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A RETURN TO NORMAL sees the biggest edition of Art Dubai yet with a strong focus on Africa and a good dose of the DIGITAL noticeably present

As the world returns to as things were pre the pandemic, Art Dubai too makes a return to the Madinat Jumeirah after last year’s edition in DIFC with its purpose-built structure and Remote Participation Programme, which enabled galleries to virtually present their physical exhibitions and allow visitors in Dubai to at least experience the artworks in person.

However, the 15th edition of ART DUBAI presented their most extensive gallery line-up to date of over 100 exhibitors from 44 countries, where this leading platform for artists in the Middle East and the Global South firmly cemented this cultural fixture as one of the most important hubs in the Middle East. 30 first-time participants with over 50% of the programme drawn from the Global South, reaffirms Art Dubai’s commitment to art from this region. Africa was especially well represented this year with 10 galleries from Africa presenting 39 artists.

Watch our Africa in Dubai Roundup with some of the participating galleries.

Pablo del Val, Art Dubai’s Artistic Director commented:

“For over 15 years, Art Dubai has been a place to discover and celebrate new trends, creating and facilitating conversations, and celebrating the strength of creative output across the Global South. This year’s programme places particular emphasis on where the physical and digital realms intersect.”

On del Val’s reference to the digital realm, this is really where the fair has taken an impressive lead globally. This year’s addition of Art Dubai Digital envigorated the programme with its punchy digital offering which almost served as a ‘REBOOT’ for the Fair. Many of the featured exhibitors are those who are leading the way in the rapidly expanding digital art space. Showcasing 17 presentations, representing a broad geographical base, the section includes both traditional galleries and digitally native platforms and collectives, many participating in an art fair for the very first time. This section is certainly one to watch as the art world continues to adapt and evolve in the digital and NFT realms, and as new communities are emerging to support these worlds, supported by new creators and stakeholders.

Rele Gallery, Art Dubai 2022. Photographer: Cedric Ribeiro. Getty Images
Rele Gallery, Art Dubai 2022. Photographer: Cedric Ribeiro. Getty Images

Entitled ‘This is the Picture’ and taking place across four days, the 15th edition of the Global Art Forum examined the worlds of digital artefacts and crypto economies, inviting leading artists, curators, creators, thinkers and technologists to consider a range of topics from NFT art and curatorial projects, to crypto gaming and the metaverse, Web 3.0 and Dubai’s new crypto zone.

Bybit Talks, an eclectically curated series of conversations presented by the titular and leading cryptocurrency exchange, gave visitors a greater understanding of the rapid growth in digital platforms, inviting guest speakers to explain more about the basics of cryptocurrency, digital media and NFT art. Participants included Tamas Banovich, co-founder of Postmasters; Seth Goldstein, co-founder of Bright Moments and Jenn Ellis, co-founder of Aora Space.

Bybit Talks © Art Dubai
Bybit Talks © Art Dubai

See our video interview with Shumon Basar who shared some more insights into Art Dubai Digital, Bybit Talks and this year’s Global Art Forum.

This year’s A.R.M. Holding Children’s Programme featured artist-led workshops for children aged 5-17 years. With a focus on sustainability, the programme was led by Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru, who worked with participants to retrieve and repurpose everyday materials from their homes and schools, and transformed them into works of art. Through these workshops, Cyrus challenged participants to alter their perspectives and re-examine how they see everyday objects and their wider surroundings. The first A.R.M. Holding Children’s Programme workshops took place at Art Dubai and will expand to take place in 80 schools – reaching more than 5000 children across Dubai, in line with A.R.M. Holding’s long-term commitment to arts education and Dubai’s creative economy.

ART AFRICA chatted to Cyrus as he prepared for the workshops at Art Dubai.

Art Dubai Modern section curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath featured solo presentations of museum-quality works by 11 20th-Century masters from across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) regions. Also accompanied by three days of Art Dubai Modern Talks, this year’s talks were held in collaboration with the Dubai Collection, and examined the life, work and influences of these 20th-Century Modern masters. These important artists’ works form the art history of the region from the turn of the 20th-Century to the 1980s, and the series significantly added to the existing scholarship and research.

DAG, Art Dubai Modern section. © Art Dubai
DAG, Art Dubai Modern section. © Art Dubai

ART AFRICA caught up with Carlo Rizzo, Director of the Dubai Collection who shared some background about the collection and their current exhibition, ‘When Images Speak: Highlights from the Dubai Collection’, at the Etihad Museum in Dubai.

Other highlights include:

Art Dubai’s commission for 2022 was INLAND, represented by Fernando Garcia-Dory, who presented a new multi-site installation at the fair and in a variety of locations across Dubai. Sand Flow manifested in a range of places and moments, combining visions of Dubai’s past, present and future and examined how the multiplicity of cultures and communities inhabit the city and their contributions to it. The artwork incorporated archaeology, hydrology, urbanism and transport as well as the Middle East’s rich oral storytelling traditions, heritage and crafts.

Jahmek Contemporary Art, Bawwaba, Art Dubai. © Art Dubai
Jahmek Contemporary Art, Bawwaba, Art Dubai. © Art Dubai

Bawwaba – meaning gateway in Arabic and exclusively featuring works made in the past year or specifically for Art Dubai 2022 – was curated by Nancy Adajania and featured ten solo presentations, including six first-time exhibitors.

COSMODREAMS, an interactive installation by Marina Fedorova, explored the effects of technological advancements on our lives and environment. The installation combined traditional art and digital technologies in the form of large-scale paintings, sculptures, life-size objects and virtual reality video with interactive panels. Art Dubai Digital also included an exhibition of new NFTs created by the 12 UAE-based and international artists taking part in this year’s expanded edition of Campus Art Dubai’s Blockchain Edition, an eight-week development mentorship programme.

Marina Fedorva, COSMODREAMS. Courtesy of the artist & Art Dubai.

Art Dubai this year debuted a new exhibition commissioned by and in partnership with Warehouse421 and Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship (SEAF). Curated by Maryam Al Dabbagh and Mays Albaik, this show presented a selection of works from the fellowship’s eight-year tenure, drawing on threads and recurring research themes that persist across the programme’s different cohorts. Including painting, textile, video, and photography, the exhibition reflected a collective questioning of memory in relation to place, time, and a sense of rhythm and repetition.

Julius Baer commissioned Filipino-American light and media artist James Clar (Silverlens) to create an interactive video installation entitled Cloud Seed, for the Julius Baer lounge at the fair. The installation immersed visitors in a large-scale real-time simulation of raindrops and fog, using custom technology to create a slowly morphing visual system that reflects our control of the environment. Through the commission, Julius Baer wanted to showcase the emergence of megatrends such as digital disruption and how artists are using cutting-edge technology in their practice. 

The next edition of Art Dubai will be taking place at the Madinat Jumeirah from the 3rd until the 7th of March 2023. For more information, please visit Art Dubai.

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