Myrna Ayad is stepping down from her role as director of Art Dubai after just two years in the job.
No replacement has been named, which is quite surprising – you might have expected that a seamless transition would have been arranged, but maybe that’s reading too much into events.
Her departure does seem to have been her own choice, though: “the decision to leave was personal … the time has come for me to pursue my own projects”. And the comments made to us by Ben Floyd, chief executive of the Art Dubai Group, are fulsome: “we are all very grateful to Myrna for her contribution as a director of the fair” and “we wish her all the best in her professional and personal endeavours”.
Ayad will be setting up a consultancy for “cultural strategy and production, publishing and art advisory”.
She joined Art Dubai in 2016 in succession to the influential six-year tenure of Antonia Carver, now director of Art Jameel and still on the Art Dubai advisory board. At the time of her appointment Ayad’s mission was cited as “to engage in — and lead deeper and more meaningful relationships — with the MENASA region via its galleries, artists, collectors, institutions and art practitioners,” and maybe the same aims will apply to her new consultancy. Certainly she has been a significant voice in the region; a prolific writer and a former editor of Canvas magazine, Ayad is acknowledged as one of the Middle East’s leading cultural commentators.
As for her short stint at Art Dubai, at least one of her innovations is seen as particularly successful. She launched the Art Dubai Modern Symposium, covering modernist practices in the Arab world, Middle East, South Asia and Africa to sit alongside the gallery exhibits – “serving as an educational platform and theoretical framework for the works on show” as Ayad put it.
Earlier this year she told us she was “delighted with the line-up of speakers and the sessions at the Modern Symposium – here is a series of discussions with leading academics, scholars and patrons that inform, educate and inspire”. Ben Floyd also homed in on this, calling the Symposium “a great addition to the Modern programme”.
He also said that Art Dubai would be announcing a number of changes to the fair, in terms of both of the programme and “team structure”. The first of those merges the relatively small Modern section (just 16 galleries in 2018) with the much larger Contemporary section. They will continue to be overseen by separate selection committees, though.
Meanwhile the Residents programme, which Myrna Ayad introduced last year – pre-fair residencies in the UAE for artists from selected galleries – will reportedly be expanded.
And new for 2019, and presumably one of Ayad’s parting gifts, will be a new section called Bawwaba, dedicated to galleries representing artists from the Middle East, Africa, Central and South Asia, and Latin America.
Art Dubai will run from 20 March to 23 March 2019.