Dubai to Art Dubai: thanks for the AED 143m

No one is saying how much profit it makes, or how much it costs to put on, but by any other economic measure Art Dubai is a massive success for the host city. The 2023 fair generated AED 143 million in ‘total economic impact’ for Dubai, according to an Economic Impact Study by market research consultancy IPSOS.

The report also says Art Dubai was responsible for 23,500 hotel bookings in Dubai, which we assume (a) means total rooms booked over the period and (b) represents additional bookings which wouldn’t otherwise have been made. That’s not bad for a fair that lasts less than a week, recorded something over 30,000 visitors in total, and has a strong local appeal for an audience that won’t need a hotel bed.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the 2023 edition was Art Dubai’s most successful to date, featuring over 130 exhibitors from more than 40 countries and the strongest-ever participation of regional and international institutional representatives. Business on the show floor was reportedly good, too.

We haven’t actually seen the IPSOS report – there’s been a press release but no publication – so we’re caveating our comments. But the average economic impact of a medium-sized art fair is usually estimated to be something between $10 million and $20 million, so AED 143 million (about $39 million) is right at the top end of the scale. (The economic value is usually assumed to divide 2:1 between indirect spending at businesses that benefit from the art fair, such as hotels and restaurants, and direct spending by art fair attendees on tickets, food, transportation, and maybe even the purchase of art. We assume it doesn’t include the sponsorship contributions and exhibitors’ fees and commissions, or indeed Art Dubai’s overall revenues, but we could be wrong.)

Art Dubai executive director Benedetta Ghione (right) said the IPSOS data “serves to underscore Dubai’s continued growth and development as one of the major cultural centres of the art world and the cultural capital of the Global South”. That is the fair’s branding stance but does highlight its growth – for the last comparable year, the pre-pandemic 2019, its economic impact was AED 92 million. That’s a 55 percent increase, which by any account is pretty dramatic.

But then, as Dubai Culture DG Hala Badri put it, the figures “further underline the importance of world-class cultural programming in attracting people worldwide to this unique city … The remarkable successes [of Art Dubai 2023] reflects Dubai’s global position as a vital hub for artistic and creative events”. That too is a branding message, of course, but it is demonstrably true: Art Dubai is one (important) element in the contribution of the creative and cultural sectors to the city’s economic wellbeing, and it’s good to have that confirmed.

Meanwhile Art Dubai has also announced the independent curators for 2024’s gallery sections, and as usual it’s an interesting selection:

  • Dr Christianna Bonin, Assistant Professor of Art History at American University of Sharjah, will curate Art Dubai Modern (for presentations by the region’s Modern artists). It “will explore the cultural dynamics of an expanded geographical area that gave rise to today’s Global South” especially the “intricate East-East and South-South cultural links that will be highlighted in the section”.
  • Auronda Scalera and Alfredo Cramerotti will curate the third edition of Art Dubai Digital. They are the co-directors of curatorial platform Multiplicity-XXnft, “the first professionally managed art curating, publishing & selling platform focused on the work and value of diversity in art and society through NFTs and the blockchain technology”.
  • Emiliano Valdés, Chief Curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Medellín, Columbia, will curate the fifth edition of Bawwaba (showcases solo exhibitions of artworks created within the past year or conceived specifically for the fair).

Art Dubai 2024 will take place at Madinat Jumeirah from 1-3 March, with previews on 28 and 29 February. The deadline for gallery applications is 15 September.

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