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art dubai

text Francesca Lombardi

March 2, 2023

Art Dubai, one of the most important contemporary art events in Dubai

Over 100 art galleries from 43 countries, art collectors and gallery owners gather to learn about the latest trends in the sector and discover new emerging artists

Over 100 art galleries from 43 countries: every spring art collectors and gallery owners from all around the world gather in Dubai to learn about the latest trends in the sector and discover new emerging artists. Art Dubai is the main platform for the Middle East market and is used both by artists and collectors.

Art Dubai 2023 (Photo by Cedric Ribeiro Getty Images for Art Dubai)

The number of Italian art galleries continues to grow: seven galleries were present in the last edition, presenting world-famous Italian artists. The UAE’s link with the world of art is increasingly interesting in terms of culture, as we hear from Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi and Maurizio Rigillo, the founding members of Galleria Continua, which has taken part in the fair since its very first edition.

Art Dubai 2023 (Photo by Spark Media for Art Dubai)

“We opened Galleria Continua Dubai in Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in 2021 with a solo show by Anish Kapoor. We have been in contact with the Arab world and its culture since 2008, thanks to our participation in the first edition of Art Dubai; it was such a positive experience that we’ve taken part every year since. Over the years we’ve built up a network of relations and friendships that have boosted our project and given it shape, meaning and substance. In our view, art is the ideal terrain for self-expression, for stimulating and producing change, with due respect for difference and in the knowledge that multicultural means enrichment.” This link between Galleria Continua and the Middle East goes beyond the market and even touches major cultural institutions: for its 5th anniversary, the Louvre Abu Dhabi invited Michelangelo Pistoletto - one of the artists represented by the gallery - to display a series of mirror paintings inspired by the Musée du Louvre in Paris. The series of 11 paintings is distributed among the permanent galleries of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, interacting with the collection and creating a dialogue between one Louvre and another.

Artwork by Michelangelo Pistoletto, part of a series of mirrors exhibited in the permanent galleries of Louvre Abu Dhabi (©Galleria Continua Photo Ela Bialkowska)Nari Ward’s exhibition at the Galleria Continua Dubai inside the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Of a similar mind is Paola Marucci, owner of the Oblong Contemporary Gallery. The gallery’s Dubai branch is located on the main avenue of the beautiful Bluewaters Island, and Paola tells us that they opened it “to create a cultural bridge between Pietrasanta, our birthplace, and the Arab world. It’s a place of experimentation and reciprocal cultural discovery where we work mainly with renowned international sculptors.”

The Oblong Gallery spaces in Dubai’s beautiful Bluewaters Island

As Art Dubai’s artistic director Pablo del Val explains: “Dubai is rapidly turning into a global financial and technological hub. The city is booming and is a place that entire generations of families from around the world have chosen as their home.” The fair consists of four sections: Contemporary,Modern,Bawwaba and Art Dubai Digital. Art Dubai Contemporary in particular featured the best of new contemporary art showcased by 72 art galleries from 33 countries, focusing on art and artists from the Global South. Also, the number of art galleries based in Dubai has increased, reaching unprecedented levels, proving that the artistic culture of Dubai and the importance of the Emirates as a global and creative hub are continuing to grow. Art Dubai 2023 saw the return of Art Dubai Digital, which was launched at the 2022 fair with great critical and commercial success. This physical section of Art Dubai provides a 360-degree panorama of the digital art landscape every year, bridging the gap between the world of art and technology, and exploring how artists use new immersive technologies to go beyond the boundaries of traditional art. Art Dubai Digital’s program also includes a wide range of conferences and training seminars. Curated by Singapore-based art educator and writer Clara Che Wei Peh, the expanded edition of Art Dubai Digital for 2023 welcomed galleries with innovative new media programs, as well as digital platforms to build virtual art spaces. But also collectives of artists, decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) and traditional art galleries that challenge and push forward new models of artistic production and support.

Art Dubai 2023 (Photo by Cedric Ribeiro Getty Images for Art Dubai) Art Dubai 2023 (Photo by Cedric Ribeiro Getty Images for Art Dubai) Art Dubai 2023 (Photo by Spark Media for Art Dubai)

Benedetta Ghioni, from an important Italian family of collectors and executive director of the fair, commented: “It was a truly unique fair. We are different in two fundamental ways: first, our content. We are proud and committed to focusing on the Global South and are excited to continue to promote the artistic production of this part of the world. Secondly, the size and our personalities: we are a boutique art fair with a little more than 100 art galleries that has continued to innovate and come up with new ideas. I believe that this type of innovation, combined with this specific approach, will make us stronger and more sustainable as we move forward.”

Artwork by Michelangelo Pistoletto, part of a series of mirrors exhibited in the permanent galleries of Louvre Abu Dhabi (©Galleria Continua Photo Ela Bialkowska)

At the core of the fair’s non-profit program is Art Dubai Commissions, a platform that invites artists to produce site-specific works at the fair, supporting the artistic production of local and international artists. The Commissions for 2023, which took place in a purpose-built space, focused on food, society, celebration and hope as a theme, with names selected from participating Art Dubai galleries and the major Southern Asian institutions.

Art Dubai 2022- Photo’s courtesy of Electra, Official Contractor of Art Dubai

Last but not least, the Global Art forum of Art invites every year top artists, curators, experts and thinkers to evaluate the cultural context of our modern world. Commissioned by Shumon Basar, the 2023 edition was titled Predicting the Present and focused on the question: if this is the end of history and the end of the future, what will happen next? Stories, experiments and speculation on culture, innovation and society steer towards new sources of optimism. Dubai – a future-focused city and leader in innovation – provides the ideal context for these discussions, which are aimed at finding the right tools to get us through these uncertain times. The list of speakers include Sumayya Vally, Principle of Counterspace, Architect of the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion and Curator of the first Islamic Biennale in Jeddah; Chiara Costa, Head of Program for Fondazione Prada; artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, and Brendan McGetrick, Creative Director of the Museum of the Future of Dubai. At Art Dubai work goes on even after the fair: besides the spring event, Art Dubai established in 2007, it offers an extensive all year-round educational and marketing program working closely with local and regional partners to deliver challenging cultural programs across the city.

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