The ninth edition of Art Dubai opens today and I am happy to report that ‘the most global of art fairs’ lives up to its tagline: this year's programme includes work by more than 500 artists and 92 galleries hailing from more than 40 countries. More galleries than ever are presenting high-concept booths focused on just one or two names, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the work of individual artists more fully than is usually possible at events as busy (and commercially driven) as this. Here are three galleries at whose booths I couldn’t help but linger.
Gallery: MA2Gallery, Tokyo
Artist: Ken Matsubara
Gallery: Carroll/fletcher, London
Artist: Rafael lozano-hemmer
Gallery: Green Gallery, dubai
Artist: Mahmoud hammad
The increase in solo-artist booths at the UAE's art fairs is a refreshing trend that breaks up the usual staccato of unrelated artworks. Commercial galleries engaging in public museum-like practices have long been the cornerstones of Dubai's art scene and it is great to see international visitors adopting this approach. It is certainly a strategy that helps galleries to stand out from the crowd, although whether it makes business sense is a different question.
This is my sixth time at Art Dubai and although much has changed since I first attended, back in 2009, when Dubai was in the throes of a financial meltdown, one thing remains constant: Art Dubai works ceaselessly and earnestly towards establishing itself as the leading non-western art hub, always careful to strike that sensitive balance between artistic freedom and local sensitivities; between attracting global players and developing the local scene.
Although I would not go as far as The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones, who described art Dubai as ‘the world’s most important and radical art fair’, the range, quality and audacity of much of the work on show are a testament to the fair’s role as a nexus between different cultures and hemispheres, and as a vital platform from which new or forgotten artists from the Middle East and Africa may capture the art world's attention.