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A complete guide to Art Dubai

With an eclectic line-up of established and emerging galleries from around the globe and an extensive public programme, the fair has a lot to offer to art lovers

  • Saeid El Adawy, Untitled, 1961Image Credit: Courtesy Ahmed Eldabaa and Ubuntu Art Gallery
  • Massoud Arabshahi (circa 1960), Untitled, mixed media on paperImage Credit:
  • Mario Merz, Untitled, 1987Courtesy Giorgio Persano GalleryImage Credit:
  • Claudia Wieser, Installation from Passing Leap, Hauser and Wirth, New York, 2015Image Credit:
Gulf News

Art Dubai is back for its 12th edition to be held at Madinat Jumeirah from March 21 to 24. With an eclectic line-up of established and emerging galleries from around the globe and an extensive public programme, the art fair promises to live up to its reputation of being the most diverse fair in the world and a meeting point for the international art world.

Here is a guide to navigate the fair and make the most of everything it has to offer:

The Galleries:

Art Dubai 2018 will feature 105 galleries from 48 countries, including 27 first time participants spread over three sections. These include:

Art Dubai Contemporary: This section is spread across two halls at Madinat Arena and features booths by 78 galleries from 42 countries showcasing contemporary art. African art will be a prominent presence this year and first-time participants include galleries from Iceland, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.

Residents: This new section, located between the contemporary halls in Madinat Arena, has emerged from the newly-launched Residents programme under which Art Dubai invited 11 artists from various countries for four to eight-week residencies in the UAE. The artists were given opportunities to immerse themselves in the local art scene and experience the landscape, architecture, sights and sounds of the UAE while creating new works. The 11 galleries representing the artists will present these UAE-inspired works in the Residents section. The artists will discuss their experiences and work in a round table discussion titled, Creative Processes and Bonding Experiences in the UAE, at 4pm on March 24 in the Global Art Forum Tent on Fort Island.

Art Dubai Modern: This section, located in the conference halls on the lower level of Madinat Jumeriah hotel, is the only commercial platform in the world to showcase museum quality works by modern masters from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (Menasa). This year 16 galleries from 14 countries will showcase curated solo, duo and group shows by modernists from the region such as Gebran Tarazi, Abdel Hadi El Gazzar, Manoucher Yektai, Alfred Basbous, Helen Khal, M.F. Husain, Zahoor Ul Akhlaq, Anwar Jalal Shemza, Ganesh Pyne, G.R. Santosh, Manuel Figueira, and Mahjoub Ben Bella.

Other activations in the galleries sections

That Feverish Leap into the Fierceness of Life: This is a non-commercial exhibition presented by Art Dubai Modern in partnership with the Misk Art Institute from Saudi Arabia, headed by artist Ahmed Mater. Curated by Dr Till Fellrath and Dr Sam Bardaouil, the exhibition explores significant modern art movements across the Arab world through a survey of five Modernist artist groups and schools spanning five decades and five Arab cities. These include the Contemporary Art Group in Cairo (1940s/50s), the Baghdad Group for Modern Art (1950s), the Casablanca School of Art (1960s/70s), The Khartoum School (1960s/70s), and Dar Al-Funoon Al-Saudia in Riyadh (1980s). The show’s title comes from the founding manifesto of the Baghdad Group for Modern Art, reflecting these artists’ passionate contributions to modernism within their respective socio-political contexts. The exhibition features 75 artworks by 29 artists sourced from across the region and is accompanied by a fully illustrated bilingual English/Arabic catalogue with texts by five leading scholars.

Preview of Reframe Saudi: Presented by Art Dubai Contemporary with Misk Art Institute, this a virtual reality (VR) documentary that takes viewers inside the studios of contemporary artists in Saudi Arabia. The film is directed by Matteo Lonardi and produced by Culturerunners. The preview will be accompanied by a panel discussion on VR and Contemporary Art, moderated by Marisa Mazria Katz with Lonardi, Salar Sahna, director of the World VR Forum and Saudi Artist Ahaad Alamoudi.

The Room - Good Morning GCC: This year, Art Dubai’s popular artist created interactive dining experience is moving to a more public location on Fort Island. GCC, a Khaleeji artists collective that was formed after its eight members met at Art Dubai in 2013 has been commissioned to create the experience. They plan to recreate a live TV show, Good Morning GCC, based on daytime talk shows featured on TV stations across the Arab world. The programme will include daily segments on fashion, cooking, beauty, health, lifestyle and environment. Celebrity wedding singer and TV chef Suliman Al Qassar will launch the programme with a live cooking demonstration on the opening night of the fair. Other guests include make-up artist Mohammed Dashti, style icon Mohammed Diego, holistic healer Anfal Al Qaisi and Dr Sarah al Ateeqi, botanist and operation director of Alshaheed Park Museums. Fair visitors are welcome to visit the open-air studio, interact with the props and scenography on the set, be part of the audience during the programmes, and even buy the food prepared on the show.

GCC After Dark: From March 20 to 23, GCC will host a series of after-hours parties in their TV studio, featuring a line-up of well-known international DJs.

Global Art Forum – I Am Not A Robot: This is the largest annual arts conference in the Menasa region and brings together experts from various fields to discuss a theme from several perspectives. The 12th edition of the Forum titled, I am Not a Robot, will explore the impact of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning in work, creativity, design, economics, politics and art. With Shumon Basar as commissioner, the forum is co-directed by Noah Raford, COO and Futurist-in-Chief of the Dubai Future Foundation and Marlies Wirth, curator of Digital Culture & Design Collection at the MAK, Vienna. It runs from March 21 to 23, from 2pm to 6pm daily in the Global Art Forum tent on Fort Island.

Topics to be discussed include ‘Is there a Non-Western model of AI’, ‘How will automation affect our jobs, identity, and social structure’, ‘Will the blockchain build a new internet’, ‘What makes us human in an increasingly non-human world’, ‘What are machines saying about us behind our backs’, ‘How are artists engaging with the technologies of automation and an automated world’, and ‘Will human beings have to take care of depressed robots in the future’.

Participants include media theorist Paul Feigelfeld; Qing Wei, national technology officer Microsoft China Ltd; philosophers Jordi Vallverdú and Aaron Schuster; Jessica Bland, head of research, Dubai Future Foundation; product and interaction designer Simone Rebaudengo; trend forecaster Emily Segal; artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Yuri Pattison, Katja Novitskova; music producer Fatima Al Qadiri, architect Alessandro Bava, designer Simone Niquille and writer Patricia Reed. The programme also includes a performance, I Am/Not A Robot, by artist Asad Raza and dancer Isabel Lewis.

Films by Cinema Akil: The Global Art Forum is accompanied by a film programme presented by Cinema Akil, titled Consider the Robot & ‘Other’ States of Futureness. The films, to be screened on March 23, include sci-fi mocumentary Last Days of the Man of Tomorrow; Afrofuturist drama Pumzi, presenting non-Eurocentric depictions of automation and the Middle East premiere of Free Lunch Society, about the idea of a basic universal income after robots take up all human jobs, which will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers.

Modern Symposium: This programme of talks, conversations and discussions is part of Art Dubai Modern and will be held in the Misk Lounge next to the modern galleries section in Madinat Jumeirah. The symposium will open at 5pm on March 19 with a talk on Modernity in the Gulf, followed by a talk and launch of Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents, a seminal publication by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), sponsored by Misk Art Institute. The Symposium will continue on March 21 and 22 with discussions about modern and contemporary African art and the Baghdad Group for Modern Art; a conversation with British Pakistani artist Rashid Araeen; and talks about the life and work of modern masters Abdel Hadi Al Gazzar, Bahman Mohasses, Jallel Ben Abdallah, Ali Jabri, and F.N. Souza.

Abraaj Group Art Prize: Every year Art Dubai partner, the Abraaj Group awards $100,000 to the winner of this prize to realise a ‘dream project’ and $10,000 to three shortlisted artists to support their art practices. The winner of the 10th edition of the prize is Beirut-based Lawrence Abu Hamdan. He will unveil at Art Dubai 2018 his dream project, developed with guest curator Myriam Ben Salah. The shortlisted artists, Basma Alsharif, Neil Beloufa and Ali Cherri, will also exhibit their work at the fair.

The Sheikha Manal Little Artists Programme: Japanese-Australian multi-media artist Hiromi Tango will lead this programme for children aged five to 17 years. Tango’s project, Healing Garden, will feature an interactive installation that invites children to participate in creating a nurturing environment based on local plants and flowers with the date palm as the focal point of the garden.

Karim Noureldin at the Julius Baer Lounge: Swiss private bank Julius Baer, a sponsor of Art Dubai 2018, has commissioned Swiss Egyptian artist Karim Noureldin to create a site-specific installation for the Julius Baer Lounge at Madinat Jumeirah. His immersive installation, titled Des: From Pen to Thread, features two large-scale textile artworks based on his drawings and produced in collaboration with Indian companies Bharat Carpet Manufacturers and Rajput Arts, specialising in exclusive handwoven textile objects. The lounge will be open to the public on March 24 for viewing of the artist’s first exhibition in the region.

Piaget Art Project: Emirati artist Jawahar Al Khayyal is the winner of an art competition launched last year as part of a collaboration between Art Dubai partner Maison Piaget and the Cultural Office of Shaikha Manal Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Al Khayyal will showcase her interactive art installation, Summer Muse at the Piaget Lounge. The work is inspired by the ‘Life is a party’ cuff from Maison Piaget’s ‘Sunny Side of Life’ haute jewellery collection and embodies the glamorous lifestyle of the Piaget woman.

BMW Talk: Dr Thomas Girst, Global head of cultural engagement, BMW Group will lead a panel discussion on Powerplay: Gallerist, Collector, Curator, artist — who is the most influential? in the Julius Baer lounge on March 23 at 6.30pm.

Bookshop by The Lighthouse: In their inaugural partnership with Art Dubai, The Lighthouse will offer a curated selection of art and design books for all ages related to the artists, curators and themes being discussed at the fair.

Embroidered paintings by 81 Designs: UAE-based social enterprise 81 Designs empowers refugee women artisans to become self-sufficient by providing them a platform to showcase their creativity. This year they have collaborated with London-based Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj to create embroidered versions on canvas of 14 artworks from his ‘Graffix from the Souk’ series. Founded by mother-daughter duo Nesrine and Nadine Y Maalouf, 81 Designs is helping to preserve traditional ‘tatreez’ techniques, revive artisan skills among refugee women and give them a renewed sense of purpose by providing them with training, equipment and emotional support. The canvases embroidered by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon will be showcased at the Julius Baer lounge on March 21 followed by a conversation with Hajjaj and Nadine Maalouf and the screening of British filmmaker Ted Beagles’s film about the project. For more information visit the 81 Designs booth in Madinat Arena.

Art Dubai Portraits: To learn more about the artists connected with Art Dubai watch this film series on the fair’s website.

Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.

Fair details

Art Dubai is held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in partnership with The Abraaj Group. The fair is sponsored by Julius Baer and Piaget. The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) is a strategic partner of Art Dubai and supports the fair’s year-round education programme, which includes Campus Art Dubai and the Art Dubai Fellowship. It also presents the Global Art Forum with support from Dubai Design District (d3).

Venue: Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim
Dates: March 21 – 24
Timings: March 21 - 12pm to 4pm (Ladies only)
March 22: 4pm to 9:30pm
March 23: 2pm to 9:30pm
March 24: 12noon to 6:30pm

Tickets: Dh60 online and Dh90 onsite; three-day ticket is available online for Dh100 and onsite for Dh150; free for children under 18 and students with valid ID.

For more information and tickets, go to


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