Meem Gallery at Art Dubai.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and hosted by Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Art Dubai (Mar. 29 – Apr. 3) returns for its 14th edition as one of the first in-person art international fairs of 2021, featuring 50 leading Contemporary and Modern galleries from 31 countries. Staged in a purpose-built venue at the iconic Gate Building in DIFC, it operates according to strict COVID-19 safety protocols. Alongside standard social distancing procedures and regular testing of participants, the fair has introduced extra precautions to manage capacity.
New measures in place include extending fair dates and opening hours and the new Art Dubai App, which allows visitors to book dedicated time slots in advance to guarantee entry, stay up-to-date with the latest news and announcements, explore exhibiting galleries and artworks and view the full programme. Art Dubai has also launched the Remote Participation Programme, which uses digital technologies to connect participating galleries unable to travel to Dubai in person with visitors, along with providing video introduction to the artworks on show. Visitors encounter galleries from across the Middle East and South and East Asia, including from Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines. There is strong representation from the African continent, including galleries from Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco and Tunisia.
The fair features nine of Dubai’s top galleries.
Other features of Art Dubai’s 2021 programme include:
* A curated Sculpture Park surrounding the DIFC Gate Building featuring large-scale installations by ten artists, including pioneering conceptual Emirati artists Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim and Hussain Sharif, Saudi artist Rashed Al Shashai, Iraqi painter and sculptor Dia Al-Azzawi and Algerian sculptor, print-maker and ceramicist Rachid Koraïchi, alongside contemporary Mozambican artist Gonçalo Mabunda, Greek conceptual sculptor Costas Varotsos, Indian architect Tarik Currimbhoy, French conceptual artist Bernar Venet and Argentine-French multidisciplinary artist Pablo Reinoso.
* Film Programme and 50 Years United Exhibition. As part of this year’s curatorial projects, Art Dubai presents a Film Programme comprised of screening stations located along DIFC’s Gate Avenue, featuring single-channel films produced by over 20 regional and international artists.
Each is thematically categorised to curate a specific experience for the viewer that includes Nature, Journeys, Dystopias, Conversations, Performances and Animations, among others.
A station is dedicated to Art Dubai Portraits, an ongoing film series in partnership with BMW Middle East, providing perspectives into the lives and workspaces of artists connected to the fair. Also in Gate Avenue, a recollective black and white photographic exhibition showcases images dating back to December 2, 1971, taken by Ramesh Shukla, and the inspiration behind Art Dubai’s 2021 graphic campaign.
50 Years United is a visual commemoration of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the nation, offering a journey down memory lane, with portraits of the Founding Fathers, vintage landmarks and traditional customs and heritage.
* Campus Art Dubai 8.0. Curated by Munira Al Sayegh, an exhibition titled Plants, Animals, Minerals presents the culmination of Campus Art Dubai 8.0, which was supported by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and hosted by A.R.M. Holding. The latest edition of the six-month seminar and residency programme which provides Emirati and UAE-based artists with educational and professional opportunities, features five selected artists’ responses to the theme of symbiotic life in a parasitic world. The participating artists are Ameena AlJarman, Layan Attari, Nahla Tabbaa, Zahra Jewanjee and Zena Adhami.
* Ithra Art Prize. The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) celebrates contemporary art and artists through the Ithra Art Prize. Launched in 2017 in collaboration with Art Dubai, the winning artwork premieres at the yearly event.
This is the third iteration of the prize which is awarded annually to Saudi and Saudi-based contemporary artists and aims to fund, promote and showcase them globally.
The latest winner is the Saudi artist Fahad bin Naif, for his installation ‘Rakhm’, which means ‘incubation’ in Arabic. Unveiled at Art Dubai 2021, it is the first opportunity for the public to enjoy it.
The installation aims to conceptually preserve a nursery as both an urban typology and its ‘incubatees’, as an environmental micro-economy.
Mirroring both the sensitivity and urgency of the content, safely and carefully incubating an intelligent green infrastructure, Rakhm is a polytunnel nursery that mimics the existing urban nurseries in the Kingdom with endemic plants and flowers instead of conventional foreign houseplants.
Art Dubai’s 2021 programme also includes new exhibitions by key partners of the fair; Switzerland is presenting an outdoor installation titled Swiss Fog Magnified, featuring over one thousand crystal glass spheres and reinterpreting a highlight that awaits visitors in the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Commissioned by Maison Ruinart to express his vision of the brand, its heritage and savoir-faire, British artist David Shrigley presents a series of indoor and outdoor artworks with an offbeat and unrelenting sense of humour, acting as an effervescent eye-opener to environmental concerns.
Luxury Italian brand Salvatore Ferragamo stages an activation, showcasing their Spring/Summer 2021 collection and integrating a visual experience and short film shot in Milan by award-winning filmmaker Luca Guadagnino. Art Dubai 2021 is sponsored by Julius Baer. Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) is the fair’s strategic partner. DIFC is one of the world’s most advanced financial centres, and the leading financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA), which comprises 72 countries with an approximate population of three billion and a nominal GDP of USD 7.7 trillion.
The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery will launch its fifth digital archive, Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965, as part of its TRACE: Archives and Reunions series.
As part of Abu Dhabi Art’s year-round programme, Galleries at MAS will take place next month giving first-time collectors and art enthusiasts the chance to purchase affordable artwork.
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