All’s fair: Art Dubai is back

Art Dubai’s organisers say the 2023 programme is the fair’s most extensive and ambitious to date, cementing its increasing significance in the international art market and in particular celebrating the March dates as “the meeting point for the Global South’s creative communities”.

Art and commerce

Art Dubai 2023’s core gallery programme will feature over 130 participants from more than 40 countries and six continents, across four sections: Contemporary, Modern, Bawwaba (featuring exclusively new work) and Art Dubai Digital. There will be more than 30 first-time participants, a proportion which augurs well for the health of any art fair. Works on sale are included in the excellent online catalogue for browsing.

Launched as a new section of the fair last year, Art Dubai Digital is curated by Singapore-based educator and arts writer Clara Che Wei Peh for a much-expanded 2023 edition. We’re promised innovative new media programmes, a range of digital platforms building virtual art spaces alongside artist collectives, new institutional models, and the presence of more traditional bricks and mortar galleries.

First-timers will include Lian Foundation, established by private collector and blockchain technology expert Fiorenzo Manganiello; 6529 with their Open Metaverse project (“a fully decentralised metaverse that bridges the virtual and physical world”); and UAE First Immersion, a presentation of new artworks by some of the leading names in crypto art, presented in collaboration with MORROW Collective and featuring new works by Coldie, Colborn Bell, Monaris, Bryan Brinkman, Kirk Finkel and Raphael Torres.

Away from the commercial side the 2023 programme includes a series of 10 commissioned performance works by artists from across South Asia in a purpose-built space at the fair – site-specific works which include daily performances and “food-based experiences”, exploring themes of community, celebration, hope, and connection, and using aspects of public interactions and communal celebrations as powerful tools to think about the world around us.

Refik Anadol, Glacier Dreams (2023)

The Swiss wealth management group Julius Baer has renewed its partnership with Art Dubai for a further five years, until 2027, and will premiere a major new commission by the data/AI artist Refik Anadol as part of Julius Baer’s NEXT initiative. Refik Anadol Studio will be creating a series of multisensory artworks based on an enormous dataset of glacier images from around the world, a topic chosen by the AI artist as a global symbol of an elixir of life and the fragility of the world. The resulting artwork, Glacier Dreams, will unfold in multiple chapters and locations, the first of which will be presented as an immersive room at the Julius Baer lounge.

Ideas and input

There’s also the fair’s largest ever “thought-leadership programme” – a total of more than 50 sessions in what looks like an ambitious conference, talks and education portfolio. They’re centred on the 16th edition of Art Dubai’s flagship Global Art Forum, always a meaty meet; there’s a short series of ‘Modern talks’ and ‘collector talks’; and there are two new Dubai versions of established industry events.

This year sees the first Dubai edition of Christie’s Art+Tech Summit. This is by invitation only, which might well be a practical matter as much as a way of defining the audience – the parent Art+Tech Summit in New York is always packed and frequently used to introduce new art-tech products and services. For its inaugural Dubai version the Summit is a one-day conference (it’s two days in New York) that shares the theme of dialogue about the role and impact of emerging technologies in the art world.

There are no details yet, but Christie’s says we can expect “panel discussions and inspiring conversations with innovators, artists, thought leaders and collectors on Web3, artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain – as well as everything now and upcoming in the realms of art and tech”. Which sounds pretty comprehensive for a one-day event.

The Art Business Conference is also a one-dayer. It doesn’t have the same focus on technology, instead aiming more at the practicalities of running an art business or an art collection; it has regular dates in London, Cape Town and New York, and this year they’re joined by Maastricht (for TEFAF) as well as Dubai. No information about content has been made available for the Art Dubai version of the conference, but we’re told it will focus on sustainability.

The Collector Talks – two each at the end of the afternoon on 2 and 3 March – are more relaxed affairs, more panel conversations than talks. They last around an hour and cover potentially interesting ground: ‘Luxury retail and art’ and ‘Supporting artistic production in the region and beyond’ on 2 march, ‘Collecting in a shifting global cultural map’ and ‘are you still collecting digital art in the crypto winter?’ on the following day.

Dia al Azzawi, Imaginary Landscape (2021). At Meem Gallery

Modern Talks have a similar format but a more specific focus – abstraction and figuration in MENASA art, presenting MENASA art in international museums, ‘collecting practices in the Arab world’, and a detailed appreciation of the art of Marwan Kassab-Bachi (1934-2016).

The excellent Global Art Forum remains the jewel in Art Dubai’s thought-leadership crown. Curated as ever by Shuman Basar, it has the theme ‘Predicting the present’ and asks “if it’s the end of history and the end of the future, what happens next?”. The overarching aim is “to paint a truly 21st century portrait of how the globalised world thinks”. In practice that means contributors from a range of disciplines – gallerists, artists, futurologists – including some really interesting names. Among them: Sumayya Vally, curator of the first Islamic Biennale in Jeddah; Chiara Costa, head of programmes at Fondazione Prada; Brendan McGetrick, Creative Director of Dubai’s Museum of the Future; Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of Serpentine Galleries; Anna Bernice delos Reyes of the art collective Sa Tahanan Co; artists Ahaad Alamoudi and Shuang Li …

The Forum packs a lot into two very full afternoons (2.30 to 6.30pm). You might not agree with everything you hear, but you’re practically guaranteed to come away buzzing with ideas …

Art Dubai takes place at Madinat Jumeirah from 3 to 5 March, 2-9 pm (midday to 6pm on 5 March). There are also invitation-only previews on 1 and 2 March. A one-day ticket is AED 90, a three-day pass is AED 150, and there’s free entry for under-18s and university students; you can buy tickets at the site, but it makes sense to pre-purchase via the Art Dubai app or Platinumlist because Art Dubai is donating 50 percent of online sales revenue to the earthquake relief efforts in Syria and Türkiye.

Jamal Abdulrahim, Untitled (2022). At Albareh Art Gallery

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