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Art Dubai wraps up most successful fair to date
Mr. Gerard Houghton, Director of Special Projects, October Gallery walks past an art work by Palestinian artist Laila Shawa's "Where Souls Dwell" on display at the the seventh edition of Art Dubai exhibition that opened in the Gulf emirate on March 19, 2012. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB.

DUBAI.- Over 25,000 visitors, including curators, collectors, gallerists, artists, and 75 museum groups, alongside 300 individual museum and institutional representatives, flocked to the seventh edition of Art Dubai, the leading contemporary art fair in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia

One of the most exciting and globalised events in the international art calendar, Art Dubai’s 2013 edition underscored its importance as a fair of discovery with a diverse roster of 75 galleries from 30 countries, including a curated introduction to varied art scenes across West Africa.

Deriving its global relevance through its strong regional foundation, Art Dubai operates as a host for pan-regional exchange and interaction, a key draw for international institutions, curators, and collectors. Of the 500 artists participating this year through exhibiting galleries or Art Dubai’s various programmes, over 50% were from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.

Art Dubai further strengthened its credentials as one of the foremost platforms for cultural discussion through the Global Art Forum_7. Entitled ‘It Means This’, the six-day forum explored ‘definitionism’: with at times standing-room-only presentations by artists such as Michael Stipe, Tarek Atoui, Hassan Khan, Ala Younis, and Manal Al Dowayan; curators Reem Fadda, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Koyo Kouoh; composer and musician André Vida; and Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, professor of political science.

“The growth of Art Dubai over the past seven years reflects the rising prominence of the UAE as a centre of art and cultural discourse. We see Art Dubai as a powerful venue for regional and international talents to reach out to new audiences, explore new markets and connect with likeminded collaborators. At the same time, through the Global Art Forum we act as the catalyst for discussions that ripple far beyond the region and extend far beyond the visual arts,” said Antonia Carver, Fair Director, Art Dubai.

Art Dubai is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who attended the fair on Thursday March 21. Art Dubai was inaugurated by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. Furthermore, H.H. Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum inaugurated the fair’s Ladies’ Day.

Twenty-eight galleries made their Art Dubai debut this year, with celebrated international names such as GAGProjects (Adelaide/Berlin), Yvon Lambert (Paris) and Almine Rech Gallery (Paris/Brussels), joining returning favourites such as Sfeir-Semler (Beirut / Hamburg), Alexander Gray Associates (New York), and The Third Line (Dubai). Highlights included Banu Cennetoglu’s installation of bound volumes cataloging a collection of daily newspapers from 20 Arabic speaking countries at Rodeo Gallery (Istanbul), a curated booth of works by women artists including Louise Bourgeois and Jumana Manna at CRG Gallery (New York), and photographic works by Marina Abramović at Galerie Krinzinger (Vienna).

Curated by Bisi Silva, Art Dubai’s Marker – a section of gallery booths focusing each year on a country or region - featured artspaces from Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Ghana and Senegal – the first exhibition of contemporary art from West Africa in the Middle East. The diverse offerings ranged from Emeka Ogboh’s sound installation at Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (CCA, Lagos) to organic carved wooden figures by Amahiguéré Dolo’s at Carpe Diem (Ségou). During Art Dubai’s press conference, Fair Director Antonia Carver announced Central Asia and the Caucasus as the focus for Marker 2014.

The winning works of The Abraaj Group Art Prize’s 5th edition were revealed at the opening of the fair, in ‘extra | ordinary’, an exhibition curated by Murtaza Vali that featured a floor installation of thousands of pieces of lead by Rayyane Tabet, miniature gold statues encased in acrylic by Vartan Avakian; text panels, photographs and sculptures by Iman Issa, a cabinet of curiosities, home to a variety of objects by Huma Mulji and large scale photography by Hrair Sarkissian.

An estimated 45 million USD worth of artworks were exhibited at Art Dubai over the course of the four-day fair. Strong sales – including major acquisitions by collectors and visiting museum groups – were reported at Pilar Corrias (London), Nubuke Foundation (Accra), Athr Gallery (Jeddah) Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde (Dubai), and Galerie Rodolphe Janssen (Brussels). Art Dubai 2013 also featured the largest not-for-profit programme in the fair’s history, with over 40 artists participating in Art Dubai Projects - including residencies, commissions, performances, screenings, and a mobile art gallery, as well as dXb store, an initiative that supports UAE based designers.

As part of its growing programming, Art Dubai introduced two new elements this year, chief among them Sculpture on the Beach, with signature pieces by Chris Burden and Hassan Sharif. The fair also launched The Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program, reaching out to a new generation of art lovers through discovery tours and activities geared at children and teenagers. This programme is held under the patronage and guidance of Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Women’s Establishment, Wife of HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs UAE. Building on this commitment to education, the fair also launched Campus Art Dubai in 2013, in partnership with Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture). Campus Art Dubai runs for 6 months (January-June 2013), offering UAE-based artists and curators monthly Saturday School sessions, culminating in an exhibition in Fall 2013. The programme also includes monthly public seminars.

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