Art dubai emerges as a prime fair for South asian art
photos: courtesy of art dubai
Launched in 2007, Art Dubai has quickly established itself as a fair of reference for contemporary art from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. In less than a decade, the event is credited with having unlocked an entire new market for art, and is now widely praised for the curious, inquisitive collectors strolling along its alleys every year in greater numbers.
An impressive achievement of Art Dubai is the balance it seems to have found between global appeal and local presence: ninety-two galleries from thirty five countries participated in its 2015 edition, of which a third were based in the Middle-East. From Azerbaijan (Yay Gallery) to South Africa (What If the World Gallery), other galleries came from all over the world, with a strong presence of – and notable interest for – art from South Asia.
the sub-continent’s trends
Seven galleries from India and Pakistan were selected by the organising committee in the contemporary section of Art Dubai; while one Pakistani gallery made it to the smaller Art Dubai Modern, where galleries showcase art from the 1940s to the 1980s. The Mumbai gallery, Chatterjee & Lal (www.chatterjeeandlal.com) presented the beautiful ink drawings of Nikhil Chopra, an artist usually associated with performance, who recently animated workshop sessions in Dhaka. This choice reflected the gallery’s interest “towards the collapsing of the boundaries that have traditionally held apart work of differing practices and of divergent timelines”. It was another reminder of how the understanding of art is changing in the subcontinent, where the usual divisions on the lines of ‘genre’ and ‘categories’ are less relevant.
Viba Galhotra. Untitled from the ‘Series of flow’. Metalghungroo (metal bells), fabric, wood, metal. 2014
Exhibit 320 (www.exhibit320.com) from New Delhi presented a booth with works by Indian conceptual artist Vibha Galhotra. Her ‘flow series’, a succession of very large two-dimensional installations made of Ghungroos (the small metal bells strung together to form the musical anklet tied to the feet of classical dancers), were a public’s favourite. A gallery with sub-continental ambitions, Exhibit 320 has just presented in New Delhi, an exhibition where the works of Bangladeshi artist Yasmin Jahan Nupur featured along artworks of one Indian and one Pakistani artist.
a strong non-profit program
Another strength of Art Dubai is the depth of the non-profit artistic events that run parallel to the fair. Initially built to catalyse the creation of a local art minded community, the program is now widely praised for its diversity and audacity. Foremost in the non-profit agenda of Art Dubai is the Abraaj Group Prize.
The prize was created in 2008 to provide a platform showcasing innovative work from artists in the Middle-East, North Africa and South Asia. The format of the prize is unique: it awards proposals by artists rather than completed works. This policy allows artists to present their projects with less constraint and to focus on innovation. Each year, the winning project selected by the jury is awarded a $100,000 USD commission for completion. Along with three other shortlisted artists, the awarded artist is automatically selected to showcase his or her works in a thematic exhibition held in a dedicated space at Art Dubai. Once completed, the awarded project enters the permanent collection of the Abraaj Group Prize. The artworks of the collection are regularly shown in institutions across the globe through an active loan policy.
Nikhil Chopra. Untitled from the ‘Rehearsals’. Variable. 2014
Other non-profit initiatives of Art Dubai, such as the art school Campus Art Dubai, which runs throughout the year, or the Global Art Forum, which features commissioned projects and research as well as live talks guided by a curated theme, provide a vital counterpoint to the commercial fair itself. This ecosystem is completed with the critically acclaimed Sharjah Art Biennial, running every odd year since 1993 at a stone-throw from Dubai itself. Few people would have imagined of the magnitude of Art Dubai when the fair was first launched in 2007. Through an astute strategy balancing commercial interests with a non-profit appeal, the event has found a distinctive identity; and its geographical position as a hub where art from East and West can meet is ideal. There can be no doubt that galleries from South Asia will continue to choose the alleys of the fair to present art from the subcontinent to the world.
Leading Image : Contemporary Halls. Art Dubai 2015. The Studio, Dubai
photos: courtesy of art dubai Launched in 2007, Art Dubai has quickly established itself as a fair of reference for contemporary art from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. In less than a decade, the event is credited with having unlocked an entire new market for art, and is now widely praised for the…