The regional art champion and innovator has just been named director
of Art Dubai
Antonia, you’re an ex-Time Out Dubai staffer. Welcome back! I am! When I first got to Dubai in 2001 I worked for Time Out – it was a really good way to get to know the city.
Congratulations on your new role at Art Dubai… Thank you. It’s an exciting time to join the fair: the fifth edition in March coincides with Sharjah Biennale 10, and Dubai has become the commercial hub for the region, especially for artists working in Iran, Egypt and Lebanon.
How will next year’s Art Dubai be different? It’s still very early days. Any fair is ultimately a place to do business, but Art Dubai is also one of the city’s premier cultural events. We’re continuing with the Global Art Forum and projects, as well as educational events, and there’s more to come. At the last fair I was the director of Bidoun Projects: we commissioned projects such as artist Daniel Bozhkov’s ‘World’s Fastest Tour of Art Dubai’. We want to continue with these types of events – they’re different to what other fairs do and they’re a way to help audiences interact with the work.
What’s distinct about Dubai’s art market? Dubai is doing with contemporary art what it has done over the centuries in other areas, acting as a meeting point for an area that extends from India to Iran and parts of Africa, as well as the Arab world. Also, someone who comes to the fair for the first time one year might become a collector the next. That’s the way things work in the UAE – things move so fast.
Tell us a moment that defines Art Dubai for you. There are so many. In the first year of Art Dubai, Bidoun Projects showed Egyptian artist Wael Shawky’s video The Cave, based on a Sura [a chapter] from the Qur’an: it’s a work that is complex, and can be emotional for the viewer. When we were building the fair, about 50 workmen who were supposed to be banging in nails crowded into the video booth to see the work – they were all holding their breath.
Why should people come to Art Dubai? There’s art, conversations, debates, activities for kids: something for everyone. Within Art Dubai you’ll see world-class artists from Europe, America and Asia, and meet the Middle Eastern art world en masse. We live in a place where every day you might hear 10 languages spoken, and if you come to Art Dubai you’ll experience art that reflects on that experience in a way words can’t.
Which art shows should we see right now? Summer is a great time to check out group exhibitions, where you’ll see a range of the galleries’ best art. Don’t miss the Iranian show at The Third Line and the great group exhibitions at XVA and Green Art Gallery. It’s all about supporting local galleries.