Art season Dubai 2017

Incredible installations, dramatic design, affordable auctions and more

Art season Dubai 2017

When the first edition of Art Dubai launched 11 years ago, the majority of those involved were in little doubt as to how hugely successful it would become. So ground-breaking was the event that it’s no surprise to see it now sit comfortably alongside the likes of London’s Frieze, Switzerland’s Art Basel and The Armory Show in New York as one of the world’s finest.

Since its opening salvo, the fair has grown to become one of the principal events of the city’s Art Season, which also encompasses Design Days, World Art Dubai, SIKKA Art Fair and the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which is taking place this week. Not sure where to start? Well, here are a few pointers…

Art Dubai

The fairs
Some 500 galleries from 44 countries will be exhibiting at this year’s event, and Pablo del Val, the new director of exhibitor relations, believes you can expect the most visually stunning show yet. More than 30 of the galleries will be presenting just one or two artists, and each booth will be meticulously curated to feel like its very own exhibition.

Split into Art Dubai Contemporary (featuring works from some of the world’s most influential emerging and established artists) and Art Dubai Modern (exhibiting 20th Century works of the Middle East, South Asia and Africa), it’s a truly international event with artists representing some 60 nationalities.

“Art Dubai [is] the most global of art fairs,” says its new director, Myrna Ayad. “We’ve got a strong contingent of galleries from Iran and also South America… and it’s always interesting to feel the ‘pulse’ of the times and trends in the hall.”

The Modern section of the hall sets itself apart from the rest, providing a rich retrospective of the region, exploring political histories, social issues, stories of enduring hardship and picking apart the layers that lie between tradition and modernity. “It’s a different energy altogether,” says Ayad. “Pensive and momentous, with a lot more time spent exploring the narratives behind each work.”
From Dhs50 (day pass, online), from Dhs80 (season ticket, online). Mar 16, 4pm-9.30pm; Mar 17, 2pm-9.30pm; Mar 18, noon-6.30pm. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, or (04 563 1400).

The Commissions
Each year, Art Dubai runs a not-for-profit programme that gives regional and international artists a platform on which to create a site-specific piece of work exclusively for the fair. This year, the commissions are going to be some of the most dynamic yet. “This is the first time that our commissions will be wholly performance-based,” says Ayad. “There’s something to be said about casually waltzing through the fair only to be pleasantly interrupted by a performance.”

We don’t disagree. The commissions add an entirely new dimension to the art event, transforming the whole exhibition space into a canvas for unexpected art experiences. Performances will come from bold artists including Iván Argote, whose provocative public pieces have included following strangers around New York, licking metal subway poles and covering two Piet Mondrian works at Paris’s Centre Pompidou in graffiti.

The Room
The interactive and immersive installation is back for a second year. The Room: Cooking Liberty is inspired by Salvador Dali’s cookbook, Les Diners de Gala, and involves a surreal evening on which guests will dine on a 12-course meal that blends art, moving image, sculpture, food, mixed beverages and more. The whole thing has been put together by Beirut-based art collective Atfal Ahdath, who copy, steal and recycle material to create re-wired or deconstructed objects, as well as producing jarring mixed-media installations using photos, videos and sound. The rooms will be open as an installation for the public to wander through during the day, and if Atfal Ahdath’s previous work is anything to go by, it will be one of the most talked-about experiences of the season.
Dhs1,100 (gala dinner). Mar 13 and 17, 8pm-10.30pm. For tickets, visit

The Forum
The Global Art Forum is far more exciting than it sounds. The theme this year is Trading Places, and the series of discussions, lectures and special projects include a specially commissioned photographic study of Dragon Mart (yes, Dragon Mart), by Farah Al Qasimi.

The rest of the events narrate how the economy, material goods and ideas shape who and where we are. From the ancient Silk Road to algorithmic financial markets, the forum brings together art, history, philosophy, literature and more.

Renowned sculpture artist Christo (of Christo & Jean-Claude, the duo who infamously wrapped the entire German Reichstag in fabric in the 1990s) will also be in town for an unmissable two-hour talk about their projects, and the challenges they encountered creating them.

Design Days

While Art Dubai is purely and simply about art, Design Days is harder to categorise. Essentially, it’s the only fair in the Middle East and South Asia dedicated to modern and contemporary, collectible, limited-edition design works. That might sound like a bit of a mouthful, but to put it simply, the event exhibits functional objects that are so beautifully designed that they are also pieces of art in their own right.

“There is exciting, and often experimental, work being produced by designers who aren’t necessarily represented by galleries,” says Rawan Kashkoush, head of programming for Design Days. “The fair offers an opportunity for solo designers and independent studios to exhibit at an international level. For design enthusiasts, it’s a chance to meet designers from all over the world and acquire collectible design not seen anywhere else.”

This year, the fair will host its largest number of exhibitions to date, with a record level of participants from Emirati and UAE-based design studios and is a testament to the calibre of designers we have in this region.

It’s a commercial fair – so if you’re in the market for some dramatic lighting or a new coffee table, this is for you – but there are designs and products to suit a range of budgets, too, starting from under Dhs2,000. There’s also a brand-new edition, Vintage Design, showcasing a stunning range of antique and retro pieces from the Art Deco movement and more.

“All our pieces are unique or exceptional and represent great names of the creative post-war period,” says founder, Patrick Rochette. “Our objective is to become a must in the region for any 1950s to 1970s design amateurs and collectors.”
Dhs25 (online), Dhs50 (on the door). March 14, noon-3pm (ladies’ preview); March 14-16, 3pm-9pm; March 17, 1pm-7pm. d3 (Dubai Design District), Ras Al Khor Road,

SIKKA Art Fair

From live music and open-air film screenings to poetry readings, dance, improv, exhibitions, and large-scale artworks, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is transformed into a hub of artistic and cultural events from emerging Emirati and UAE-based creatives for Art Week.

Feeling like the edgy sister of Art Dubai, SIKKA is smaller in scale, but daringly creative. Far from a stand-and-observe type of art event, the fair gathers together a collection of risk-taking artists for a week-long schedule of events that you can really engage and interact with. It all happens around a central courtyard where you can chill out on beanbags and watch local live music. The Happiness Courtyard (new this year) will also be up and running with relaxing activities such as painting, writing and meditation.

The fair ends with a closing feast when artists and visitors get together for an intimate but lively dinner.
Free. March 11-21 10am-6pm. Al Fahidi Historical District, Bur Dubai,

Essential SIKKA

Don’t miss these five event highlights...

The Bahrain House
Arts consultancy TooFarCo is bringing us The Bahrain House, a space showcasing the work of five Bahraini artists that will immerse visitors in the atmosphere of the island.

Satwa 3000
New to Dubai’s art scene, the unusual and mysterious collective Satwa 3000 will be creating Sugarliscous3000, described only as “an enchanting world of sugar-coated sensations and discoveries through a five senses experience for kids and adults”.

Loco’Motion Dubai and Animation Chamber Cinema Courtyard
Relax with an al fresco film in Courtyard C, where you’ll be able to catch a variety of documentaries, shorts, feature films and animations from across the world.

Street Art House
More than 20 artists and collectives from across the UAE have banded together to create a series of rooms filled with exhibitions, DJ and acoustic performances, streetwear and installations, all themed around ideas of street art and culture.

The connection maze
One of the most interactive installations this year comes from street artist Tarsila Schubert. After viewing a collection of paintings showing moments of everyday life, visitors will be able to add their own Polaroids to a wall.

World Art Duba

The abiding theme of World Art Dubai is making global contemporary art affordable. Paintings, sculptures and photographs feature, highlighting up-and-coming names from five continents.

The third edition features a new showcase, Exhibition Islam, which will exclusively display contemporary works inspired by Middle Eastern culture and traditions. Whether you’re new to the world of art collecting or not, the event is perfect for picking up unique pieces that are otherwise difficult to discover.

The show’s Art for Every Wall initiative means you can find pieces for as little as Dhs370 (though prices do go all the way up to Dhs73,460, if your budget is just a little higher), but World Art Dubai is about far more than buying and investing in art. There will also be live painting sessions, workshops, art installations and a contemporary crafts market for you to peruse.
Free. April 12-15, 2pm-9pm. Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road,

The Symposium
To help you navigate your way around Art Dubai Modern, the symposium is a series of talks and presentations that dive into the life, work and impact of the 20th Century’s most influential artists from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Learn why their styles and practices were so influential and find out how they contributed to the history of 20th Century art.

1. Chatterjee & Lal
A Mumbai-based gallery that represents emerging Indian artists

2. Vermelho gallery
One of São Paulo's most forward-thinking spaces for contemporary art

3. Piero Atchugarry Gallery
Miniature sculptures by Yuken Teruya

If-Then Goto
A dance performance, created by curator Yasmina Reggad and artist Lana Fahmi (who is also taking part in 2017’s Art Dubai commissions), If-Then Goto will pay tribute to one of the UAE’s most famous artists, the late Hassan Sharif. Sharif’s intriguing works fused the urban with the natural world during the country’s economic boom, and this performance has been choreographed based on Sharif’s diagrams, instructions and performance archive.
Free. Tuesday March 14, 8pm-8.30pm. Art Dubai Contemporary, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde Booth (E6), Madinat Jumeirah, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street (04 563 1400).

Christie’s auction

If you love the idea of replacing the Banksy print that adorns your living room wall with an original work of art, Christie’s just might be able to help you. The world-famous auction house will be hosting one of its twice-yearly Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sales on March 18 and although some of the pieces would be too costly for most budgets, others are well within the reach of non-millionaires. Take Saudi Arabian abstract expressionist Ahmed Farid’s 2016 work Metropolis Magic, for example, which has a guide price of Dhs14,500 to Dhs22,000. At the other end of the scale, the pièce de résistance of the auction being held at Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel has to be Odyssey of a People, a stunning work regarded as the most important of Arab master Ismail Shammout’s career. It could be yours for the princely sum of Dhs2.9million to Dhs3.3million. And Christie’s also has a treat for timepiece enthusiasts a day later, as its fifth anniversary Important Watches sale takes place at the same venue. Expect a collection of only the finest names in the business, with creations from Patek Philippe, Boucheron and Audemars Piguet among those on sale.
March 18-19. 7pm. Godolphin Ballroom, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road,

Don’t-miss design

Britain Takes Shape
As part of the 2017 UK/UAE Year of Creative Collaboration, Britain Takes Shape is an exhibition of ten pioneers of British design, showing in the UAE for the first time. From ceramics to avant-garde furniture made with mirrors, small-batch production and the revival of old industries are at the heart of the products.

Fadi Sarieddine
Before moving to Dubai in 2004, Sarieddine lived through the Lebanese civil war, and his experiences have both shaped and inspired his approach to furniture design. Pulling unconventional materials together and placing them outside their usual context, his pieces are truly unexpected.

M.A.D. Gallery
A gallery from Swiss founder Maximilian Büsser, M.A.D.’s designs are cutting-edge, exposing the mechanics of products and creating sculptures and concepts that make use of kinetics. The pieces on show fuse traditional, high-quality watch-making with 3D sculpture and new technologies to push the boundaries of design.

Marie Munier
A Lebanese native, Munier studied fine arts for five years before becoming a jewellery designer, and her current works – striking large-scale lighting sculptures – reflect that background.

MCML Studio

The first gallery in Dubai dedicated to high-end, original mid-20th Century antiques, make a beeline for this booth to see incredible furniture, lighting, ceramics, glass, textiles and more from the post-war period. Showcasing classic design and rare finds from the 50s and 70s, MCML is set to be a hit for fans of aesthetics from that era.

Os and Oos

Simple, sleek and a shining example of pared-back, industrial contemporary aesthetics, this Dutch design studio produces award-winning tables, homeware, storage, light installations and more that have become part of permanent collections at museums around the world.
d3, (Dubai Design District), Ras Al Khor Road,

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