Art Dubai: the 17th Edition Under The Banner of The Global South

by | Mar 4, 2024 | Art Fair Coverage

For its 17th edition, the now firmly established Art Dubai fair shone a spotlight on the pulsating art scenes beyond the conventional European and North American centers, affirming its position as a pivotal platform for emerging markets and the dynamic art of the Global South.

It was with the Art Dubai Digital section that the organizers chose to open the doors of this 2024 edition, on the morning of the 28th, following an enlightening press conference. For the third consecutive year, this section entirely dedicated to digital art unfolded alongside the three other sectors. Compared to last year, where the scenography played on a dimly lit intimacy, the floor had returned to the traditional codes of the art fair. Right at the entrance, on the left, the Hofa Gallery welcomed visitors with a panel of works created collaboratively by the Chinese artist Sougwen Chung and AI. Two articulated arms equipped with brushes appeared ready to continue a canvas placed on a table in the center of the stand.

HOFA Gallery's booth with Sougwen Chung's works

HOFA Gallery’s booth with Sougwen Chung’s works at Art Dubai 2024. Photo by Pauline Loeb for artfairmag

Several solo shows within this digital section stood out, but it was the Unit London booth, presenting 6 hypnotic works by Canadian-Korean artist Krista Kim, that captured all my attention. Notably, there were 4 copies of “Mirror of the Mind”, part of an immersive series of 8-minute meditations. Krista’s intention is to create a meditative experience using digital technology, a bit like a Zen garden for the 21st century. And I have to say, it was hard to tear my gaze away from the work! Moreover, Krista was selected by Julius Baer as part of their NEXT initiative, which delves into megatrends spanning the arts, science, and technology. Titled ‘Heart Space’ مساحة القلب, this immersive installation was offering guests the chance to connect through the universal language of the human heartbeat, fostering conversations around longevity, wellness, and the transformative power of blockchain technology.

Heart Space by Krista Kim

Krista Kim. Heart Space, installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Julius Baer

The rest of the fair, which included the Art Dubai Contemporary, Art Dubai Modern, and Bawwaba sections, opened to journalists an hour late to allow the Emir to visit it in peace. The main section, Art Dubai Contemporary, featured 72 very international galleries and presented a wide range of specialties and artists, both established and emerging. The booth of Dastan Gallery, based in Tehran, Iran, was constantly busy. Indeed, it showcased a collection of high-quality works by Iranian artists, including a very moving large canvas by Morteza Pourhosseini, two bodies in motion by Shohreh Mehran, a glass and mirror suspension by Pooya Aryanpour, as well as a superb bronze head by Reza Aramesh.

Dastan Gallery at Art Dubai 2024

Dastan Gallery’s booth at Art Dubai 2024 featuring Morteza Pourhosseini, Shohreh Mehran, Pooya Aryanpour and Reza Aramesh. Photo by Pauline Loeb for artfairmag.

The Bawwaba section, meaning ‘gateway’ in Arabic, particularly charmed me. Curated by Emiliano Valdés, Chief Curator of the Museum of Modern Art, Medellin, it featured 10 solo presentations showcasing artworks created within the past year or conceived for the fair. It was hard to miss the booth of the Spanish gallery Baro Galeria, whose walls echoed the patterns and bright colors of the works of artist Eli Sudbrack, better known as Assume Vivid Astro Focus. The work of female artist Mirna Bamieh, presented by NIKA Project Space, was also quite brilliant. This kitchen countertop, complete with a sink and laden with canned goods, dishes, and dirty utensils, stood right in the middle of the space.

Nika Project Space at Art Dubai 2024

Mirna Bamieh in Nika Project Space’s booth at Art Dubai 2024. Courtesy Nika Project Space.

The Art Dubai Modern section, curated by Dr. Christianna Bonin, aimed to highlight the cultural dynamics that led to the emergence of today’s Global South. The 9 participating galleries showcased the work of artists from Central and South Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. It was the paintings of Mahmoud Sabri, an Iraqi artist who passed away in 2012 and was presented by Meem Gallery, that moved me the most, by far.

Curator’s Pick

For once, I wanted to highlight, not a particular booth, but two artists presented by galleries based in Dubai. As mentionned above, Mahmoud Sabri, presented by Meem Gallery was one of them. I was also extremely moved by the work of Safwan Dahoul, a Syrian artist based in Dubai whom I had not yet discovered. Ayyam Gallery, which has a beautiful space on Alserkal Avenue, was presenting 4 black and white canvases, each depicting a woman. My favorite showed her with closed eyes, curled up on a table, in a fetal position. Dahoul is a tormented artist who uses painting as a therapeutic outlet. This woman, found in many of his paintings, is meant to represent his inner self.

Mahmoud Sabri in Meem Gallery’s booth at Art Dubai 2024

Art Dealers Interviews

Very few dealers have presented me with digital works since the first “1 minute in the booth” videos in October 2022. Given the quality of the Art Dubai Digital section, I therefore dedicated three to it. Joe Kenney, co-founder of Unit London gallery, talked to me about one of Krista Kim’s works, which I mentioned earlier. Riccardo Perillo introduced me to the work of the artist he represents, Matteo Mandelli, notably the canvases of Fontana, from which he then takes the gesture of the slit but incises the screen itself. As for Maya Samawi, partner at Ayyam Gallery, her choice fell on a work of striking blue, by the Palestinian artist Rula Halawani. To return to painting, Cilène Andrehn, co-founder of the Schipjenko gallery, showed a beautiful and large canvas almost abstract in warm colors by Cornelia Baltes.

I must say I was surprised by the quality offered at Art Dubai. Longevity is often a mark of quality but isn’t necessarily a guarantee of a successful fair. Art Dubai really stands out among international art fairs. The booths were beautiful, the artworks varied, there were many collectors, and the sales were good. I will definitely return!

Sum it up, I'm in a rush!

  • When? | March 1-3, 2024
  • Where? | Dubai, UAE
  • Atmosphere | Sleek and striking
  • Curator’s booth pick | Meem Gallery
  • Featured Gallery Gem | Ayyam Gallery
  • Spotlighted Artists | Mahmoud Sabri & Safwan Dahoul
  • For Whom? | Seasoned collectors

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