Art Dubai attracts global interest

Art Dubai may be a youngster on the art fair circuit but this is an art fair on a truly international scale.

Americas
The USA ups its Art Dubai presence with no less than a dozen galleries represented this year. Alongside outfits such as highly acclaimed Indian art specialists, Aicon Gallery (which boasts outposts in Los Angeles and London, as well as New York), there is a strong showing of contemporary Western art in this line-up. Goff + Rosenthal represent some of Europe and the USA’s most intriguing emerging artists, while heavyweights L&M Arts typically showcase mid-20th century maestros such as Mark Rothko alongside stellar contemporary names like Louise Bourgeois. South American art gets a showcase in the upcoming fair, too, with galleries such as Brazil’s Bolsa de Arte bringing contemporary Latin America to Dubai.

UK
A typically eclectic offering from the UK. Alongside familiar Subcontinental specialists such as Green Cardamom and Grosvenor Vadehra are European showcasers like BISCHOFF/WEISS. But perhaps most intriguing is the inclusion of Jay Jopling’s phenomenally successful White Cube gallery. Home to some of BritArt’s most notorious stars, including the Chapman brothers and, until recently, Damien Hirst (pictured), White Cube failed to make an appearance at Art Dubai 2008 amid speculation that there wasn’t enough of a call for its brand of highly contemporary Western art in a Middle Eastern art fair. That it’s making a return for Art Dubai’s third outing says a lot about how art – and what’s being collected – has developed in the past 12 months.

Europe
For a hint of the level of international influence Art Dubai now wields look no further than its European contingent for 2009. Alongside more traditional art fair attendees from cities such as Paris, Vienna and Munich, which showcase an international line-up of artists, there are representatives from all corners of the continent who specialise in art and artists from their own country. Moscow’s Triumph Gallery, for example, represents contemporary Russian artists, while Lisbon’s Filomena Soares Gallery and Athens’ Kalfayan Galleries fly the flag for Portugal and Greece respectively. It will be interesting to see how such internationalism is greeted at a fair more usually successful with artists from its surrounding regions or established European maestros, like UAE favourite Picasso.

Dubai
For anyone who remains in any doubt that Dubai’s art scene has undergone a seismic shift in the past 12 months, look no further than the local line-up for this year’s Art Dubai. Fair stalwarts B21 and The Third Line (who represent Youssef Nabil) are there, as they have been every year so far, but so is brand-new opening Elementa – which has already proved itself to be a strong supporter of both international and Emirati artists – and long-timer Artspace, which recently re-launched with a brand new space at DIFC. Expect to find the best of the rest at sister show, the Creek Art Fair, a huge success at last year’s event and arguably the best annual showcase for independent art in the region.

Middle East & North Africa
For many the lifeblood of Art Dubai and what sets it apart from the international art pack is the showcasing of the best and most innovative contemporary art to come out of the region. This year’s representatives prove no exception, featuring galleries from as far afield as Tunisia (Galerie Al Marsa) and Istanbul (Galeri Artist) to heavyweights from Lebanon and, of course, Iran. Tehran’s Silk Road Gallery specialises in photography, a medium that has only relatively recently taken hold across the region, while Beirut’s Agial Gallery represents some of the Arab world’s quirkier contemporary talents, including Jocelyne Saab.

Asia
Innovations such as the Pakistani Pavilion were a huge part of Art Dubai’s success this year, so it’s no wonder that the number of galleries from the Subcontinent is on the up for 2009. India, especially, is making its presence felt – no surprise, considering it is seen as one of the biggest emerging markets internationally. Keep an eye out for the likes of Sakshi Gallery, which has featured the work of Art Dubai 2008 star Jitish Kallat in its Mumbai space and brought work by Anish Kapoor to the fair this year.

Far East
There’s no doubt that China has provided one of the most dynamic art markets of the past few years. From contemporary art forerunners such as Ai Weiwei (who, as well as establishing Beijing’s experimental artists’ East Village, was also the artistic consultant on the ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium for this year’s Olympics) to the likes of Ling Jian (pictured), this remains one of the most vibrant international art scenes. Beijing-based Arario Gallery offers a fine selection of contemporary Chinese artists, alongside those emerging from Korea. Interesting that there are a handful of Seoul-based galleries showcasing at 2009’s Art Dubai. Is Korea the new China in art terms? Could be.

Australia
Art Dubai’s international reach is such that its third outing welcomes its first gallery from Down Under. This Sydney-based outfit is a relative newcomer, but it’s been making all the right noises – relocating to a larger space just one year after its inception and garnering attention on the international scene. Their represented artists (including Gary Carsley) have been showcased at art fairs from Art Basel to the Venice Biennale. Expect to be exposed to some of the most interesting contemporary art to be currently coming out of Oz.

A capital idea
One of the undeniable highlights of this year’s Art Dubai has to have been the Pakistan Pavilion, a showcase that revealed the power of the fair to introduce regional talent to the world. This year’s curatorial highlight has to be the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, the world’s wealthiest art award. Earlier this year, three selected artists from the Middle East North Africa Southeast Asia (MENASA) region each won US$200,000 to create – with a chosen curator – their proposed work in time for Art Dubai. Turner Prize short-listed Turkish artist Kutlug Ataman is among the winners, alongside Iranian Nazgol Ansarinia and Moscow-born Zoulikha Bouabdellah. The three winning works will get their first outing at ArtDubai 2009, after which they will join Abraaj’s private art collection.

Chris Lord

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