It’s been quite a year on Dubai’s art scene. Here are a few of our highlights.
The boom is on
The days when just a handful of galleries battled to create some semblance of a local scene now seem far gone, as 2008 saw a huge number of new arrivals take to the Dubai art stage. Syria’s Ayyam Gallery stationed themselves in Al Quoz, joined by Basement in the summer and recent openings Artsawa and Carbon12.
Got us going:Ayyam Gallery, this art space of gargantuan proportions has been consistent in turning out first-rate shows of Syrian artists since June.
We were shocked, amazed, astounded and suitably speechless when we heard of the extraordinary plans to transform the Creek into an art hub. An iconic opera house designed by Zaha Hadid, a Museum of Middle Eastern Modern Art and seven million cubic feet of museums, galleries, studios and hotels stretched across an extended Creekside are just some of the plans that feature in the masterplan.
Got us going: Had to be Hadid’s opera house. It looks like a dune and seems to rise out of the Creek. How long will we have to wait for it though, is yet to be answered…
This year we saw a run of record-breaking sales at the city’s recently established auction houses. Kicking things off in March was the Bonham’s sale of Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri’s Swarovski-studded ‘Eshgh’ sculpture, which broke the US$1million mark – the first time a contemporary artist from the Middle East has achieved this. In April, a single Christie’s sale notched up 71 records, selling Dhs147,321,691 worth of art, itself a regional record. What credit crunch?
Got us going: News that Parviz Tanavoli’s The Wall (Oh Persepolis) racked up Dhs10.4 million at auction, setting a record for any Iranian artist.
Traffic Design Competition
The first competition of purely Middle Eastern contemporary design found itself a home in Traffic, and was judged by international design luminaries Karim Rashid and Konstantine Grcic.
Got us going: Despite Fadi Sarieddine’s concrete and steel armchair (right, hilariously titled ‘Dubai Syndrome’) picking up first place in the competition, we were quite taken by American University in Sharjah student Adnan Hassan’s chair made from layers of cardboard. It remains to be seen whether there is demand for cardboard furniture in Dubai.
While it may have gone slightly askew in recent episodes (we’re thinking of the closing performance at the open-air event when an orange-faced loon stripped on stage to the sound of drum ’n’ bass), Pecha Kucha, the six-minute, 40-second relay of chatter by Dubai’s art crowd will be in its fifth incarnation and back on form in the New Year.
Got us going: We heartily tittered at photographer Sergio Boccia’s penchant for ladies’ boots, which he rather breathlessly relayed to us at the second event in June. ‘Sexualised landscapes’ indeed.
Art Dubai may have happened all the way back in March, but it remains our cultural highpoint of the year. Bringing the international art world to the Madinat’s vast amphitheatre for the second year running was, in itself, no mean feat. But impressive as the scale was – at 70 exhibitors it was double the size of the first – the fair’s content was more remarkable still. From the Art Park to the Pakistani Pavilion to the hugely influential Global Art Forum, Art Dubai revealed the depth and quality of contemporary art across the region.
Got us going: The highlight, for us, of March’s art-madness was the spellbinding Creek Art Fair. Working as a satellite to Art Dubai proper, for two weeks it took over the buildings and lanes of Bastikya, showcasing the best of Dubai’s independent art galleries and hosting initiatives such as the Open Shutters Iraq project, which revealed, in fascinating detail, everyday lives of Iraqi women.