Last year, Art Dubai had to cancel its 2020 showcase just weeks before opening. The global pandemic and lockdown that ensued not only kept us apart, but it massively impacted the global art scene — from artists and galleries to the adjacent industries: events, logistics and cultural programming.
Now, with a fresh programme and a new venue, Art Dubai is back with an in-person showcase. The first IRL art event on the global calendar, Art Dubai 2021 transcends the usual trappings of your typical art fair to symbolise something bigger.
It is a show of unity and resilience — among the art community that has banded together to make this happen, of Dubai’s monumentally successful fight against the pandemic and of the human spirit, that time and again turns to creative expression for respite, substance and inspiration.
This year, mindful of the prevalent restrictions, Art Dubai moves to the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Within its purpose-built venue set under the iconic Gate building, and with the Jumeirah Emirates Towers offering a befitting backdrop, the exhibition showcases 50 galleries from 31 countries, including ten of Dubai’s leading names, together demonstrating the diversity that is informing the current contemporary design scene.
Operating under the highest COVID-19 safety protocols and alongside standard procedures, including regular testing of participants, the fair has introduced the new Art Dubai App that will help visitors to book dedicated time slots in advance to guarantee entry and help organisers better manage visitor flow.
Here’s everything to know about Art Dubai 2021, which takes place from March 29 until April 3 this year.
FILMS ON ART
Art Dubai’s video programme will be held in DIFC’s Gate Avenue; 10 screening stations will show films produced by 20+ regional and international artists.
The screening stations will be installed throughout this indoor promenade, where guests can experience the single-channel films produced by Ahaad Alamoudi, Jonathas de Andrade, Nikhil Chopra, Laurent Grasso, Cristina Lucas, Berkay Tuncay, and Tsedaye Makonnen among others. Each video station will be thematically categorised to curate a specific experience for the viewer, including: Nature, Journeys, Dystopias, Conversations, Performances and Animations, among others.
One of the stations will also be dedicated to the ongoing Art Dubai Portraits series, a film series providing short perspectives into the lives and workspaces of artists that are connected to the fair through its programming or participating galleries.
THE ART DUBAI SCULPTURE PARK
For the upcoming edition of the fair, Art Dubai will curate a Sculpture Park featuring large-scale installations along the two water paths that surround the iconic DIFC gate. The sculpture park will feature 10 artists including: Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Rachid Koraïchi, Rashed Al Shashai, Goncalo Mabunda, Hussain Sharif, Dia Al-Azzawi, Costas Varotsos, Tarik Currimbhoy, Bernar Venet and Pablo Reinoso.
ITHRA ART PRIZE
The winner of the third edition of the Ithra Art Prize is Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif, for his proposed installation Rakhm, meaning ‘incubation’ in Arabic, can be viewed at Art Dubai 2021.
Bin Naif’s installation Rakhm aims to conceptually preserve a nursery as both an urban typology and its ‘incubatees’ as an environmental micro-economy. The title of the installation mirrors both the sensitivity and urgency of the content, safely and carefully incubating an intelligent green infrastructure. Rakhm is a Polytunnel nursery that mimics the existing urban nurseries in the Kingdom with endemic plants and flowers instead of conventional foreign houseplants.
Unlike most nurseries, however, the viewer can only experience the exterior of the nursery, which mirrors the general local approach to xeriscaping wherein local foliage is not an environmental or aesthetic priority.
The experience of the viewer from the outside also highlights the notion that contextually there is very little interaction between local human inhabitants and local plant-life and the importance on an environmental level of changing this narrative.
ART WEEK AND THE CITY
By adapting and innovating the ways we can view art both in person and virtually, the UAE art community has proved its resilience.
It is not surprising that several major exhibitions in cultural institutions across the Emirates focus on our increasing reliance on the digital landscape. Age of You: a kaleidoscopic exploration of the extreme self at the Jameel Arts Centre tackles this head on, a timely exhibition with more than 70 contributions from artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians and creative technologists curated by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist.
There are several other captivating displays on view at the art centre on Jaddaf Waterfront, such as the solo exhibition Do You Remember What You Are Burning from artist Hiwa K including an interactive large-scale commission; their latest Artist’s Garden by Namrata Neog and Sunoj D and Hassan Khan’s Composition for a Public Park.
Dubai Design District (d3) has also announced a new global campaign for the post-pandemic world: Rethink the Regular.
The campaign encourages the world’s most brilliant minds to come together and see design in a new light. The international initiative will promote Dubai as global destination for the creative industries that offers opportunities for students, start-ups, entrepreneurs and multinational corporations alike.
To kick it off, d3 has today launched a weeklong Rethink Art exhibition. The late UAE President Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s official Range Rover, an original Dodge Challenger from ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ and a 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud are among 15 classic cars have raced into the business district for the event, running from March 28 to April 3.
Eye-catching installations, art exhibitions, fashion pop-ups and mouth-watering special food menus celebrating global cuisine will also be available to the community and wider public, with a series of free workshops from Tashkeel, the Dubai-based multidisciplinary art and design organisation, also taking place. Three restaurants — Emirati eatery Smat, Italian street food destination Vicolo, and the wellness-inspired Anamoia Café — have created special discounted menus for Rethink Art.
The weeklong event encouraging people to see design from a new perspective aims to celebrate the diversity of talent in the region’s largest creative hub. It comes after contemporary US street artist Shepard Fairey — the man behind the iconic Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster — unveiled two new murals in d3, further reinforcing Dubai’s position as a global destination for art and design.