DUBAI – The last dinner has been served, the galleries have packed up and the post-art-week blues have started. Art Dubai, now in its 10th year, has sold its final art pieces.


THE WEDDING PROJECT COURTESY OF DELFINA FOUNDATION AND ART DUBAI.

Dubai has come a long way when it comes to showcasing art and nurturing local artists. Dubai is not only using art as a means to create dialogue and craft understanding, but also to encourage interest in the arts across genres, mediums and geographical locations. 

Strolling the gallery halls over the four-day event, the overall spirit of the fair felt different, highlighted by the clean spatial design. There had been an element of innovative thinking, but also a sigh of relief and an attitude of stability. The variety of mediums on display, the curatorial projects present and the galleries and artists exhibiting allude to the fact that Art Dubai is here. It is now. And it is strong. 

A noticeable factor this year was the different types of mediums in use – the fair created a multisensory experience. From futuristic thought-provoking topics discussed in the Global Art Forum; the Safina Radio Project that broadcast conversations and performances during the fair; a cinema showcasing artist films; and the second edition of 89Plus, a multi-platform research project co-founded by Simon Castets and Hans Ulrich Obrist with the aim of investigating innovators born after 1989.

The heightened number of performance art pieces elevated the overall visitor experience, and for once, the notion of performance art in a semi-permanent manner was executed to the fullest. Dubai is often frequented with art, but everything is event-based, and the concept of producing and installing semi-permanent art, whether that be performance, film, or research, that spreads beyond the borders of the event hasn’t been fully explored. This year, Art Dubai realised that although they have reached a certain milestone, it is also just the beginning of the growth that is to come.

It’s not uncommon to see visitors gather at art fairs, dressed as though they are attending a wedding, but on this particular anniversary some guests were, in fact, attending the Wedding Project dinner, an eleven-course meal hosted by the Delfina Foundation – a London-based arts non-profit.

A project that has expanded beyond the boundaries of Art Dubai, the Delfina Foundation’s ‘Politics of Food’ programme has brought together leading artists, celebrity chefs and scientists over the last two years in order to explore food as a medium to start a conversation about complex histories and question current issues. 



THE WEDDING PROJECT COURTESY OF DELFINA FOUNDATION AND ART DUBAI.

For Art Dubai Projects, several elements of Delfina’s dinner performances with site-specific commissions and interventions by former resident artists Sunoj D, Larissa Sansour, Candice Lin, Nile Sunset Annex, the Centre for Genomic Gastronomy, Hind Mezaina, Manal Al Dowayan, Taus Makhacheva and others, were orchestrated under one roof.

The menu explored the concept of food, recipes and cookbooks as markers of cultural memory that can be just as easily erased as conserved. Throughout the stages – take Desire for instance – guests placed napkins over their heads to veil what they were about to eat, and to avoid shame. The dish was a vegan version of the world’s cruellest meat dish – Ortolan – conceptualised by the Centre for Genomic Gastronomy. Another stage – Grief – a performative sculpture by Matheus Rocha Pitta was served – a bread loaf filled with the desert of Dubai, also known as sand. The final stage – Disorder – saw Taus Makhacheva’s take on the traditional wedding cake. In keeping with the theme of disorder, the cake was wooden, yet the plate, napkin and cutlery were all edible.

Overall, from the eleven course meal, seven dishes were conceptualised by artists for the 10th Art Dubai.


THE WEDDING PROJECT COURTESY OF DELFINA FOUNDATION AND ART DUBAI.

The multisensory experience rubbed shoulders with the Frieze Masters-like Modern section of the fair with 21 participating artists.

Standout work by Ali Akbar Sadeghi was shown for the first time outside of his native Tehran. Spanning more than 60 years, the works ranged from animation to ink and included a piece from his popular Vitray series – beautiful coloured lines that produce an effect similar to stained glass.



 ALI AKBAR SADEGHI, BOASTING II, 1973.

Considered one of the most prolific and fruitful Iranian painters and artists, Sadeghi exhibited a collection of six animations for the first time. The award-winning pieces, which were all restored, tell the stories of the mythical meaning most commonly linked to the Book of Kings.

The conversion from film to digital animations gave a glimpse into Sadeghi’s personality – mysterious, funny, and immensely creative.



ALI AKBAR SADEGHI, FLOWER STORM II, 1972. 

Other highlights of the 2016 edition were first time galleries from countries including Georgia, Ghana, Lithuania, Oman, Palestine, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Also noted was the overall number of female artists – 45 per cent – higher than the majority of other international art fairs.

The closing remarks for Art Dubai highlighted openness and diversity – a necessity for creativity.

Fair director Antonia Carver said: “We’re proud of the role Art Dubai has played and is playing as a catalyst and driver in this fast-growing regional art scene – one that just seems to grow in such dynamic ways, year-on-year. Dubai sits as a hub in a vast and nuanced part of the globe, stretching across Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia – these regions are characterised not only by great artists and dedicated galleries and institutions but also by their potential.”