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Art Paris Abu Dhabi: Modern & Contemporary Art Fair Opens Today
Caterpillar, Wim Delvoye

ABU DHABI.- For its second edition, artparis-AbuDhabi is returning to the Emirates Palace from November 17 to 21, 2008, to present a broad and impressive panorama of artistic creation of the 20th and 21st centuries. This year, the fair is strengthening its policy of selection and participation of contemporary art galleries active in the international market.

In 2007, artparis installed itself for the first time in Abu Dhabi, creating the largest fair for modern and contemporary art ever organized in the United Arab Emirates. The result: a turn over of USD 15,867,000 for a fair that attracted 9,200 visitors and collectors in just three days.

… a turn-over full of promise for the organizers who are expecting this year more than 15,000 visitors.

With the support of the authorities in charge of culture and patrimony (ADACH – Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage), the art fair plays an active role in the cultural activities of AbuDhabi. Thus, the fair’s official inauguration will take place on Monday, November 17th in the presence of his Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crowned prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

On the grounds of the Emirates Palace, 57 galleries will exhibit several hundreds of artists, including Kader Attia, Paul Cézanne, Shilpa Chavan, Jim Dine, Bernard Frize, Alberto Giacometti, Damien Hirst, Henri Matisse, Shirin Neshat, Julian Opie, Yazid Oulab, Pablo Picasso, Thomas Ruff, Faisal Samra, Niki de Saint Phalle, Massimo Vitali and Andy Warhol, among others.

New in 2008 : 8 young galleries emerging on the international contemporary art market are united under the banner of “Artparis-AbuDhabi Young Talent”. Each of them will be representing the works of a young artist yet to be discovered. From the 17th through the 21st of November, Abu Dhabi thus promises to be the central meeting point for contemporary art not only in the Gulf Region but also for the entire Middle East region of which it is a part.

For the second edition of artparis-AbuDhabi, 57 galleries will exhibit at the Emirates Palace, representing the artistic creation of 22 countries and promising a multi-cultural voyage with art as the guiding principle.

To begin with, artists from the Arab world will take a place of honor not only at the galleries from the Middle East and North Africa but also at occidental galleries. The focus will be on Arab creation that leans on traditional elements even at this contemporary moment, sometimes with humour, but always with pertinence.

Arab calligraphy constitutes one of the founding themes of atparis-AbuDhabi 08, a form which one can most accurately describe as melding of depth with form. Gallery Albareh from Bahrain will present the artist Hakim Ghazali, among others, whose compositions join paper and calligraphy. This prolific artist is also present on the stand of Gallery Green Art of the Emirates United Arabs, whose program emphasizes the artistic pioneers of the Arab world. For Gallery Bait Muzna of Oman, Abdallah Akar mixes calligraphy and painting: inheritances and secular traditions thus flow together on his canvases with great intensity. The paintings of Mahjoub Ben Bella on the stand of the French gallery Jean Brolly keep a more or less distant trace of any sign, playing with trompe-l’oeil and giving the illusion of volume. And finally, the Tunisian gallery El Marsa puts the work of Nja Mahdoui on display, which uses parchments marked with a variety of signs.

For the new Galerie Art Sawa of Dubai, artparis-AbuDhabi constitutes an inaugural event. It puts the spotlight on sculptures by Ahmed Askalany, figures without heads but high in color and form. Other sculptures which are strange and round are those of Bita Fayyazi, whose “female rabbits” will be shown by Galerie B21 of the United Arab Emirates.

Employing a thematic selection for its stand, the Lebanese gallery Tanit takes the theme of “The space of artworks” to interrogate the view we take of artworks within their context, as in with the trompe-l’oeil paintings of Nabir Nahas. It is the political space occupied within Islamic societies that the Iranian artist Shiva Ahmadi examines, not without humor, for the New York gallery LTMH. Another Iranian artist, Monir Farmanfarmaian, plays with the geometric principles of Islamic art at the Third Line gallery of the United Arab Emirates. And yet a third Iranian artist, Jamshid Bayrami, looks with acuity at the clichés which are manifest in the contemporary Arab world through a presentation which serves to magnify them. The Iranian gallery Silk Road also gives a platform to Iranian artists, such as Reza Derakhshani with her new series on fig trees, an important tree symbol of the Mediterranean.

The Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi is one of the notable figures at artparis-AbuDhabi: her work will be presented by the Swiss gallery Kashya Hildebrand, among the gallery’s selection of artists including Andréi Moldokin and Jeffrey Aaronson, as well as being presented by the London gallery Waterhouse & Dodd along with other artists from the Near Orient such as Nja Mahdaoui.

The French gallery Anne de Villepoix also dedicates her stand to contemporary Arab artists, notably Kadar Attia whose work was admired in the exhibition “Traversées” (Crossings) during artparis 08 in Paris. The Syrian gallery Ayyam also highlights this region of the world with canvases by Fadi Yazigi which show myriads of little men stacked up, as if huddled together on the space of the canvas.

The Asian platform at the fair does not stop there however. Further, gallery 1 X 1 of Dubai is specializing in Indian artists such as Chittrovanu Mazumdar and his installations that merge various supports, from paper to numeric processes. India, and especially Indians themselves, are put under the lens by the artist Sunil Gupta; his photographs will be shown by the Berlin gallery Caprice Horn. The Indian gallery Matthieu Foss has selected a certain number of Indian artists to represent his programming, as in the images of Baba Anand and his clichés of Bollywood airs. The Indian gallery Pundole presents a group of artists from the sub-continent, among them Maqbool Fida Husain who, starting in 1947, was one of the members of the Progressive Artists group in India.

Gallery Langgeng flies the Indonesian colors high with the artist Arahmaiani who evokes with humor the problems this country faces and holds in common with all other Muslim countries. Sun Gallery, the only Korean gallery at the fair, focuses on contemporary Asian artists, notably with Seon Ghi Bahk and his airy and enigmatic work on charcoal.

Gallery Orel Art, for its part, has chosen to base their program on Russian artists such as Marina Federova who was distinguished at artparis 08 by the Nicolas Feuillate prize.

Beyond inclinations for this or that region of the globe, certain galleries have focused on the medium of photography. The Parisian Gallery Act 2 makes this choice with prints by Albert Watson, among which one finds a photo of the muscular neck of Mike Tyson. At the German Gallery Brigitte Schenk, Shirin Neshat displayes her photographs, drenched in mystery, which reveal the atmosphere at thermal baths where women and children are in the process of caring for their bodies. For the Spanish gallery Alvaro Alcazar, the artists Mike & Doug Starn explore the relationship which ties photography to nature and to the passage of time. The images of Anne-Marie Filaire, shown at the French gallery Eric Dupont, pose the question of borders: a form of documentation for this artist who has traversed some of the most sensitive regions of the globe.

This edition of the fair further includes some of the great names of the international art scene. For example, several works by Andy Warhol will be on display, among them Anniversary Donald Duck at the stand of the Austrian gallery Ernst Hilger and the Four Dollar Sign at the stand of German gallery Hafenrichter & Flugel. The London gallery Ben Brown shows Avanti Cars and Hammer and Sickle 76, while the French gallery Laurent Strouk proposes Pink Hearts by Warhol alongside works by Tom Wesselman and Keith Haring. Continuing in the vein of Pop art, the French gallery Templon offers us Jim Dine with his series dedicated to Pinocchio.

There are other prestigious names and rare pieces at the stand of gallery Patrice Trigano who brings canvases by Picasso and Dubuffet along with the mysteriously flying photos of Meriem Bouderbala. The stand of gallery Tamenaga is focused on a painting by Cezanne entitled La Moisson in which harvested wheat is heavy with grain that has become ripe in the sun. The German gallery, Die Galerie, plans to entice the eye of the visitor through the warm and enveloping colors of Village jaune (yellow village) by Marc Chagall.

Sometimes images are just as recognizable as signatures, such as those of the tires of Swiss artist Peter Stämpfli on the stand of French gallery Baudoin Lebon or the geometric forms of spaces photographed scanning devolved areas by Georges Rousse at the French gallery RX. Among other signatures, the Belgian gallery Triangle Bleu exhibits those of Marie-Jo la Fontaine who will be at the fair in person to present her work. Shown for the first time in public since its creation ten years ago, a canvas by Damien Hirst entitled I F…ing Love You from the series “Butterfly” will dress up the stand of the London gallery Witford Fine Art.

Some galleries opt for a monographic approach. The Finnish gallery Forsblom, for example, concentrates on the work of Finnish artist Hans-Christian Berg whose installations beckon the view and the participation of the spectators. The German gallery Jablonka puts an emphasis on the work of American artist Philip Taffe whose work is inspired by the Near Orient and by Arab culture. Two one-man shows co-exist at the stand of Galerie Maeght who display works by Marco del Re and by Miro.

At the crossroads between sculpture and design, the floating sculptures by Marta Pan and the folded steel structures by Maria Pergay complement one another at the stand of the French gallery JGM. For the French gallery Marion Meyer, the emphasis is on artists’ jewelry such as those contrived with care by the surrealist Max Ernst. As for gallery Pierre Dumonteil, it privileges animal themes and puts up a display including Rachid Khimoune’s mouse to the cats of Koller to Fiori’s onyx…

Still other galleries play with the theme of abstraction. This is the case for the French gallery Protée who puts a spotlight on the lyrical abstraction of the second half of the twentieth century, showing artists such as Claudie Laks, Abdallah Benanteur and Georges Mathieu. Another gallery promoting abstract art, Nächst St. Stephan of Austria dedicates a large part of its space to the work on color of German artist Katherina Grosse.

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