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13th edition of Art Dubai fair


The 13th edition of Art Dubai fair will take place from 20 to 23rd of March in Dubai. Pablo del Val, Artistic Director of the event talks to Agenda Culturel. 

What is the 13th edition’s focus?
Art Dubai has always strived to be original in its content; from the diversity of its gallery line-up, to its quality non-commercial offering and that hasn’t changed. It’s a place to discover arts from all over the world – this year we have galleries from Cuba to Cameroon – and dip in and out of world-class talks such as Global Art Forum, the largest arts conference of its kind in the MENASA region. What we have focused on more outwardly is the tangible sense of community the fair brings with it: as a leading fixture in the city and region’s cultural calendar, and also as an international launch platform for many early-career artists based in the region. 
In the gallery halls this is evident in the return of our Art Dubai Residents programme, this year we have 12 Latin American artists in the UAE immersing themselves in the country’s cultural dialogue and producing new works which will be on sale at the fair, and a new-for-2019 gallery section, Bawwaba. This section aims to give visitors a curated reading of current artistic developments, via ten solo shows from artists either living in, from, or focused on, what has become known in transnational and postcolonial studies as ‘the Global South’. In this way we are bringing communities into the fair that are usually outside of art’s mainstream. Our intention is for Bawwaba to present a cross-section of the Global South, addressing themes of global migration, politics and social economics. 
Elsewhere this community aspect is reflected in this year’s performance programme, developed by Luís Silva and João Mourão, the co-directors of contemporary art institution, Kunsthalle Lissabon. The programme is a celebration of togetherness and the unifying aspects of communal celebrations – through dance, processions and festivities – as powerful tools to think about the world around us. One of these performances is by carnival artist Marlon Griffith and uses the aesthetics of Trinidadian carnivals and West African shadow puppets to stage a large-scale procession through the fair –150 performers with visitors invited to join in! 

This year sees the 13th edition of the fair. What is new for Art Dubai in 2019?
We’ve made significant changes to the design and layout of the fair this year to improve the visitor experience. The fair will feel different the moment you step through the door. We’ve also worked hard throughout the year to secure a fantastic globally-diverse gallery line up and bring in not just highly-collectable artworks and accompanying talks series and the performance art just mentioned but also another new section called UAE Now, which we’re all really excited to launch. 
UAE NOW explores the country’s emerging independent local artist-run collectives and community groups, from artistic collective Bait 15 based in an old villa in downtown Abu Dhabi to Banat Collective a creative community formed in to bring to the fore discussions about womanhood in the Middle East and North Africa region. I think the layer these self-forming grassroots platforms add to the local art ecosystem, the depth to which they run and their juxtaposition with the commercial galleries will be intriguing to visitors.


What programs does the fair present and how do they contribute to the Middle Eastern scene?
Since its inception in 2007, the fair has shone a spotlight on art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia and has been instrumental to raising the profile of regional art and artists, through the gallery programme but also through its non-commercial programming – such as awards, special commissions and programmes such as Campus Art Dubai. 
Art Dubai is a vital part of the art economy here in Dubai. In fact, we commissioned an independent study a few years back. In 2015, we assessed the economic impact of the fair, not just on the art economy, but on the city as a whole. The Repucom study found that US $35 million was brought into Dubai during the week in which Art Dubai was held. Moreover as much as 60% of local art organisations’ annual sales revenue was made during Art Week. It’s also an annual fixture for galleries from the region to exhibit work on an international platform and in front of large visitor numbers, close to 30,000 last year.

What opportunities does the fair offer to the Arab audience and artists? 
We find that our international visitors come to Art Dubai to discover artists and artworks from the region, and we certainly see this in Art Dubai Modern, which has become the go-to market place for institutional collections to acquire works from the region’s modern masters. For our Arab collectors, it is often the opposite: they come to explore and acquire works from our non-Arab international galleries. Art Dubai has been a launch pad for many artists and a place where galleries introduce their practices to the international art community.

How is the positioning of Lebanese artists and galleries?
Lebanon without doubt is one of the leading production centres in the region and has given some of the most exciting names of our times. Some of the Lebanese galleries are an international reference to understand and contextualise the region.

Who is the target audience of the fair and who are your target buyers and collectors? 
I’m not deflecting this question but this is a very complex question, one that to answer fully will require more words than perhaps I can write here! Our target audience has so many segments, and sub-segments and segments of those segments and this is largely due to the diversity of people coming to Art Dubai – many of whom buy at the fair but wouldn’t necessarily classify themselves as collectors – from the UAE, the region and visiting from further afield. Our reputation as the world’s most global art fair is well-documented but this is also matched by the diversity of our visitors, be they high-spending collectors, private, commercial and public, to those that might purchase the odd artwork here and there; and from those that would call themselves art-lovers to those that are more art-curious so-to-speak. 

In few words, what defines Art Dubai?
Diversity, inclusion and new perspectives.




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