Art Dubai Venue - Madinat Jumeirah

It’s Art Week here in the Emirates. The 2011 edition of the Sharjah Biennale has just opened its doors, and a number of temporary galleries/art fixtures have been set up across the UAE. But taking center stage, is the commencement of the 5th edition of Art Dubai.

Days 1 and 2 of this cultural fete were both considerably well-attended. Be it with the afficionadoes of the art pack here, or the occasional GCC royal motorcade. From pro buyers to the just downright curious.

On deciding to take a ‘quick scan’ of the venue, one comes to realize that at a festival of this proportion, and with this much talent on display, a hurried whizz-through is not even remotely possible. With so much to see, and with every piece of each exhibit deserving individual attention, one tends to comprehend why the festival is spread across a span of 4 days.

So, what’s new at Art Dubai 2011 you ask?

Plenty really, but let’s focus for now on the Projects segment of the fair.

Art Dubai Store

The Art Dubai Projects is a newly invented instalment to the fair, serving as the metaphorical umbrella for the numerous activities scheduled under its wing. This impressive programme ranges in activity and installations from current art pieces to an all-encompassing schedule of theatrical activities.

The Art Park
Cleverly located at the basement level of the fair venue, descending into the

Art Park gives one the impression of entering an underground 80s art club. Neon signs flash and a live art installation greet you on your way to the mini-theatre deeper into the space.

The Art Park, a first-timer to Art Dubai, is curated by the leading Middle Eastern arts organization Bidoun Projects, and was set-up with the intention of reviving the more contemporary forms of art; either through a series of art films, performances or talks. The more popular titles include Of Cities And Women (curated by Kaelen Goldie), Aida, Save Me (by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige) and Re-imagining Media (by Butheina Kazim) respectively.

Bidoun Library
Located in the ballroom foyer is another venture by Bidoun Projects – the Bidoun Library. A travelling collection of art and culture related titles stemming from the Middle East, this fixture features a new segment special to Art Dubai entitled ‘The Natural Order.’ This section in particular, focuses on material printed in the region in the past 5 years, and proves to be quite the treasure trove for the culture savvy.

Inside the Art Dubai Store

DXB Store
The name says it all really. The DXB Store is a not-for-profit space rigged strategically near the entrance of the Art Park, selling limited edition pieces (be it artfully designed notepad covers to T-shirts with a local touch) designed and produced by either Emirati or long-term UAE residents.

The wares are reasonably priced, and serve to highlight the individual talents of participating designers; namely Hind Mezaina (photographer and culture blogger), Maisoon Al Saleh (Emirati artist), Aljoud Lootah (Emirati designer and founder of fashion label Niftee) and Dinz (Dubai-based clothing line) among others.

Radio Dispatches
One particularly fascinating instalment was the scattered presence of Radio Dispatches; what can best be described as fixtures of audio headphones in different locations within the venue. Each transmits a series of around 60 five-minute audio works, and depending on the artist, can be anything from a musical collage to a series of spoken words – affirming yet again that art isn’t necessarily restricted to the sense of sight.

Quite the eyeful (and earful) isn’t it? Well, with a whole two days left before Art Dubai is compelled to wrap-up, rest assured that we’re only just getting started.

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

– Shaahima Fahim

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