Global Art Forum at Art Dubai - The theme was the "Medium of Media". Photo by Clint McLean

The sixth edition of the four-day Art Dubai fair, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, and the umbrella of Art Week, officially opened on March 21st at the Madinat Jumeirah.

A total of 75 galleries from around the world gathered together to showcase the work of over 500 artists.  The event extended beyond mainstream art and sculptures and instead also focused on live performances, movie screenings, artist talks, panel discussions, workshops and educational activities for children and adults.

Cartier, the prestigious jewelry house, being one of the main sponsors of the event, unveiled ‘Cartier Naturellement’, a collection of some of the finest jewels designed to date.  The room was transformed into a magical, fairy-tale like ambience with mellow lighting and the soothing sound of birds chirping.  Walking through this Garden of Eden, the audience was dazzled by the unexpected magnificent mobile Aquarium designed by Beatriz Mihazes.  Comprised of pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, the 15 rod work of art was inspired by Cartier’s collection of stones and was symbolic of purity and beauty.

The Cartier exhibit at Art Dubai 2012

Carlos Celdran, a cultural activist and performance artist based in Manila, enthralled the audience with his impromptu, witty and engaging seven act show titled The Living Room (Livin’ La Vida Imelda).

Another interesting edition to the fair last year was the Marker section.  This time the curator, Alia Swastika, commissioned by Art Dubai, extended an invitation to five Indonesian based galleries to participate in the ‘concept stands’.  The recently growing art scene in their country has no real support from the government and has grown solely from the encouragement of the artist community.  The theme for the exhibition revolved around the social and political influence on the people, the growing gap between the citizen and state.

Carlos Cedran, performs 'Livin' La Vida Imelda: Arts and Culture, Disco, True Story'
Alia Swastika, Indonesian curator of the Marker section of Art Dubai 2012

The Hatch, a section of the stairwell at the hall converted into an intimate mini-amphitheater, was back after its popularity last year.  The films played included underground documentaries circa 1970’s on Ardeshir Mohasses an Irani caricaturist and Parviz Tanavoli a sculptor also based in Iran.

As part of the educational and interactive installations, Yto Barrada in collaboration with Zid Zid Kids created Morocco to the Moon, a trilingual exploration zone for both adults and children.  Sponsored by Louis Vuitton, the dedicated area featured light-hearted films, workshops and ice cream.

The Hatch at Art Dubai 2012
Yto Barrada childrens' workshop

The much-awaited work of the recipients of the Abraaj Capital Prize was also unveiled at the event.  Nat Muller, who worked closely with the five artists in developing and completing their concepts, curated the exhibition titled ‘Spectral Imprints’.  Displayed in one section, the prestigious award is designed to empower artists from the MENSA region and give them a global platform to display their work.  The theme revolved around the wind of political change in the region and each artist’s interpretation of it.

As part of the commissioned work, Setu Legi from Indonesia definitely caught the audience’s attention with his mixed media installation of a fortress/refuge in the outdoor section of the Madinat. Playing with the mind of the audience, Legi, cleverly constructed a tree of life made of reflective material on the roof.

The DXB Store

The DXB Store, a pop-up retail outlet was also set up for selling limited edition clothes, jewelry and other items designed by UAE based artists.  Visitors were able to pick up reasonably priced fun and quirky items showcasing the creativity of the emerging artists in the region.

Art galleries from 35 different countries ranging from Asia, Africa, Europe and The Americas all brought in unique concepts and bold statement pieces to the exhibition. Middle East based galleries from Lebanon, UAE, Syria and Iran focused mainly on the latest political and social changes in recent times and the transition towards it.  From Pakistan and India, the work of the legendary M.F. Hussain and Sadequain were amongst the more sought after paintings. International galleries, such as Perrotin from France, presented some of the most expensive works including a Gothic, stainless steel, 19-foot high tower, priced at about USD 1.1 million.

Artist Elizabeth Gower speaks at the Sutton Gallery booth

The growing assurance and belief in the Dubai art market was recognized by the fact that almost 90 percent of the galleries that were present last year were back and had requested to rent bigger spaces at the hall.  Eager to push the boundaries, galleries displayed pieces that were diverse, engaging, thought provoking and pricey.

With contemporary works totaling a combined USD 45 million for sale, Art Dubai has evolved over the last few years and now firmly established itself as a global key player and nucleus for galleries and art collectors.  With applause and recognition from the audience and critics, Art Dubai 2012 ended on a very high note.

– Saira Malik

Images courtesy of Art Dubai

Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum visits Art Dubai 2012
Antonia Carver, Art Dubai Fair Director
Galerie Perrotin exhibits work during Art Dubai. Photo Clint McLean.
Attendees observing the different sections of the exhibitions
Hunar Gallery at Art Dubai 2012
Galerie Krinzinger at Art Dubai 2012
D Gallerie of Jakarta exhibits work during Art Dubai. Photo Clint Mclean/Art Dubai
Goodman Gallery at Art Dubai 2012
Seven Art Limited at Art Dubai 2012
Edge of Arabia artists sign books at the launch of the Edge of Arabia book
A resting section for visitors of Art Dubai 2012
Niilofur Farrukh, Hammad Nasar and Fayeeza Naqvi at Terrace Talks at Art Dubai 2012
The audience listens attentively at the Terrace Talks
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