As one of the first major international art events of the year, Art Dubai is a must-mark date on any calendar. Regional director Hala Khayat tells MOJEH what to expect from this year’s event
It’s been a tough 12 months for the creative industry. Not only have art galleries as a whole been hit on several fronts by the lockdowns and other restrictions around the world, the temporary halt of exhibitions also means that viewing art has been strictly off limits. The good news? Change is here, in the form of Art Dubai. Held in a purpose-built venue at DIFC’s Gate Building, the Covid-secure event houses 50 modern and contemporary art galleries from 31 countries, many of which are within the Middle East.
“The last 15 years have been a period of steady growth for the Middle Eastern art scene, and the UAE has been at the very heart of it,” Hala Khayat, regional director of Art Dubai, tells MOJEH. “Dubai is now established not only as the commercial centre for the region but also as the main platform for the presentation and promotion of regional artistic production to a global audience, which the city is a hub for.” Designed to promote a deeper understanding of the many realities of Middle Eastern contemporary production, Hala says the 14th edition of Art Dubai invites audiences to discover artistic realities beyond the art fair at institutions such as the Jameel Arts Centre, Warehouse 421, Ishara Art Foundation and Tashkeel, among others. “We are also launching a key new initiative, The Dubai Collection aimed at developing a new model for a national collection and supporting a culture of patronage in the UAE,” she adds.
Visitors can encounter galleries from all across Asia, including India, Vietnam and Philippines, with a strong representation of African continents also key. Artists from the UAE and Saudi Arabia to Lebanon, Palestine and Turkey are flying the flag for Middle Eastern art – including Dubai’s Ayyam Gallery, Jeddah’s Hafez Gallery and the Beirut-based Saleh Barakat Gallery, among others. This year’s edition of the fair presents works by several top artists, including the fierce female talent of Maha Malluh, Afifa Aleiby, Bita Fayyazi, Yto Barrada, Shaikha Al Mazrou and Farah Al Qasimi. “The region has a high percentage of seminal women artists, and this in turn sheds light on social and political realities associated with the cultural development of the Arab world,” explains Hala. “Some of the themes and interests that these artists have in common range from housework, and especially sewing, as a relived and reused activity and as a feminist postulate; the Arab diaspora from the perspective of women; poetry and literature; memory and nostalgia; as well as the juxtaposition between the soft and the hard.” Art Dubai takes place until 3 April at DIFC’s Gate Building. For information, visit artdubai.ae