For its past nine editions, Abu Dhabi Art has been riding a wave of increased visibility in the crowded international art calendar. A product of fine-tuned ideas and robust programming, it returns for its 10th iteration in the UAE capital this November with a continued focus on bolstering the regional art scene. A lure of the event is its focus on creating a diverse public engagement programme, including art exhibitions, talks and events that take place all year round and culminate in Abu Dhabi Art.
“My primary goals have been to grow the fair’s roots in the community, ensure we’re supporting and contributing to the local art scene, support the growth of the local art market, and connect local arts professionals with international counterparts,” says Dyala Nusseibeh, now in her second year on the job as director of Abu Dhabi Art. “10 years on from its first edition, I think the fair is starting to fulfil all these objectives organically through its many participants — which is what we’d hope for,” she adds.
On view will be a sharp edit of artworks from 46 international and regional galleries across the categories Modern and Contemporary, Special Projects, and Focus: Icons. A selling point of the programme is Galleries Week, a collaboration between Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi and the fair, where select galleries will present works by emerging and established artists at low price points. These include Dubai’s Cuadro Fine Art Gallery and Meem Gallery, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Modern Art Gallery and Salwa Zeidan Gallery, and Jeddah’s ATHR and Hafez Gallery.
In the wake of remarkable growth in the lower and middle art sectors, the Galleries Week section aims at piquing the interest of young collectors. “Lower price points are more accessible for first-time buyers and enable this potential to flourish,” explains Nusseibeh. On the curatorial front are fair first-timers, artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, who will be steering the section Beyond: Emerging Artists, and writer-curator Hammad Nasar fronting the Gateway exhibition. They’ll be joined by returning curators Omar Kholeif, behind the invitation-only Focus: Icons section, and Tarek Abou El Fetouh, running the Durub Al Tawaya performing arts programme.
Julião Sarmento. Olive. 2018. Acrylic gesso, vinyl tempera and water-based enamel on linen canvas. 195x250cm. Courtesy of the artist and Giorgio Persano
Art historians Salwa Mikdadi and Nada Shabout will be co-organising the Talks programme, surveying Global Circulation of Art and The New Markets. “We picked this theme because of its importance particularly at this turbulent moment in the region’s history,” Shabout shares about the Talks programme. “Issues of fraudulent and looted artworks have been the subject of rumours and it’s high time we address them and learn how to deal with them. We hope that all this as well as other logistical issues would be of benefit to emerging artists in the region.”
In the Gateway exhibition, Nasar will be showcasing works by 14 international artists, including Sara Al Haddad and Lantian Xie, with whom he worked as curator of Rock, Paper, Scissors; Positions in Play, the UAE’s National Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale last year. Themed Structures of Meaning | Architectures of Perception, the exhibition will run for an additional two months after Abu Dhabi Art closes. “The exhibition addresses two questions: How do we process what we see and experience and how do we reconcile what we think with what we feel?” shares Nasar.
Kholeif has carefully handpicked galleries for the Focus: Icons section, bringing new entrants to the Middle East such as Los Angeles-based Kayne Art Gallery, Griffin Gallery and Corcoran Gallery with a light piece by the legendary American artist James Turrell. “It’s my dream to show his work in the Middle East,” he shares. “I hope that upon seeing his work, someone would want to commission him to make his first public skyspace in the UAE.” He has also roped in Monir Farmanfarmaian from The Third Line and Dubai’s Isabelle van den Eynde, whose solo booth will present Mohammed Kazem’s iconic Tongue (1994) series of photographs.
The 2018 Beyond programme will feature artists Imran Qureshi, Moataz Nasr and Ammar Al Attar creating commissions at historic sites in Al Ain. For Beyond: Emerging Artists, Ibrahim has curated works by budding artists Ahmed Saeed Al Areef Al Dhaheri, Taqwa Al Naqbi and Dhabiya Al Rumaithi. The fair will also see the unveiling of a special commission belonging to the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection, and the performance series Arts in Motion commemorating 10 years of Abu Dhabi Art.
Organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Art boasts a much wider mandate than being a commercial enterprise. “Engaging local and regional artists is key because, ultimately, they’re stakeholders in what we’re trying to create,” states Nusseibeh. With its many prolific offerings, the fair has surely cemented its position as a tour de force in the Middle Eastern art scene. Abu Dhabi Art runs from 14-17 November 2018 at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi Art runs from 14-17 November at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. Abudhabiart.ae