Over the last decade, Dubai has made headlines around the world, mostly due to its larger-than-life developments and staggering rate of growth. Less championed, Dubai is also creating a name for itself in the art world as the new place to do business. A recent survey of 60 international art galleries shows many are turning to the Middle East to open up new opportunities in the contemporary art market and feel Dubai has the potential to be malake gedaian the most important arts hub in the region. It’s particularly good news for Art Dubai, the largest modern and contemporary art fair in the Middle East. The event promises something for all art lovers.
Art Dubai has established itself as a highly significant cultural event on the global art calendar, with a mix of both established international galleries and the most innovative galleries from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (Menasa region).
In 2008, more than Dhs55 million (US$15 million) exchanged hands as serious art collectors sought to top up their portfolios. Among the big deals were Andy Warhol’s depiction of cars, which sold for Dhs7 million (US$1.95 million), photographs by Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, which fetched more than Dhs1 million (US$300,000), and a Julian Opie piece that went for Dhs230,000 (US$62,000) Complementing the art on show is the Global Art Forum and inaugural exhibition of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, the world’s most generous contemporary art award. There is also Art Park, a cutting-edge space focusing mainly on film and video from artists in the Middle East, India and Great Britain, which will be held in the car park of the Madinat Arena.The 2009 event is tied in closely with a number of other cultural projects under way in the Gulf, including Contemparabia and the Sharjah Biennial (see p64). Art Dubai can create a focal point to understand the seriousness of the region’s cultural ambitions.
Through a series of discussions and debates, the Global Art Forum invites international artists, collectors and art professionals to examine critical issues surrounding the Middle Eastern art community’s relationship to the world’s major contemporary art centres. Discussions and debates are open to the public. A more comprehensive guide to the forum was unavailable at the time of going to press, however details will be released closer to the event.
Art Dubai also presents the perfect opportunity to create awareness for START, a Middle Eastern charity that aims to bring art into the lives of the region’s socio-economically and culturally deprived children. START, which runs regular workshops in Jordan, Lebanon and Dubai, will hold an extensive programme for children under 12 as well as its annual fundraising gala under the stars on the beach at the Burj Al Arab. The charity uses art as a means to heal, educate and empower the younger generation in disadvantaged areas in the Middle East by giving them a voice through the universal expression of art, by engaging them with their communities and their peers, and by teaching them a sense of self-worth.