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From spotlighting artistic excellence from non-Western geographies to amplifying the voices of women artists, Art Dubai, the Middle East’s biggest art fair will present its most inclusive and diverse showcase to date, from March 20 to 23.

Featuring 92 galleries from 42 countries, and a new focus on the art scene from the Global South, the fair returns to the Madinat Jumeirah with an extensive programme comprising of four gallery sections, commissions, performances, talks and new local initiatives.

Here are some highlights from across the packed programme:

Performance Art

Park your inhibitions and join in the fair’s performance programme, a celebration of togetherness. On March 22, from 9pm, carnival artist Marlon Griffith and 120 performers from Dubai’s Filipino community will stage a large-scale procession and magical play of light and shadow which will travel through the fair inviting visitors to join in. Daily from 5pm, taking placewill be ‘Muted Situation #2: Muted Lion Dance’, a reimagining by artist Samson Young of the traditional Chinese lion dance, whereby performers mimic a lion’s movements to bring luck and fortune.

‘Tolerance, Has History’ Photography Exhibition 

From the private collection of HH Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, this exhibition of rare photography presents a compelling visual narrative of the region in the 1960s and 1970s and the values on which the UAE was built.

Solaroca by Opavivara

Certainly a photo opportunity, SOLAROCA by Brazilian artistic collective is a beach-like environment, made up of a large structure covered with brightly-coloured, Rio-style beach parasols with beach chairs underneath, designed to get visitors at the fair mingling.

Art Dubai's After Dark Programme

When the gallery halls close (at 9.30pm), Art Dubai continues into the small hours with nightly after parties curated by with local and international DJs playing a mix of sounds drawn from the Middle East, Africa and South America.

Global Art Forum

Art Dubai’s critically-acclaimed annual transdisciplinary arts summit, takes place from March 20-21 and unites a diverse cast of speakers under the theme of ‘The School is Factory?’

The two-day forum in open to the public, including non-ticket holders.

Art Dubai Contemporary

In Art Dubai Contemporary, the largest of Art Dubai’s four gallery sections, first-time exhibitors ANDERSEN’S (Copenhagen) and Spruth Magers (Berlin, London, Los Angeles) bring with them some of the most exciting names in the contemporary art scene. ANDERSEN’S exhibits a large sculptural piece by Argentinian sculptor Tomas Saraceno, ‘Aerosolar Canis Major’. Spruth Magers hangs ‘Ocean IV’ by German photographer Andreas Gursky as its primary showpiece, along with a neon piece by Joseph Kosuth and two benches from Jenny Holzer — both American conceptual artists — among its standout presentation. London-based Victoria Miro’s features a large Stan Douglas work, ‘0660’, guaranteed to set Instagram feeds abuzz, among its sprawling booth which also features towering sculptures from British artist Conrad Shawcross and works by Korean sculptor and installation artist Do Ho Suh.

10 Dubai-based galleries exhibit within the contemporary halls including Custot Gallery Dubai, with its bright and vibrant booth featuring large neon geometric paintings by Peter Halley among many others, and Lawrie Shabibi’s dual presentation of works by leading Emirati artists Shaikha Al Mazrou and Mohammad Ahmad Ebrahim.

Art Dubai Modern 

Explore history in the making at Art Dubai Modern, the only platform in the world dedicated to museum-quality works by 20th Century Modern masters from the region, many of whom are still practising. Dhoomimal Gallery (New Delhi), India’s oldest gallery, debuts with some of the biggest names in Indian Modernism: Francis Newton Souza, Jamini Roy, Krishen Khanna and Abdur Rahman Chugtai. Hafez Gallery (Jeddah) hangs the works of the father of Saudi Arabia’s modernist movement, Abdul Halim Radwi, along with pieces by Mohammad Al Ghamdi.

Gateway to the Global South

Over in Art Dubai’s new gallery section, Bawwaba (‘gateway’ in Arabic), showcases art from artists either living in, from or inspired by the Global South with 10 solo shows from a diverse line-up of artists.

Among the artists are Turkish textile artist Gozde Ilkin (presented by Gypsum Gallery), whose artworks made out of repurposed domestic fabrics such as tablecloths, curtains and bed duvets with stitching, drawing and painting speak of layers of existence as well as issues of belonging; and Adeela Suleman (represented by New York’s Aicon Gallery) who works’ recurring motifs — such as birds and flowers — are replete with symbolic meaning of notions of loss and disappearance.

The Residents Programme

Art Dubai’s Residents, a unique annual residency and gallery programme, focuses on Latin America this year. 12 artists from the continent’s leading galleries were invited to the UAE for a 4-8 week residency, to immerse themselves in the local scene and produce new work for the fair. Head to Gallery 3 (Mina A’Salam) to see the results of the short-term artists residencies. Hotly-tipped is London-based Brazilian sculptor Alexandre da Cunha (represented by Galeria Luisa Strina, São Paulo) who during his residency in Dubai, has worked on a new set from his series ‘Beach Towels’. In this set the towels contain imagery of geometric compositions, national flags and brands that are dyed and stretched as canvases.

— Pratyush Sarup is a Dubai-based design expert who writes a weekly Design Diary column for Gulf News tabloid!

Don’t miss it!

Art Dubai takes place at the Madinat Jumeirah from March 20 to 23. Tickets are priced Dh60 (online) and Dh90 (on-site). Go to artdubai.ae.