Madinat and more: Art Dubai 2024

looks bigger and better than ever – the seventeenth edition of the art fair, which runs from 1 to 3 March at its usual base in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai (VIP previews 28 and 29 February), has more than 120 galleries showing across its main Contemporary, Modern and Digital sections.

Art Dubai’s programming also includes significantly expanded partnerships, which genuinely reflects an increasingly mature local and regional creative scene – Dubai is looking less like an entrepôt market, more like a genuine home for art lovers and investors who want more than an asset class from their purchases.

Gallery sections 

Art Dubai provides an important platform for art from often-under-represented regions and communities, and the emphasis remains on artists and galleries from across the Global South; around two thirds of the exhibitors can put themselves in that category. This year’s lineup of galleries also includes the largest complement to date of Dubai-based exhibitors, further underlining the growth of Dubai as a commercial art centre.

The principal (and non-curated) section remains Art Dubai Contemporary, with 72 exhibitors from more than 50 locations across five continents.

Alongside that is the third edition of Art Dubai Digital, still the only section of any major international art fair that is dedicated to new media and digital art. Curated by Alfredo Cramerotti and Auronda Scalera, it foregrounds the artists, collectives, institutions and platforms who continue to push the boundaries of art and tech.

The 2024 edition of Art Dubai Modern is curated by Christianna Bonin and interestingly examines the extensive cultural exchanges between the Soviet Union and the Arab, African and South Asian countries that took place after the Second World War. The result was a shared experience for artists from places as seemingly diverse as Uganda and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka who were invited to study in Soviet cities such as Kyiv, Almaty and Moscow.

The Bawwaba (’gateway)’ section features 10 solo presentations of new artwork. Curated by Emiliano Valdés, this group explores the notion of sanación – healing – with featured artists from Latin America, the Middle East and South Asia who have a social artistic practice that considers notions of community and belonging, with art as a catalyst for change.

This year’s Art Dubai Commissions programme expands on this theme with a series of performances and interventions throughout the fair. 

Talks and ‘thought leadership’

Alongside the main business of the commercial art fair is a wide-ranging programme of talks and what the organisers are calling the largest thought-leadership programme of any international art fair – the flagship two-day Global Art Forum (29 February – 1 March), which is always excellent; talks on modern art and collecting, always highly practical and informative; the return of the Art Business Conference afternoon; and the most ambitious children’s programme to date – this year’s A.R.M. Holding Children’s Programme is claimed to be the UAE’s largest cultural education initiative., reaching more than 15,000 students in over 100 schools across all seven Emirates.

There’s also a new three-day Digital Summit, building on the Art Dubai Digital vibe to discuss “the expanding digital art ecosystem and Dubai’s unique place within it” via public presentations, talks, and break-out sessions.

Dubai Collection

Other highlights include Encounters, an exhibition pf 26 works from the Dubai Collection – the city’s institutional collection of modern and contemporary art, based on loans from private collectors (primarily the Dubai royal family) and still without a permanent home (though there’s a digital gallery with all the works here).

From the Dubai Collection: Sarah Almehairi Gentle Giants (2021)

Curated by Alia Zaal Lootah, this exhibition will present a cross-generational lineup of Emirati artists that includes some of the biggest names in UAE contemporary art – among them Hassan Sharif, Mohammed Kazem, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Abdul Qader Al Rais, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Afra Al Dhaheri, Maitha Abdallah, Hashel Al Lamki, and Sarah Almehairi.

Visitor information

The fair is open to the public 2-9pm on 1 and 2 March, 12-4pm on 3 March. Day tickets are AED 100, and there’s a three-day pass for AED 180.

To get to Madinat Jumeirah there’s no convenient metro, and if you don’t want to take a cab you’ll find that parking on site is limited and bound to be socked out – self-parking is however available at the Dubai Police Academy a short way down Umm Suleiman Street, with free shuttle buses or a short walk to the fair.

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