On the occasion of the fifth edition of Art Dubai (15-19 March 2011) at the luxurious home of the Madinat Jumeirah one could get an informative and broad view over the art scene of the MENASA region. With 81 galleries attending it was the largest edition since its premiere and it showed finally in its sales
and increased visitor numbers.
The opulent programme set up around the fair including Global art Forum_5, the art prizes and all the events in the region like ‚Edge of Arabia’ turned out to be a well thought support for the fair. For western visitors this seems to be normal but here in the MENASA region with such a young art fair it has a different meaning. The whole process around producing art and collecting it needs to be supported and educated. There are exceptions and brilliant movements, but for the majority there is still left a wonderful way to explore.
The new fair director Antonia Carver is keen on Art Dubai being known as a company which works with galleries in a constructive and personal way“. And that could be felt with the diversity of the origin of the galleries (34countries from all continents), 31 newcomers at Art Dubai and last but not least the content.
Interesting is the fact that most of the galleries offer at least one artist of the region and they all sold well. That is not as usual in the ‚western’ market. But everyone visiting Art Dubai and the regional art offers is well advised to leave its ‚western view’ at home. Looking back 20 years and comparing what has
happened since leads to the comprehension that there is great potential and it is just a question of time and continious commitment to the arts. The picture of the visitors seems to be dominated by Experts, museums but few locals. The task might be to draw the attention of more locals stronger to the fine arts world. “Art Dubai has been really successful for us,” said Paola Weiss of BISCHOFF/WEISS (London). “I’ve noticed that there is now a solid Middle Eastern collector base, which has grown immensely over the past two years
and now stands out to me. In general people seem more interested in collecting. Furthermore, arts patronage has really started to show.”Walking throught the ailes one could not miss that there is a shift going on
in the arab world. Many artists were repainting their countries political situation. The confrontation in the single countries was taken into the fair. Visitors were more or less forced to concern themselves with the changes just happened (e.g. Tunesia) or beeing in process (e.g. Lybia, Bahrain). The tunesian Gallery Marsa displayed a work by Patricia Tiki, who photographed a street scene during the protests. Morrocan born Zakaria Ramhani (Artspace, Dubai) put up Hosni Mubaraks’ portrait that was being taken off the ground.
The ‚I like’ button of facebook on the bottom indicated the folks’ agreement. Not only Art Dubai celebrated a jubilee furthermore the 10th Sharjah Biennal, the 5th anniversary of Abu Dhabi culture & Heritage with an exhibition of Hassan Sharif curated by Catherine David and Mohammad Kazem took place at the same time. As well the opening of the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art.
Looking at some of the activities around Art Dubai:
Abraaj Capital Prize: It is the financialy best fitted art prize: 1 million USD
The 2011 winner artworks by Hamra Abbas (Woman in Black), Jananne Al-Ani
(Shadow Sites II), Shezad Dawood (New Dream machine Project), Nadia KaabiLinke (Flying Carpets) and Timo Nasseri (Gon) were exhibited on the fair ground.
Visitors were offered to vote for their favourite piece.
Art Buses: Buses organized by a non Art Dubai organization which drives the
visitors to galleries, the Sharjah biennal, exhibitions and so on during Art Dubai.
The busses are featured with exclusive artworks by three Emirati artists, who
have specially be commissioned by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority in association with ArtintheCity.
Art Park: It is a space in the car park of the Jumeirah Madinat with direct
access from the fair. Driving arrows add their own input to the contrary environment to the art fair. Talks with and by artists and curators are offered as
well as videos (Bidoum Videos). The special relaxing taste comes in with the bar
and the tabletop football.
EMIRATES Art Prize: The three winners were presented at the fair grounds
with their art works. Next to a 5.000 USD cheque, the exhibition at Art Dubai
their art works are reproduced on the airlines frequent flyer programme
cards for a year. Winners 2011 are Nedim Kufi (Iraq), Amir Vafaei (Iran), Kambiz Sabri (Iran). www.ourfutureartists.com
Global Art Forum_5: For the first time the Forum was extended over the
whole region and started off at Doha 14 March 2011. ‚In 2011, the Global Art Forum_5 looks at how a changed world has changed audiences for contemporary
art.’ Next to talks, discussions and practical workshops on the tow main subjects a) Fascination – How Art met Fashion and b) Disappointment Management there is one more activity which is very much far sighted: FORUM FELLOWS. This fellowship programme was launched in 2011 and is set up with the
intend to form a future „think tank“ for the arts in the region. The six choosen participants were invited to engage with all aspects of the fair and what
was happening around it.
MARKER: By invitation five project stands were placed between the gallery
booths. They were curated by Nav Haq and are concepts of artists that have
not been exhibiting at an art fair so far. As they were all spread among the art
fair the voyage of discovery is like an exciting search. Hopefully to be continued next year!
The Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award: In its fifth year the award shows a
tremendous success. It aims to enrich the local cultural environment by the
broad range of art directions like Photography, Fine Art and Multi Media.
Involving the public plays an important role here as well. The public is called
to chose their favorite piece. Nevertheless a professional jury picks the winners, which are awarded with a cheque. www.youngartistaward.ae
Setting up infrastructure
A fully functioning art scene like any other business needs a well working and extensively networking community to ‚guaranty’ its own existence and developement. And this is what the MENASA region should extend and set up to enhance a more compact and solid based art scene. This could turn out -looking at the political, economical and sociocultural situation – as a tough job. If one looks closely to the countries it is obvious that the focus needs to be set differently.Qatar for instance is moving forward in juge steps after founding Qatar Foundation, setting up mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art and now as announced during Art Dubai building up an art quarter it is setting a benchmark.In the UAE there are art schools, various supporting ‚institutions’ like tashkeel (www.tashkeel.org), where artists are offered to rent a working space for a certain time, Barjeel Foundation and Farjam Collection -to name just a few- broaden the peoples’ horizon and offer education to interested parties. Furthermore the gallery scene is attracting more galleries from the region as well as from abroad. Also there are countries where the artists have no professional address to go to and either need to develop their Œuvre as autodidacts or travel abroad to follow their studies. Following the press also guides one to the conclusion that there is more a describing rather than critical view towards the arts. Criticism does not necessarily mean to ‚destroy’ artists’ works. It rather looks at the weak or strong sides of an ouvre or exhibition so everyone visiting is free to take the one or other look at it or find its own. Criticism is important to drive a movement, direction, scene and should be looked at as a tool of further developement.
D O E R T H E R A M I N
S I D E S T E P S
Get a lively view of the fair under: www.artdubai.ae/live/
Art Dubai: www.artdubai.ae/index.php
IkonoMenasa TV: www.ikono.tv
Sharjah Biennale: www.sharjahbiennial.org
*This article was presented in Arts Management Site, Issue No. 102 · March/April 2011 · ISSN 1610-238X