It’s time for the Gulf’s favorite art fair!
The 11th edition of the fair has 94 galleries from 43 countries participating, and is the most globally diverse edition to date. In particular, Art Dubai welcomed the largest number of Iranian galleries ever, presenting both modern and contemporary Iranian artists, some of whom are rarely exhibited overseas. In an interview with ArtAsiaPacific, Art Dubai international director Pablo del Val described Dubai and Tehran’s art scenes as natural geographical partners, just as Eastern European artists relied on opportunities in Vienna and Berlin to break into larger art stages and reach a broader audience. Though Iranian art practitioners face many obstacles at home, they found welcoming eyes in the emirate. Here is a look at Art Dubai 2017 on preview day.
The booth of Dubai’s The Third Line featured a solo presentation of artwork created by Rana Begum, the Abraaj Group Art Prize winner of 2017. The artist received USD 100,000 to realize a “dream project.” To mark Begum’s win, a group exhibition titled “Ritual/Seepage” was curated by Omar Berrada, the director of Marrakech’s Dar al-Ma’mûn, featuring artwork by Begum and the prize’s shortlisted artists—pencil drawings on cotton paper by Egypt’s Doa Aly, conceptual video work by Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Abu Abdallah, and intense, ominous oil and gesso paintings on wood by Tehran’s Raha Raissnia.
As fair-goers wound down after the first day, a select few made their way to “The Room,” where Beirut-based art collective Atfal Ahdath (literally, “Children of the Events,” but also suggestive to mean “Juvenile Delinquents”) hosted “Cooking Liberty.” The artists took inspiration from Salvador Dalí’s cookbook, Les Dîners de Gala (1973) to present a “visual and gastronomic experience.” The surrealistic meal came in a prologue, three acts—Glass, Shell, Egg—and an epilogue. Most memorable was a course titled “Dali’s Scent,” which was a single shell of uncooked giant conchiglie pasta, perfumed.
There was plenty more, such as Moroccan-born, New York-based Meriem Bennani’s Ghariba/Stranger interactive bar installation, new commissions by international artists, and the Global Art Forum, which explored the role of material trade in the shaping of abstract ideas in lands connected by maritime and aerial shipping lines.
Art Dubai runs March 15–18, 2017, at Madinat Jumeirah.
Brady Ng is reviews editor at ArtAsiaPacific.
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