.
Global Art Forum
But how does this treat the artists? Is it ethical? The artists know up front how much they will be paying to exhibit their works. These costs are actually lower than you find at most exhibitions, allowing artists from more varied backgrounds to participate. They may do this on their own, or join several other artists under a studio to display their work together, saving money on space. Then, they can choose how much to charge for their works. The artist sets the price, so even if you feel you are getting an absolute bargain, you can rest assured that the artist is getting what they think their work is worth. Even if the artist does not sell any work at the fair, they invariably get contacts and receive commission work, making the exhibition worth it for them.
Most other art fairs only allow artists to display their pieces through established galleries, creating an element of exclusivity, and a filtering process, which may favour people who have the right connections, and work against people whose tastes are unusual. On the other hand, Art Dubai allows small, new studios and individual artists to display, removing that elitism and encouraging consumers, critics, and creators to interact on a level with one another
Art Dubai Modern Symposium – Day 1 -Opening Courtesy of Photo Solutions (8)
All in all, Art Dubai
is carefully constructed to ensure that everyone gets the most out of it, making art into less of a consumer-frenzy, or a snobby pastime for the elite, and bringing it back to its roots as an essential aspect of human abstract thought and socializing. You do not need to be a massively famous artist to display there, and you do not need to be a great magnate or art critic to visit and have a look. The fair executive in 2015, Arjun Verma
, explicitly said that they wished to remove the intimidation that exists in some other art fairs
, to encourage people who might not otherwise get involved to do so.
In 2018 they are collaborating with the award-winning design studio: Moloobhoy & Brown
. Moloobhoy & Brown are a design and brand communication studio that emphasizes creative thinking above all things. They understand the needs of the modern brand or company
, as well as those of the modern consumer
. They are in touch with the nuances of social media and other internet platforms
. They understand how the world we live in interacts with art
Mario Merz, Untitled, 1987. Courtesy Giorgio Persano Gallery
Every year the theme of the collaboration changes slightly, to suit the company Art Dubai
is collaborating with, as well as to reflect on current events, and to inspire originality. This will be Art Dubai
‘s twelfth year in existence, and something suitably special needs to take place. The theme of the collaboration this year focuses on the story of Dubai
itself and its growth throughout time.
Besides the theme of the talks and workshops, this year Art Dubai
boasts another unique feature: an interactive installation called The Room, constructed by a collective of GCC
artists. This feature was introduced to great success last year. As the name suggests, this installation all takes place within the room, featuring its own special daytime talk show, performances, demonstrations, and even some celebrities. This sort of medley
of displays, from film
, from painting
is not entirely unusual in a gallery setting, but is rarely quite so rich at any other art fair.
From its approach to local talent to its care for artists, from the affordable price tags to the free admission for students, from conventional media to modern trends
, Art Dubai
everything that is new and unique in the art world
. And it has great potential to unite the world through art.