Getting geared up for Art Week

Art Week is back for its ninth edition, the region’s largest cultural festival that pivots on the somewhat specialised atmosphere of Art Dubai but extends its reach across three Emirates – Abu and Sharjah as well as Dubai – with 500+ events being staged in more than 80 venues.

There’s a real buzz about Art Week this year. The number and range of events is growing massively; this year sees more hosting venues (a 25 percent increase on Art Week 2018) and an even better range, from the usual exhibitions and panel discussions to film screenings, workshops and live performances.

With 80 venues (mostly galleries and exhibition spaces, but also including some leftfield options) you’ll need a guide. Fortunately the presentation and promotion for Art Week is stepping up, too. There’s no specific Art Week website yet, let alone an app or even a Google map (maybe magpie should do one?) but many of the activities are listed on Art Dubai’s website alongside the art fair’s events, searchable by category and location. There’s also a free print guide to Art Week produced in partnership with My Art Guides, available at many arty venues across the UAE.

We list many of the exhibitions and other events in our Agenda pages, but it’s worth highlighting the key loci. 

Art Dubai of course remains the flagship event of Art Week; it returns to Madinat Jumeirah on 20-23 March with its most extensive programme to date. As well as the four gallery areas, it has the new Bawwaba section focused on projects about Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Central and South Asia, and UAE NOW for the country’s nascent independent local artist-run platforms. On top of that there’s performance art and music, talks and workshops, special projects and family programming.

Sikka Art Fair is also on its ninth edition, 16-24 March in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. This too has improved and extended, with two “distinctive but intertwined experiences” this year – Sikka by Day for art and installations by the Al Fahidi tenants, and Sikka by Night for a broader range of performances, presentations, crafts and food.

Then there’s Art Week at Alserkal Avenue, notably (but not limited to) Galleries Night on 18 March. DIFC Art Nights will also be running, but that’s less well promoted (we haven’t been told anything about it, for instance, and the website is stuck on 2016).

Much more efficient is the team at Jameel Arts Centre – the rather good inaugural exhibition Crude is still on, a new selection of Artist’s Rooms is opening, and the Jameel is getting into its stride with an array of talks and other activities.

Abu Dhabi’s contributions include the UAE debut of Swiss artist Zimoun with a new installation at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery. There’s also Warehouse421’s intriguing Nomadic Traces, a group exhibition focusing on the development of six of the key abjads (consonantal alphabets) of the Middle East.

In your must-see Art Week list you could also include the blockbuster Rembrandt, Vermeer and the Dutch Golden Age exhibition that has been running at the Louvre Abu Dhabi for a couple of weeks and Abu Dhabi Festival’s slightly curious but impressive Distant Prospects collection of baroque European landscapes (which also opened last month, at the Manarat al Saadiyat).

And of course there’s highbrow cred in the form of the Sharjah Biennial a really busy and inventive programme of exhibitions and events manly at the Sharjah Art Foundation but also figuring in venues elsewhere in the city and even on the East Coast. Elsewhere in Sharjah, Maraya Arts Centre is hosting UAE Unlimited’s fifth collaborative exhibition.

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