I left Beirut early on Thursday morning (Mar.17) hoping to get the most of Art Dubai that day. I arrived in Dubai at around 2 pm, and already noticed that the city I had visited only 3 years ago, already looked different. There were new roads; buildings sprouting up everywhere, and the familiar site of construction work going on all over the place. I dropped my bags off at my aunt’s house, and immediately took a taxi to Art Dubai.
I arrived at Madinat Jumeirah (where this year’s Art Dubai was taking place) not knowing what to expect, as this was to be my first Art Dubai. The location of the event was perfect, as Medinat Jumeirah is full of shops and restaurants, offering the best of Dubai. I bought a 50 Dirham ticket, and was handed a guide booklet. After speaking to the press director about covering Art Dubai for the Art of the Mid East blog, I was kindly given a press pass, giving me access to various events. It was now 4:15, and the crowd at the entrance started piling up.
The first thing that struck me about the crowd waiting to get into Art Dubai was the convergence of so many different people. There were tour buses loaded with German and French tourists alongside Emiratis in their SUVs and sports cars, all heading to Art Dubai. There were Americans, Europeans, Asians, and Africans. There were museum curators, gallery owners, businessmen, and artists. Everyone in the world seemed to be heading to Art Dubai. The multilingual staff and directors included people from all over the world. This event was very reflective of the cosmopolitan nature of the city it took place in.
The doors finally opened at 4:30, and I headed in. Upon entering, there was a long hallway leading to large-open doors. The first room on my right was dedicated to the START organization. In the words of START Director Tanaz Dizadji, “START is a non-profit organization established by Art Dubai and the Al Madam Foundation which applies the universal language of art to heal, educate and enrich the skills and opportunities of children in the poorest areas of the Middle East. Our programme seeks to educate and empower the younger generation by giving them a voice through the expression of art by engaging them with their communities and peers by teaching them a sense of self-worth…START uniquely encourages artists to become volunteers in the field of humanitarian aid and education by participating in the workshops.” (Check out the START website: www.startworld.org)
At Art Dubai, the START room was filled with great works by Sacha Jafri, whose collection at Art Dubai was inspired by his visit to the children of the Barqa’a refugee camp in Jordan. The sale proceeds from all the artworks in the START room are donated to the START organization. Sacha Jafri is a very talented artist who has raised over 14 million pounds for different charitable causes through his paintings. He is considered one of the world’s leading young painters, and has been featured on the front pages of both the New York Times and the Financial Times. His extraordinary talent is evident in his displayed paintings. Props to Mr. Jafri who has managed to raise such a significant sum of money for charity through his masterpieces. Kudos to Art Dubai as well, for dedicating a whole room to charity.
One of Mr .Jafri’s most remarkable pieces is a cube with painted inside panels titled ‘Universe of the Child.’ The different panels represent different aspects of a child’s life. Art Dubai provides the following description of this piece:
“The Back Panel represents the ‘Dream-world’ of the child, their inspiration point or place they go to escape- their transitional world full of hope and fuelled by their purity, energy, and tenacious spirit. The Left-Hand Panel, full of earthy tones and feelings of a more grounded comfort or sense of belonging, represents the child’s ‘Home and Family.’ This panel is dominated by the house in the bottom right and heart in the top left and expresses the importance of the child’s family and sense of care, protection, and guidance. The Right-Hand Panel, dominated by a juxtaposition of colour and mark, represents the child’s ‘Soul’; full of the experiences, layers and depth of a more troubled journey. Their soul has moments of rest and peace but is sadly dominated by more intense angles of colour, mark, reflection and extreme effervescence. The Floor-Panel represents the child’s ‘Birth’; their beginning and experiences if their past. It is dominated by images of mother-hood, and the more playful memories of their child-hood. The Ceiling-Panel represents the child’s more hopeful ‘Future’ fuelled by their dreams and aspirations of a more positive tomorrow. “
When I entered the hallway to head through the doors to the two exhibition halls, there was a creative metallic sculpture hanging from the ceiling that drew a lot of attention from the crowd.
Just outside the exhibition halls there were some great art magazines represented including Canvas, artasiapacific, the Art Newspaper, and Bidoun. I stopped by the Canvas stand and bought its current edition The Young Collectors III, which is the magazine’s largest issue to date. It has some great feature stories, be sure to check it out!
There was also a great section with original vintage Arabic books. There were vintage Arabic comic books as well.
I passed a DXB store where all limited edition products were designed and made in the UAE
Jashanmal Bookstores had a section selling hard-to-find books on both Middle Eastern and International art.
When I finally did enter the exhibition halls there were galleries from around the world (over 80!), including India, the Middle East, Europe, the USA, and Eastern Asia. While a large part of the artwork displayed was from Middle Eastern artists, there were also some great international artworks exhibited. The artwork included paintings, sculptures, collages, and calligraphies from both regional masters and up and coming artists. I had productive discussions with many gallery owners, who were all very pleased with the progress of the Art of the Mid East blog. They were all very supporting of my efforts, and had very positive comments about the blog. This has further increased my ambition and determination to continuously enhance and improve this blog.
The atmosphere within Art Dubai was beaming with positive energy. Every time I would speak to a gallery owner, they would praise the other galleries present at Art Dubai for their selected artwork and efforts in creating a great exhibition. A strong team spirit was evident at Art Dubai, where galleries put aside their competitive nature in order to promote Middle Eastern art. There was increased Emirati interest at Art Dubai, which was evident with the presence of many Sheikhas.
The organization of Art Dubai was topnotch; the galleries represented were among the best, and the artwork exhibited was beautiful. The food and drinks were delicious, with all kind of international delicacies being served. The space at Madinat Jumeirah was also great as it allowed spectators a great amount of space to walk around and browse in, without ever feeling constrained. Most of all, Art Dubai gave a huge boost to promoting Middle Eastern art. Press from all over the world covered the event, and art enthusiasts from across the globe converged at Art Dubai. Many of the foreign correspondents I spoke to were very impressed at how fast the Middle Eastern art market has matured.
Kudos to Art Dubai for such an extraordinary event! I highly recommend anyone who can attend next year’s event to do so.
Some of my favorite Art Work at Art Dubai:
Dirimart Istanbul’s stand:
A piece by Ramazan Bayrakoglu:
by Ekrem Yalcindag:
By Suzan Batu:
‘Exploded Portal’ by Philip Taaffee at Sfeir-Semler Gallery stand:
A piece by Asad Faulwell at Galerie Kashya Hildebrand‘s stand:
Mah Art Gallery Stand:
A piece by Farhad Moshiri:
Green Art Gallery Stand:
‘International Monument II’ by Kamrooz Aram:
Another piece by Kamrooz Aram:
A painting at Carbon 12′s stand:
At the Selma Feriani Gallery Stand:
Untitled by Daifallah Noureddine:
Untitled by Arman:
Selma Human Tapestry Series number 6 by Sadegh Tirafkan:
Untitled by Samar Mograbel:
A piece by Ayman Baalbacki:
Galerie Tanit Stand:
A piece by Nabil Nahas:
Salwa Zeidan Gallery stand:
‘Cars number 2′ by Hassan Sharif:
L’atelier 21 Stand:
Untitled by Hakim Ghazali:
At the Galerie El Marsa Stand:
‘Mellita’ by Nija Mahdaoui:
LTMH Gallery Stand:
‘Martyrdom’ by Soody Sharifi:
‘Fashion Week 2010′ by Soody Sharifi: