Art Dubai 2015

What to see at the ninth edition of the prestigious art fair in Dubai

Running from March 18-21, this year’s fair is by far the biggest (and best) yet. We take a closer look at the ninth edition and highlight what to look out for.

The inaugural Art Dubai that took place back in 2007 was pivotal in setting the foundation for Dubai’s flourishing art scene, and it’s an event that continues to work towards building Dubai’s reputation as the regional centre of contemporary art. It’s now the largest showcase of Arab artists to take place anywhere in the world and it shows no signs of shrinking.

Now in its ninth edition and no longer new to the country, Art Dubai has become one of the biggest events of the year and 2015 will be the most international event to date – more than 500 artists will be taking part from 92 galleries in
40 countries.

Its vast programme has a number of new editions for 2015 in addition to its main event, which is split into Art Dubai Contemporary, Art Dubai Modern and Marker, which this year focuses on Latin America. Running alongside this, the not-for-profit programme – the largest of any art fair, globally – includes a Global Art Forum that is themed on technology and the creative arts for 2015, the Abraaj Group Art Prize, Campus Art Dubai and the new Art Dubai Commissions project.

Comparable to other huge international art fairs, the scale of participation from incredibly talented and well-known artists from across the globe
is remarkable and inspiring; this is one event that you should clear your calendar for.

Art Dubai Modern

Now in its second year, this section of the fair features influential 20th century artists, focusing mainly on those who were active through the fascinating ‘Modern’ period from the 1940s up to the 1980s.

Fifteen galleries from across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia will be exhibiting a rare set of works that illustrate the breadth of creativity during this artistic period on a global scale. It celebrates regional artists who, despite being highly-regarded in their country of origin, are at times overlooked in the museums of Europe and the US.

Locally-based Green Art Gallery will be exhibiting work here – as well as in the Contemporary section – and there will be works by Shafiq Abboud, a prominent Lebanese artist from Beirut during the ’40s and ’50s.

Art Dubai Contemporary

The 72 galleries exhibiting in these halls were selected via a stringent independent committee process to create a diverse list of more than 500 artists. The result is a rare chance in the region to experience art from both prominent galleries and figures from the contemporary art world alongside new names and fresh up-and-coming art spaces for visitors to discover.

There are some truly outstanding installations to look out for here, like London-based artist Idris Khan’s work, ‘Seven Times’. Previously included in the ‘Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam’ exhibit at the British Museum a few years ago, it comprises 144 steel blocks with prayers sand-blasted,
in layers, over the surface of each.

Raphael Lorenzo-Hemmer’s interactive installation, ‘Pulse Index’, will also be exhibited. Visitors place their finger onto a sensor which measures your heartbeat and produces a visual representation of your pulse over a digital collage.

Marker
Previous focuses of Marker have been Indonesia, West Africa and Central Asia, but this year it moves even further afield, celebrating the connections between the Middle East and Latin America in the largest showcase of Latin American art to ever take place in the gulf region.
With everything from film and sound projects to a performance schedule, and work by 35 artists from across Latin America, this section of the programme promises to be one of the most vibrant and dynamic areas of the fair. Works on display will also include a ‘never-ending tropical fountain’ – a fountain sculpture crafted from tropical fruit.

Videobrasil, an organisation that frequently collaborates with artists from Lebanon, will be curating a film schedule, while Colombian artist Maria Jose Arjona will be working with performers, actors and dancers on a variety of different performances, which will be taking place every day of the fair.

Art Dubai Projects

This rapidly expanding programme is experimental and boundary-pushing, running a range of initiatives that extend beyond the few days of Art Dubai itself.

Part of this is Art Dubai Commissions, a project that tasks mid-career artists with creating major site-specific works. Palestinian artist Jumana Emil

Abboud will be participating this year, as well as Maria Theresa Alves and Mehreen Murtaza, who will be creating substantial site-specific
work for Alserkal Avenue.

Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver, who have been artists in residence at Tashkeel for the past year, will be creating a sound project, as are Umashankar and the Earchaeologists, a collaborative group of a scientist, a curator and an artist, who’s project will run over two years.

The Global Art Forum

More than 50 speakers will participate in this year’s event, with the focus for 2015 on technology and the creative arts. This will address the announcements made recently by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, that 2015 will be the ‘year of innovation’ for the country.

The forum, having started in Kuwait this year, will continue at Madinat Jumeirah on March 18-19. In Dubai, one day of the forum will be dedicated to the youth movement 89Plus. The global movement, which was started by two curators in London, uses art to explore the idea that those born in 1989 grew up with a very different experience of technology than the people born before them.

Art Dubai Education
Art Dubai’s education programme has something
for everyone, from children right up to arts professionals. In keeping with the fair’s aim to expand beyond events taking place during Art Season, Campus Art Dubai is a year-round art school for artists, curators and writers, which runs core and community classes.

The Sheikha Manal
Little Artist Programme is a series of workshops and tours for children aged five to fifteen led by international and local artists. Meanwhile, new for 2015, the Forum Fellows programme will include intensive workshops led by Tirdad Zolghadr, a freelance curator and writer for Freize magazine, focusing on a group of up-and-coming writers from the region.

The Abraaj Group Art Prize
One of the most anticipated elements of this year’s Art Dubai is the unveiling of the Abraaj Group Art Prize exhibit. It will feature new work by the 2015 prize winner Yto Barrada along with previous work from three shortlisted artists – Sarnath Banejee, Setareh Shahbazi and Mounira Al Solh. The exhibit is curated this year by Omar Kholeif, current curator at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in addition to other events including the Cyprus Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale.

Nothing about the chosen artists’ works will be revealed before the fair, so this is one exhibit not to be missed.
Art Dubai runs from March 18-21. See calendar for times and location. www.artdubai.ae.

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