We couldn’t possibly regard the announcement of Art Dubai’s 2018 gallery line-up as a spoiler, even though it was announced just a few days before Abu Dhabi Art opened. After all, the roster of 103 galleries from 47 countries does make this edition the Art Dubai’s largest and most globally diverse to date.
More good news: a quarter of the galleries will be first-time exhibitors, notably in the Contemporary section (78 galleries in total, including first-time participations from Iceland, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan).
Art Dubai’s Modern section, now in its fifth year, is relatively small, just 16 galleries from 14 countries. It’s still the only commercial platform in the world to showcase museum-quality works by artists from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, and that gives it real significance. Art Dubai’s Fair director Myrna Ayad said: “It is very exciting for us to witness the growing appreciation of Modern Masters from the region, and we are pleased to be the only platform in the world to showcase these museum-quality pieces in our largest-ever Modern section, which has been the most oversubscribed edition to date”.
The Modern Symposium introduced last year provides a useful conference to sit alongside the gallery exhibits, “serving as an educational platform and theoretical framework for the works on show” as Myrna Ayad put it.
Spread across two gallery halls, Art Dubai Contemporary will have 31 galleries in its Solo section – a section that confusingly caters for two-artist presentations as well as solo shows – and 47 galleries in the multi-artist Collective area.
New for 2018 is Residents, a section devoted to solo presentations from nine invited galleries whose artists will take part in a 4-8 week residency before the event. That’s intended to encourage artists to immerse themselves in the local art scene (in just two months max? Good luck with that) and to create “a body of work which merges their distinct artistic practice with their surroundings”. The final works will be on show in a new Residents section. Should be interesting.
Alongside the commercial business of the art fair itself, Art Dubai’s extensive not-for-profit programme continues to impress. It features the Global Art Forum, always stimulating; the recently introduced Modern Symposium mentioned above; a clutch of year-round education programmes like Campus Art Dubai, the Art Dubai Fellowship, and The Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program; the Abraaj Group Art Prize announcement; and commissions, residencies, internships, and film (including Moving Images, a partnership between Dubai International Film Festival, Sharjah Art Foundation and Art Dubai, dedicated to artists’ films and filmmakers’ art in the Arab world).
Above: Shaker Hassan Al Said, Untitled, 1985. Courtesy Agial Art Gallery. Below: Nargess Hashemi, Untitled, 2017. Courtesy The Artist and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde