Art Dubai 2024: more extras, wider regionality

Art Dubai is promising a significantly expanded public programme for its 2024 edition (1-3 March) including what’s described as “the most extensive education, talks and thought-leadership programme of any international art fair”. The organisers said much the same last year, but then it’s not unreasonable to expect year-on-year growth in ambition …

This time around Pablo del Val, Art Dubai’s Artistic Director, noted that “art fairs like Art Dubai have a responsibility to be far more than commercial platforms”, which is probably true – though ‘responsibility’ might be too heavy a term for what amounts to a branding exercise with the message that Art Dubai has a part to play in the region’s cultural ecosystem (“supporting artists, scholarship, cultural education and thought-leadership”, as del Val put it).

“Dubai is a place of relentless reinvention, possibility and opportunity,” he said, “and these commercial and institutional partnerships are central to all our activity, supporting our world-class non-commercial programmes.”

The fair

Nevertheless the core of Art Dubai remains the commercial element, the fair. This year’s edition seeks to expand its focus on the ‘Global South’ beyond conventional geographic and economic boundaries to include “shared histories and distinct narratives” like diasporas and migrant communities from global centres such as London, Paris and New York – a neat way to expand the remit and the coverage without diluting the message too much.

Art Dubai says there are more than 100 exhibitors in the fair’s four gallery sections – which by our count is down on 2023, when the total was over 130; most of the established art fairs do seem to be recording slightly lower gallery numbers, though, so Art Dubai seems to be on trend here …

Art Dubai Contemporary is always the largest section, this time with 72 exhibitors from more than 50 cities on five continents. They include 21 Dubai-based galleries, the largest number to date; that obviously reflects the continued growth of Dubai as a global creative hub and a commercial locus for art – it’s not just the numbers of galleries in the city, it’s the fact that they feel sufficiently confident (and flush enough) to put themselves in front of an audience of potential buyers.

Art Dubai Modern focuses on the Cold War geopolitics of the 1960s, when the Soviet Union engaged in an active cultural exchange programme of scholarships and exhibition opportunities for artists, filmmakers, musicians and architects in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. This section of Art Dubai seeks to reveal the shared creative approaches, setbacks and aspirations which resulted from these common experiences. Art Dubai Modern is curated by Christianna Bonin, Assistant Professor of Art History at the American University of Sharjah.

Bawwaba (‘gateway’ in Arabic) is a section for ten curated solo presentations of artists from the Global South and features works made in the 12 months prior to, or specifically for, Art Dubai. The projects spotlight “artists who think of art as a place of reckoning, healing, and coming together”. This section is curated by Emiliano Valdes; he’s Chief Curator of the Medellin Museum of Modern Art and was Associate Curator for the 2014 Gwangju Biennale, so his ‘Global South’ credentials look good …

The artists (and associated galleries) participating in Bawwaba’s 2024 edition are Laxmipriya Panigrahi (Anant Art, New Delhi); AVAF – Assumed Vivid Astro Focus (Baró, Palma de Mallorca); Arshi Irshad Ahmadzai (Blueprint12, New Delhi); Debashish Paul (Emami Art, Kolkata); Manuel Chavajai (Galería Extra, Guatemala City); Manjot Kaur (Latitude 28, New Delhi); Nicolás Janowski (Invernizzi Art Lab, Montevideo); Reinata Sadimba (Perve, Lisbon); Abul Hisham (Secci, Florence/Milan); and Faissal El Maleki (Tashkeel, Dubai).

The final section is Art Dubai Digital, back for its third appearance “to provide an annual 360-degree snapshot of the digital art landscape, exploring how artists are utilising new, immersive technologies to collapse the boundaries of the traditional art world … On show will be a diverse range of media including digital video, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), extended reality (XR), artificial intelligence (AI), generative art, robotic art, NFTs and immersive art experiences”. Art Dubai Digital’s curators Alfredo Cramerotti and Auronda Scalera have selected around 20 such presentations for “an expanded vision of what it is, may be, and will be, in the field of contemporary art” (it’s difficult to talk about tech and art without getting into word salad territory).

The full gallery list is here.


Highlights of “the most extensive education, talks and thought-leadership programme of any international art fair” will include the 17th edition of Art Dubai’s flagship summit, the Global Art Forum. This has long been an inspirational and inventive part of Art Dubai, a cross-disciplinary symposium on the role of art and artists at its broadest; it’s organised as usual by Commissioner Shumon Basar, supported this time by curator Nadine El-Khoury from Art Jameel.

For 2024 the Forum has the theme ‘Whether or Not’, a pun covering the relationship between extreme weather and extreme change. It runs over two days – 29 February and 1 March 2024 – and while we don’t have a full list of speakers we do know they include the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi director Stephanie Rosenthal; the regional director of hip architectural practice OMA Samir Bantal; another interesting architect with local (Bahraini) connections, Anne Holtrop; and artists Monira Al Qadiri and Gabriel Alonso.

Also noteworthy: the talks programme – again the largest of any international art fair – which comprises a series of Modern and Collector Talks presented in partnership with Dubai Collection (the Art Dubai organisation happens to run this institutional loans-based collection for Dubai Culture). The talks are panel discussions that are usually very good, in particular at providing historical and/or cultural context especially for art (and the collection of art) across the Global South.

The Art Dubai Collector Talks are usually the more specific, aimed as the name suggests at collectors and considering topics like philanthropy, corporate support for the arts and institutional collecting. The Art Dubai Modern Talks are usually more discursive and perhaps educational, and for 2024 they will expand on the focus of the fair’s Modern section and he artistic links made possible by the geopolitics of the Cold War. As the blurb says: “Though these East-East and South-South networks may no longer be obvious today, they were critical to the formation of modern art in the region …”


It looks as though last year’s experiment with a Dubai version of Christie’s Art+Tech Summit has been dropped; but then it was more a Christie’s thing rather than an Art Dubai extra. But we’re told a second running of the invitation-only Art Business Conference, another established industry event, will be happening (“details to follow”; last year it was a half-day of presentations and panels on the subject of art and sustainability).

And at least the Children’s Programme is there again, and it too is claimed to be the most ambitious edition yet. Devised by Goa-based artist Sahil Naik, it launches at the fair before expanding into the community at more than 100 local schools through workshops that should end up touching 15,000 students one way or another.

Naik is known for sculptural installations which resemble architectural models and explore global conflicts, nation-building and mythology as well as construction; he promises to take the Children’s Programme participants on a journey through creation using dioramas, memory and the built environment as sources of inspiration in exploring the central questions: “How do younger generations imagine future cities, and what they will comprise?”

This year’s Art Dubai Commissions will apparently feature a series of new performances, films and activations “focusing on topics of hope, community and the power of art to help us navigate challenging times”. We don’t know too much about these, except that the programme is curated by Emiliano Valdes, the curator responsible for the fair’s Bawwaba section; so presumably the public events will be by or relate to the Bawwaba artists.

Also worth checking out: Heart Space, a newly commissioned digital installation by Canadian-Korean artist Krista Kim. It’s presented by Julius Baer, the Swiss wealth management business that is the lead partner of Art Dubai, responsible for last year’s brilliant digital piece by Refik Anadol. Heart Space (above) is a continuation of Kim’s ongoing exploration into the creative potential of screens as digital instruments of wellbeing and longevity; the heart rhythms of each visitor are sensed and visualised in real time as patterns and shapes on a dynamic LED canvas. Kim described the piece as “amplifying AI technology’s power to reconnect where social media algorithms have fractured … I hope each participant feels inspired in their singular beauty yet leaves appreciating a greater whole”.

Art Dubai takes place as usual at Madinat Jumeirah from 1 to 3 March (with invite-only VIP previews on 28 and 29 February). Opening hours are 2 – 9 pm on the first two days, midday to 4pm on the Sunday; a day ticket slightly up on last year at AED 100, a three day pass is AED 180.

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