The 16th of March 2011, marks the start of a four-day fete much looked forward to by art lovers across the GCC.

Held under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai; this year’s edition marks 5 years of the fair, and promises to raise the bar in delivering top-notch art to buyers, connoisseurs and even plain old art admirers from the region.

The Madinat Jumeirah has volunteered its picturesque premises to host this year’s festival, and will feature over 80 galleries by artists from around 34 countries. In addition to this smorgasbord of artistic display, a well-rounded programme of art-related events are lined up in store.
Here’s a little taste of what to expect:

  • The Abraaj Capital Art Prize: Dubai loves its superlatives, and doesn’t seem to fall short even with regards to art prizes such as the ACAP. Worth US$1million in prize money, and the only venture known to reward art proposals and not solely finished pieces of art, this trophy award is (unsurprisingly) much vied after, not just in the Middle East, but in the South African and South Asian regions as well.
  • The Global Art Forum: The discussion starts in Doha, but travels to the Emirates to find itself a place in the Art Dubai schedule. A platform for the discussion and deliberation of the many arts, this forum engages panellists, audience, workshop trainers and performance artists alike, encouraging participants to exchange ideas and discuss their varying lines of work.
  • The Art Park: No art fair is complete without leaving a little leg room for the underground art movement. Film, exhibits and talks fill up this sector of the agenda; certainly one for believer in the fact that Art is displayed in not just one, but many a form.
  • START: The START program aims to provide creative workshops/learning experiences for the refugee, orphaned and disabled of the UAE, India and Palestine. START recruits volunteer artists to participate in various stages of the program, all with the intention of encouraging said children to contribute artistically to the community.At the 2011 Opening Night of Art Dubai, START will showcase the best works of the program, and highlight the children who have excelled in the program by awarding the START scholarship. Throughout the rest of Art Dubai, START will also hold workshops taught by volunteer artists wanting to do their bit to instil and as a result, further their craft.

Quite the agenda isn’t it? We at Khaleejesque are quite excited, and plan to be there every step of the way, milking the festival out of every little drop of creative juice.

Admission to Art Dubai is Dhs.50, tickets for which will be made available at the door. To visit the website for Art Dubai, or to have a look through the program of events scheduled for this 4-day dose of culture, visit www.artdubai.ae

– Shaahima Fahim

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