Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Art Dubai

Art Dubai held at Madinat Jumeirah is only in its second year but has almost doubled in size. How very Dubai of it! I think it should really be held at Trade Centre because it does have the feel of a trade conference but I guess they can’t force art dealers and collectors to chow down at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf minus al kahool!

There are around 70 galleries taking part from everywhere but the most memorable were the Korean Pyo gallery which had some wacky and surreal paintings of people in urban interiors that said a lot about the psychological effects of rapid change and the modern weirdnesses of interpersonal communication. I just wish I’d taken photos. Brazil’s Bolsa de Arte gallery had a strange collection of subverted Sotheby's magazine covers, carpet aeroplanes and an image that changed as you walked past it. On the art meets science front. the big photos of particle accelerators in the Swiss CERN laboratory by Simon Norfolk were pretty amazing.

Art Dubai has had a phenomenal impact. Last year spawned its fringe - the Creek Art Fair - arts education charity (START) and a UAE arts discussion forum (The Thinking Cloud). This year DIFC launched a whole new ‘Season of Arts’ to coincide with Art Dubai and has a packed schedule of stuff including an installation of giant ants by American Susan P. Cochran. This is a perfect fit for the Dubai vision thing. It’s about civic duty and the whole committed colony co-operating on a large-scale property development.
As we all know reference to any negatives in this happy PR model are rare so I was delighted to see Desperately Seeking Paradise, at the new Pakistan Pavilion at Art Dubai. Huma Mulji’s suitcase installation addresses the dreams of Dubai’s labourers. The suitcase of golden shoes and bread suggests the riches they seek but which they ultimately build for others while the suitcase of showers has a speaker in each shower head, one narrating dreams of employment in Dubai and the other narrating the drawbacks. Seeing this work here gave me hope that there is potential for at least some art to perform the other civic duty of exploring awkward questions.

The Global Art Forums are another element of Art Dubai and the first two days of these looked at Art Patronage in the Business Age. Topics included ‘Building a Corporate Collection’, ‘Working with Corporations’ and ‘Private Passion and Cultural Philanthropy’. The latter strikes me as a bit like carbon offsetting. Pay a little extra to save the planet and feel good about yourself or in this case make a tax free donation to ‘the arts’, feel good about yourself and get your name on the wall of a new institution.

Another project that received a lot of attention was the Credit Suisse ‘Art and Entrepreneurship’ exhibition. This was unveiled to great fanfare at Art Dubai and will go on tour to the ‘art capitals’ of the world shortly. This project involved 20 artists, one of whom wisely wishes to remain anonymous, who were asked to create work based on a Credit Suisse client survey. Sorry??

The focus was apparently the five core values of entrepreneurship. From the artists’ point of view, I assume the first of these was making friends with Credit Suisse and their work encapsulated the ultimate core value of money for old rope. Duvet on a stick anyone? I have problems with calling this art. Isn’t it just product commissioning for an innovative corporate PR campaign?

I did escape the commerce briefly and get some time in a quiet room with some video and hanging plastic people thanks to the Bidoun lounge. This was in the underground Art Park, (formally Car Park) which was a bit like an arcade only with lots of screens showing some excellent video shorts. No price tags or sales negotiation to be seen, only funky cardboard chairs designed by Traffic, free cola and your own personal headphones for you own personal screen. How civilised!

It was only on for a few days so blink and you'd have missed it. The Creek Art Fair is still on however and will be in Bastakia til March 31st. On that night there is a closing concert by Reza Derakshani. Unmissable I'd say!


  1. "Worker ants in the PR colony", wow, no wonder you were recently cited in Gulf News' Tabloid! section as a "Star Blog", not with that quote though of course. I thoroughly enjoyed your dissection of the installations at Art Dubai, and understand your preference for the Creek Art Fair. Derakshan was a sublime end to the latter, at least until the free flowing nature of the Bastakia allowed the culturally backward to destroy the ambiance with their chat and mobile phone obsession. Death to the Low Brows

  2. Excellent pictures, great choices when to shoot.

  3. Wow so nice post, i like it,Check it to know about latest Art Events in Dubai.