Art Dubai: A hundred ways of seeing

The 12th edition of Art Dubai mirrors the region as an emerging cultural hub

March 21, 2018 02:57 pm | Updated March 23, 2018 06:01 pm IST

At the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, there is art in every nook and corner. One can’t help being caught up in the whirl of feverish activity. Where does one begin? Sprawling halls display cutting-edge contemporary art, symposiums discuss art and there are several film screenings too. The list of things to see, hear and do is long but the time, limited. There are just two more days to go and so much to absorb.

Welcome to Art Dubai’s 12th edition, a fair focussing on the art of West Asia, South Asia and North Africa. With 105 galleries from 48 countries, this is the biggest edition so far.

Art Dubai is helmed by Myrna Ayad. And it seems like a conscious effort has been made to focus on the non-commercial side of the fair, through the Modern Symposium, The Room and an expansive exhibition titled ‘That Feverish Leap Into The Fierceness of Life’. The symposiums are on the cultural impact of the 20th-Century masters from West Asia, South Asia and Africa.

The Modern Symposium

An entire section is dedicated to Modernists in the region. India is represented in three galleries — Sanchit, Delhi Art Gallery and Akara. They show the works of MF Husain, FN Souza, KH Ara, Ram Kumar, Rajendra Dhawan, Avinash Chandra and Shanti Dave. The burnt collages of the reticent late artist Piraji Sagara by Mumbai-based Akara stands out too.

Arab art schools

‘That Feverish Leap Into The Fierceness of Life’ is a non-selling museum quality show, which according to its curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, shows that, “There is not one Arab Modernism, one south Asian Modernism or one European Modernism. There are so many more negotiations and expressions of Modernism.” This is established by the works of five seminal artist groups from five Arab cities across five decades.

Beirut-born Ayad, an arts writer, took over from Antonia Carver in 2017, and has added Residents 2018, which has 11 invited solo galleries presentations. Artists from these galleries participated in an eight-week residency in Dubai. Among them were artists from Accra, Tbilisi, Berlin, Riyadh, Osaka and India. Artist Poonam Jain who is represented by Dubai-based 1X1 Art Gallery. The body of work on display is the multi-layered Burden of Proof.

In the contemporary art section, are works from Iceland, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan that are participating for the first time. There are also paintings from conflict-torn places like Palestine. For example, Gallery One from Ramallah is trying to create a market for Palestinian art. Experimenter Gallery from Kolkata is also participating.

The diversity is called for at Art Dubai, more so since it attracts visitors from all over the world. About 90 museum representatives are visiting the fair. The Global Art Forum presents a selection of eminent speakers such as artist, writer, publisher James Bridle.

“Many collectors have begun their journeys at Art Dubai; others have transitioned into patrons, establishing foundations, sitting on the boards of institutional acquisitions teams, and supporting the arts by way of funding scholarships, monographs and so on.

Says Antonia Carver, who heads Art Jameel, a not-for-profit foundation that supports artists and creative communities and has a presence in several initiatives in the Middle East and internationally, “There is a lot of synergy between South Asia and the Gulf. Artists from here participate in the Kochi Biennale and the Dhaka Art Summit. Recently, Anita Dube was invited by Art Jameel to visit Dubai, Beirut and Cairo, and meet artists there,” says Carver.

Once you wind up at Art Dubai, head to the Sharjah Art Foundation’s Spring Exhibitions. These are separate art shows where besides the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection, important artists like Latif Al Ani, Anna Boghiguian, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim and Zineb Sedira are displayed.

Art Dubai is on at Madinat Jumeirah till March 24.

The writer was in Dubai at the invitation of Art Dubai 2018

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