The Madinat Jumeirah is about to be transformed into a global art hub, with something for everyone
For the art scenester...
• The Madinat’s basement car park has been converted into an interactive Art Park for the third year running. Art Dubai is essentially a commercial art fair, but the Art Park is the most educational and definitely most hip part (it’s designed by local gallery Traffic, so it looks good too). Talks and performances will be held here throughout the fair, and there’s a film programme for movie buffs with daily screenings curated by Bidoun Projects. Another great initiative by Bidoun is The Big Idea at 8pm on Wednesday 17.
It’s a quick-moving forum where artists, architects and designers will show off new projects: Shamma Al Amri and Mona Fares will showcase ‘nbx2010’, a shipping container that they’ve turned into a roving art space. It’ll be on show at the Madinat for one day, before relocating to DIFC. Last year, performance artist Kirstie Macleod lay in the middle of the Art Park wearing a Victorian-style dress with an enormous skirt that covered the entire floor – a highlight was watching people figuring out how to walk past without stepping on her dress. Some teetered around the edge, others stomped over it (they must have been artists), and some just turned around and went back upstairs.
• Indian-born Anish Kapoor is one of the most important sculptors of our time; anyone who’s anyone in the art world has seen one of his works. You may know him as the guy who flung blood-red wax around the Royal Academy in London. Galleria Continua, which is based in Italy, Beijing and London, will be showing one of his sculptures, ‘Mountain with Sun and Moon’, which is carved from white marble. Find it at stand A21.
• Art Dubai parties are mostly invite-only, but work your connections and try to bag a plus-one – these gatherings are legendary. Last year we hot-stepped to French DJ duo Le Baron during The Third Line party on Fort Island: it was one of the best nights out of the year.
• Spend some time mingling with the local galleries. Jumeirah-based Green Art Gallery will be showing several pieces by Turkish photographer Nazif Topçuo˘glu (booth A30). We saw a few of his works at Cuadro earlier this year and were transfixed. We’ll also be making a beeline for the newly renamed Gallery Isabelle Van Eynde (formerly B21, to be found at booth B3), which will be showing works by two of our favourite Iranian artists, Reza Aramesh and Khosrow Hassanzadeh, among others. Oh, and stop by The Third Line (booth A28), which has a new piece by Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman that was created especially for Art Dubai.
Emirati photographer Lamya Gargash Head to the event because... ‘you can mingle and network with other artists and people from the art world.’
I love Art Dubai because... ‘it’s the most happening event of the year! To have some of the best work in the world and meet fascinating people all in one place is exciting.’ If you only see one artist’s work, see... ‘Candida Hofer, a German photographer who specialises in large-format works of empty interiors and social spaces.’
For the expert...
• The Abraaj Capital Art Prize is the only initiative that rewards proposals rather than finished works of art and, with more than Dhs3.5 million of prize money on offer, it’s the Bill Gates of art awards. Each year three ‘art teams’, consisting of a curator and an artist from the Middle East and Africa region, are invited to collaborate and create a forward-thinking, and thought-provoking project. The artists this year are Kader Attia from Algeria, Hala Elkoussy from Egypt and Marwan Sahmarani from Lebanon. We’re particularly looking forward to seeing Sahmarani’s piece, ‘The Feast of the Damned’, which takes its form from Renaissance icons such as the Sistine Chapel, but with an Arab element. What exactly this is we don’t know – it’s all very hush-hush until the grand reveal on Tuesday 16. After that, you’ll find the pieces on show in the event area’s main foyer.
• Late American modernist Alice Aycock was a stalwart in the experimental scene in New York during the ’70s. Lucky for us, one of her famous installation pieces, ‘Sands/Fans’, first seen in 1971, will be reincarnated for Art Dubai. The clue is in the name: the piece explores kinetics by turning four fans onto a pile of sand. We imagine it will look like a mini sand dune during a shamal.
• Taking place alongside Art Dubai is the Global Art Forum, which brings in experts from around the world and the region to discuss topics such as education, understanding modernism, writing about art and patronage. ‘Sands/Fans’ artist Alice Aycock will be giving a talk at 1.30pm on Friday 19. Discussions are scheduled to run from 1pm to 5pm every day during the event, but check www.artdubai.ae for full details.
Sheikha Lulu Al Sabah, art expert and co-founder of Kuwaiti art advisory service JAMM Head to the event because... ‘there’s also an extensive programme of satellite events surrounding the art fair, including the Global Art Forum. This brings together artists, curators, dealers, museum directors, critics and academics to discuss issues affecting the arts community, with a specific focus on the Middle East.’
I love Art Dubai because... ‘it brings more than 70 of the top galleries from around the world together under one roof, and it gives visitors the opportunity to see some of the best examples of contemporary art from the Middle East and beyond.’
If you only see one artist’s work, see... ‘Iranian artist Farideh Lashai’s animated projection on painting, entitled “The Rabbits”. It will be shown at Dubai-based Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde’s stand (booth B3).’
For the kids...
START, a charity that uses art to educate children, will have its own pavilion at Art Dubai. Featuring a 20ft artists’ table and a 12ft graffiti wall, the space will be full of activities for young and old. At 3pm on Wednesday 17, DJ Siobhan Leyden from Dubai Eye 103.8FM is running a bag-making workshop – the 20ft table will be covered with one giant canvas, with world-famous artists and children invited to cover it with their designs.
That night, the work will be taken to Satwa and turned into bags, which will then be sold during the fair – it’s probably the only art most of us will be able to afford to buy during the event. The START pavilion will also host several other activities: check out AerosolArabic at 3pm on Friday 19, where graffiti artist Mohammed Ali will show the process behind his work. Don’t worry, parents: he’ll be preaching a responsible approach to graffiti. It’s recommended that you book for these events. As a general rule, weekdays are for school groups and weekends are open to the public. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
For the art novice...
• Want to see art on a grand scale? Californian stalwart gallery Frey Norris will be showing ‘Bug War Over Blue Mountain’ by Kate Tedman and Eric Siemens. It’s visually stunning, featuring a thwarted eco system inhabited by a torrid sea, insects, plants and chicken creatures all fighting, but – more importantly – it’s absolutely enormous, measuring 15ft by almost 8ft. You’ll find it at booth B11.
• About a quarter of the galleries participating this year are taking an accessible approach by focusing on one artist, rather than choosing to feature single works by different contributors. It also means we’ll get a greater appreciation for one artist’s growth. We’re keen to see Grosvenor Vadhera’s booth – the gallery will be showing Indian painter and filmmaker MF Husain, whose career spans more than six decades. Check it out: he was, after all, dubbed ‘the Picasso of India’ by Forbes magazine.
• Fine art just not your thing? Van Cleef & Arpels will be showcasing nearly 100 years of its watchmaking creations. One thing we’re definitely going to see is master watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht’s workshops – he’ll be talking us through the mechanics of the timepieces.
• Dubbed ‘the magic carpet for the arts’, the Art Bus is an initiative run by Dubai’s friendliest gallery, thejamjar, that gives art lovers and novices a tour of some of the city’s main galleries. The bus has two routes: one takes you around Al Quoz’s galleries, the other goes through DIFC and Al Bastakiya. When you board the bus, you’ll receive an Art Pack containing all the info you need, and there will also be dedicated guides en route. Running from March 18-20, the tour costs Dhs50 and starts from the Madinat Jumeirah’s main entrance at 10am, returning about 5.30pm (don’t worry, they stop for lunch). We seriously recommend this – if you try to find all the galleries in the maze of Al Quoz by yourself, it’ll only end in tears.
• Bidoun has rounded up artists to act as daily Art Dubai tour guides. Bulgarian performance and video artist Daniel Bohzkhov is giving a speed tour in 35 minutes, and Sophia Al Maria from Qatar’s Arab Museum of Modern Art will conduct tours as her alter-ego SciFi Wahabi. The artists won’t be showing any works, but consider their tours a form of performance art.
John Martin, director of Art Dubai Head to the event because...‘there is no opportunity in the Middle East where you can see so many galleries and so many artists – more than 500 – under one roof. Remember, there is no right or wrong with contemporary art: open your eyes, open your mind, enjoy yourself and trust your instincts. Give yourself plenty of time, and plan lunch or dinner around your visit – looking at art on this scale is physically demanding!’
I love Art Dubai because... ‘I love the crowds! I know some people may hate crowds, but when you’re organising an art event, a crowd means you’ve got it right.’
If you only see one artist’s work, see... ‘the pieces at Galerie Chantal Crousel, which is showing three works including a major painting called “Enredadera” for the first time at Art Dubai.’ Art Dubai runs from March 17-20 at the Madinat Jumeirah. Entry is Dhs50 per day. See www.timeouttickets.com