Art Dubai Preview: The Global South Takes Dubai

Art Dubai 2019, Art Fair, Middle Eastern Artists, Latin American Art, Global Art Forum
Courtesy of Galeria Pilar
Making their way to the Middle Eastern metropolis this year is a predominance of Latin American artists and galleries for the 13th edition of Art Dubai. Mercedes Ezquiaga guides us through the fair’s uniquely globalised vibe

The Art Dubai fair, celebrated every year in the vibrant and cosmopolitan Middle Eastern metropolis, gets ready to open from 20-23 March, offering visitors from the region a comprehensive landscape of international contemporary art. In this edition, a large delegation of artists from Latin America will arrive to take part of the Residents section. In this area, creators from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia and Uruguay will explore the local scene to produce new works that will later be exhibited in the stands of their respective galleries.

Featuring a total of 90 galleries from 41 countries distributed throughout four sections, Art Dubai aims at consolidating its vision in 2019 as a fair without borders, where creations by artists from the most diverse places on earth will establish a dialogue in harmony, in tone with a city defined for having a multinational DNA. “Dubai is home to 150 nationalities,” says Pablo del Val, artistic director of the fair since 2015, before which he spent four years directing the ZONA MACO fair in Mexico City. “These are micro-societies that coexist together, a community model that works based on the respect for others’ cultures. In this direction, the fair gathers a series of projects and initiatives with the common goal of highlighting such identity, in which the inter-relations with others are always present.”

Nicanor Araoz. Untitled. Sheet metal, polyurethane foam, laser printing. 244x122x126cm. Image courtesy of  Barro, Buenos Aires

In its 13th edition, Art Dubai will also feature a new structure that “includes everything from a new look and layout to new sections that, as a whole, aim at offering visitors a unified experience in which everything that takes places is intertwined, a clear look at the so-called Global South,” explains Del Val. “With this new format, the fair received a record number of applications from galleries, also welcoming for the first time exhibitors from Cameroon and Colombia.”

Kathleen Ryan. Fountain of Youth. 2018. Cast iron, plastic fruit with sequins, plastic beads and steel pins. 152x100x50cm. Image courtesy of Green Art Gallery, Dubai

The magnitude of the internationalisation of the Art Dubai project will be evident through the different sections that collaborate with each other: Contemporary, which will gather established and emerging galleries from London, New York, Istanbul, Morocco and Dubai, to mention a few places, and where for the first time galleries from Copenhagen and New Delhi will also take part; as for the Modern sector, it will exhibit works of museum standard, hailing from the Middle East, South-East Asia and Africa that have been influential throughout the 20th century. “Modern is the only section where African art and Southeast Asian art have their place. It’s history yet to be written,” Del Val points out.

Michelangelo Pistoletto. Smartphone - giovane con borsa. 2018. Silkscreen on super mirror stainless steel. 250x125cm. Image courtesy of Giorgio Persano Gallery, Torino

The brand-new Bawwaba section—meaning getaway in Arabic—will open with only 10 solo shows of works conceived especially for the event, with artists from Latin America, Middle East, Africa and Central and Southern Asia. “These works revolve around the socio-political problem in the Global South through projects from different parts of the world,” Del Val explains, noting in particular the works of artists such as Hamra Abbas from Kuwait and Brazilian Marcelo Moscheta.

At the same time, the new section UAE Now aims at making the development of the artistic scene in the UAE visible, highlighting young projects such as platforms or associations that grow through a local network: “New ways of re-analysing art, the reconversion of the white cube or exchange systems that are not bound to the market, and that can be the cultural future of the country,” notes Del Val.     

Tomás Saraceno. Aerosolar Canis Major. 2018. Polyester rope, velvet rope, hand blown glass spheres. 159.5x60x60cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Andersen’s, Copenhagen

The generous programme of Art Dubai also includes a series of debates, Global Art Forum, or the series Performance, where the work by Marlon Griffith, from Trinidad and Tobago, for instance, will offer a parade based on the aesthetics of the Brazilian carnaval incorporating shadow puppets from western Africa, along with 150 local dancers. In brief, the fair “offers an experience of different approaches and contexts, with commercial and non-commercial sections, and proposals from diverse communities.”

Manuel Figueira. Untitled. 1978. Gouache on paper. 21.5x31cm. Image courtesy of Perve Galeria, Lisboa

The Latin American region will have its overwhelming presence in the section Residents, where artists from 12 galleries selected by curators Brazilian Fernanda Brenner and Emirati Munira Al Sayegh will spend from four to eight weeks in the UAE, to immerse themselves in the local arts scene and produce work that will nourish their stands at the fair. 

“What’s really interesting is seeing how artists inter-relate to diverse realities, creating unexpected bonds. These are all very fresh and experimental projects,” Del Val says about the section that will have the participation of Laura Lima from Brazil, Verónica Vázques from Uruguay, Nicanor Aráoz from Argentina or José Manuel Mesías from Cuba, among others.

Katsumi Nakai. Hiraku 80-86. 2007. Acrylic/oil on plywood. 62x47cm/108x60 cm. Image courtesy of the estate of the artist and Ronchini Gallery, London

“Art Dubai is a market where [some of] the most important galleries in the world are present, and the UAE is a strategic place within the map of fairs and new collectors,” adds Del Val. “We are looking forward to seeing how the works by Nicanor Aráoz will interact with a cultural environment so different to ours, also curious to see visitors’ reactions,” explains Nahuel Ortiz Vidal, director of the gallery Barro from Buenos Aires. “It will be our first time in Art Dubai, but not the last one,” he promises. “Something is going on in Dubai and we want to explore that. There’s the challenge of the trans-cultural phenomenon that I find very interesting. Even this globalisation is affecting us all, I think that we are facing very different cultures and that’s a very rich aspect,” says Orly Benzacar, director of Ruth Benzacar gallery, a dealer with over 50 years of experience. Her gallery will exhibit work by Argentine artist Luciana Lamothe.

“Latin Americans and Arabs have more in common than we think,” says Del Val. “There’s a common vocabulary. These are places that have lived [through] decolonisation, migration and displacement. There’s a proximity to these discourses that’s very interesting,” he suggests.

FOD. FOD.03.017. 2017. Assemblage. 82x65x20cm. Image courtesy of the artist

Consolidated as a luxury tourist destination, with a privileged position on the world map between East and West, the city of Dubai prepares to welcome artists, curators, museum directors and collectors who will fly in from all over the world to be at Art Dubai. This is a fair that is truly an intercultural mosaic, aligned to the idea that art, no matter its origin, offers a universal language. 

Lead image: Flora Rebollo. Untitled. 2017. Graphite, marker, colored pencil, pastel, spray and oil bar on paper. 280x400cm. Image courtesy of Galeria Pilar, São Paulo

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Art Dubai 2019, Art Fair, Middle Eastern Artists, Latin American Art, Global Art Forum
Courtesy of Galeria Pilar