Visitors at Abu Dhabi Art.

ABU DHABI - Situated in the Manarat Al Saadiyat Exhibition Centre in the heart of the rapidly developing cultural quarter of Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi Art is a small fair with big ambitions. According to spokesperson Alanood Al Hammadi this year, its sixth, sees the event coming of age as “a cultural destination for visitors from all around the world, whether they are collectors, families, tourists or art intellectuals.”

Abu Dhabi Art continues to describe itself as a “boutique fair” and caps its intake at 50 galleries. But care has been taken to provide maximum variety within this rigorously selected roster. The largest of the fair’s five sections is dedicated to modern and contemporary art, where big international names like Hauser & Wirth, Lisson Gallery and Thaddaeus Ropac will rub shoulders with UAE spaces including The Third Line and Isabelle Van Den Eynde from Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s Salwa Zeidan Gallery.

Cultivating a wider market is an ongoing objective as the major buyer at the fair has consistently been the Abu Dhabi Royal Family. For Abu Dhabi Art to have a genuine raison d’être it is widely acknowledged that the collector pool needs to grow. According to Al Hammadi, it is: “We do have the support of the Royal Family, but our buyer base also consists of corporate companies, museums and more and more a younger generation of collectors,” she says.

Hassan Sharif’s Spoons No. 3, 2014.

In order to appeal to this more youthful clientele, Abu Dhabi art also makes a point of celebrating the new. There is signature, a segment devoted to emerging artists and also a special section called Bidaya (“beginning” in arabic) that spotlights one emerging gallery. This year it is New York’s Taymour Grahne, which is showcasing three Middle Eastern artists – Faycal Baghriche, Nicky Nodjoumi and Tarek Al-Ghoussein – living in Paris, Brooklyn and Abu Dhabi, respectively.

The fair also plays an increasingly important role in this Emirate’s drive to become a major artistic hub. Crucially, this year sees an emphasis on integrating the fair with the wider developments on Saadiyat Island, where Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi is slated to open next year, and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is coming in 2017. To firmly connect the cultural dots, Abu Dhabi Art’s programme of talks prominently features representatives from both museums.

Abu Dhabi Art
5–8 November