The buzz at the opening of Abu Dhabi Art. © Abu Dhabi Art.


ABU DHABI - Like all other Fairs, the pulse at Abu Dhabi Art quickened on its public opening day. Bustling as it did with panels, presentation and talks, I was seized by the headless chicken syndrome, running from one event to the other.

Our day kick-started with an early Sothebys Collector’s Lunch, graciously and generously hosted by His Highness Sheikh Nahayan bin Mabarak Al Nahayan at his Majlis. The traditional local hospitality - a lavish banquet of camel meat and rice, delicacies, mezzes and other delights, were heaped in ample servings on our plates. The honour of such a reception was not lost on our 70 guests, which included major international collectors, artists, museum and cultural personalities. Too sated for clear thinking, we headed straight to the VIP Lounge at the Manaraat Al Saadiyat for the 3 pm opening of the Art Fair.



One of the many talks and debates taking place at Abu Dhabi Art – featuring three Pritzker Prize-winning architects.


I chose the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi: Talking Art Series, where H E Dr Zaki Nusseibeh, Advisor to the UAE Ministry for Presidential Affairs, Frank Gehry and Richard Armstrong spoke about the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project and how, in interesting ways, it had impacted and transformed the Guggenheim itself. Later, a panel featuring three Pritzker Prize-winning architects ('Architecture - Visionaries'): Lord Foster (who designed the pavilion in which the fair is being held), Jean Nouvel, and Frank Gehry, and chaired by H. E. Saeed Al Hajeri, attracted a crowd so overwhelming that queues resembled the launch of a new Apple product! The discussion revolved around creative processes behind designs, and the relationship between tradition and modernity in the Middle East. I was struck by the extreme change in audience attendance; at the first ADA, some of the sessions were poorly attended. Now there is standing room only!

On a day where the 42 galleries saw 4,000 visitors, sales seemed healthy and even the absence of stalwarts White Cube and Pace didn't put a dent into the enthusiasm. NY-based Heller had braved Sandy to make her timely appearance, and Anish Kapoor's presence, as ever, proved a crowd-puller.

On the following day I made a presentation for members of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival regarding Mentoring in the Arts. Her Excellency Mrs Huda Kanoo, an extraordinary and passionate supporter of the arts, had invited me to share some views on this topic, as Abu Dhabi grows both its talent and workforce in the arts. I was thrilled to see a tie-in with the Christo and Jeanne Claude Award - a new initiative (in the spirit of its namesakes) to launch publicly exhibited artwork by UAE burgeoning artists.

With art events having started at the beginning of November in Qatar, peaking on November 6 at Abu Dhabi Fair, it is now time to head to Dubai on November 10 for a final hurrah at Al Serkal Avenue/Al Quoz, where a whole day of art, design, music and film will educate and entertain!

Beach? What beach? Art is the buzzword for tourists in the Gulf.