This year’s event not only marks the accession of long-term Art Dubai collaborator Antonia Carver to the post of Fair Director, replacing founding Director John Martin, but a reinvigorated programme which sets out to reflect the the enormous range and energy at large amidst the flourishing Middle Eastern and North African contemporary art scene.

‘In addition to works from more than 80 galleries, Art Dubai 2011 offers an unprecedented level of events to engage the broadest possible community who enjoy seeing, learning about, discussing and collecting art,’ says Carver. ‘From non-commercial art projects to debate and discussion, films, fashion and family events, there is something for everyone – from students to the world’s leading collectors and arts professionals.

It’s this eclectic programming and exciting atmosphere that is one of the reasons Art Dubai is now regarded as the region’s foremost art event. Over the four days of activity, you can not only experience the wealth of work exhibited in the main arena, but take in some of the more off-beat, unique happenings taking place across the location. For example, should you fancy some food for thought, the Global Art Forum presents a four-day series of talks, presentations and discussions that make for fascinating insights into the ideas and theories of today’s leading art practitioners, from around the world. Then there’s Art Dubai Projects 2011, a curated programme of commissions, films, talks and performances, welcoming art enthusiasts to experience the innovation of more than 75 artists. Meanwhile, long-term Art Dubai co-conspirators Bidoun Projects will showcase its 1,000-volume-strong Resource Library and present the Art Park, an underground project space for film, video and talks. This year it will show retrospectives of key video artists and look into the practicalities of working in the region, with in-depth workshops on writing and curating for local practitioners. In all – the fifth Art Dubai is shaping up to be the biggest and best edition of the fair yet!

Key events at Art Dubai 2011
Amidst the new initiatives at Art Dubai in 2011 is MARKER, a dynamic new section of experimental stands curated by Nav Haq. Five experimental commercial and non-commercial art spaces from Asia and the Middle East, most of whom are making their art fair debut, will showcase work by emerging artists created especially for the fair. Featured galleries are Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF) (Alexandria), Grey Noise (Lahore), Liu Ding’s Store (Beijing) Makan (Amman) and Ruangrupa (Jakarta).

Global Art Forum
The region’s leading platform for cultural debate, Global Art Forum_5 is presented by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) in partnership with Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH). The Forum acts as a platform that connects local art scenes with the rest of the world. Beginning on March 14 at Doha’s Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, before moving to Dubai’s Fort Island on the 16-18 March, it focuses broadly on the theme of ‘Changing Audiences’. With keynotes, panels, workshops and performances, the Forum will examine mutual sympathies between fashion and art, and debate how artists see their role in relation to their new audiences.

New for 2011 is a series of practical workshops, aimed at regionally-based artists, curators and arts practitioners and Forum Fellows, a programme bringing together a group of curators and artists from across the Middle East together with equivalent gifted practitioners from the UAE.

As part of its ambitious commissioning programme, Art Dubai has invited Abbas Akhavan, Oraib Toukan, and Hrair Sarkissian to create major site-specific installations that reflect on and examine the nature of the art fair.

Menasa Studio Despatches
UK-based curators Andrew Bonacina and Victoria Brooks will present MENASA Studio Dispatches, over 60 five-minute audio projects ranging from spoken word and music to abstract sound collages. Participating artists include Ramin Haerizadeh, Hassan Khan, Radhika Khimji, Faisal Samra, Bani Abidi, Naeem Mohaiemen and many more. The project will be presented on radio station Dubai Eye 103.8 FM, on listening posts at the fair and will be serialised for Art International Radio (

Van Cleef & Arpels
‘Les Voyages Extraordinaires’, is a museum-quality jewellery exhibition by Van Cleef & Arpels, an Art Dubai partner for the last three years. The exhibition is based on four works by 19th century French novelist,
Jules Verne.

Abraaj Capital Art Prize
As the leading prize specifically for artists working from and within the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize returns for a third year to unveil the works of winners Hamra Abbas, Jananne Al-Ani, Shezad Dawood, Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Timo Nasseri with guest curator Sharmini Pereira.

Bidoun Projects
Middle Eastern arts organisation Bidoun Projects returns for its fourth year as a project partner, supported by the Emirates Foundation, with its 2011 programming themed around sport. The peripatetic Bidoun Library, this year features ‘The Natural Order,’ a new section specially curated for the fair that focuses on printed material on the Gulf from the past five decades. Bidoun Projects will also present a live mural, painted and repainted each day throughout the fair by a group of distinguished artists – Dubai-based Rokni Haerizadeh among them - tasked with depicting the theme of ‘labour.’

2011 also sees the return of The Big Idea, a highly popular forum for 10 young designers and artists based in the UAE, to present upcoming projects and ideas for the future of the cultural scene in the Gulf.

The Art Park
The 2011 Bidoun Projects programme at Art Dubai traditionally includes Art Park, an underground project space for film, video and talks, that this year, features retrospectives of the work of two pivotal Egyptian artists, Wael Shawky and Sherif El Azma, and it has been curated by Bidoun’s Kaelen Wilson-Goldie and Sarah Rifky of the Townhouse Gallery. There’s also a sports-themed video programme featuring artists including Ziad Antar, Mahmoud Hojeij and Van Leo.