The Collectible - American artist Peter Halley’s paintings of cells, prisons and conduits are rendered in fluorescent hues

The Collectible - American artist Peter Halley’s paintings of cells, prisons and conduits are rendered in fluorescent hues

How To Make The Most Out Of Art Dubai

By Shalaka Paradkar
18 March 2019
From Sikka Art Fair To Jameel Arts Centre And Alserkal Avenue, Everything You Need To Know About Art Dubai

Every spring, for the past 12 years, the dune-coloured faux-medieval citadels of Madinat Jumeirah have come alive with art from the world over. Art Dubai rolls into town from March 20 to 23 this year, bringing with it a dizzying assortment of exhibitions, talks, performances, and after-dark music events curated by NTS Radio.

The fair is a part of Art Week, a cultural smorgasbord spread across the city. There’s Sikka Art Fair, in the heart of the Al Fahidi heritage precinct. There are events and openings in the gentrified gallery district of Alserkal Avenue and at the spanking new Jameel Arts Centre in Al Jaddaf, Dubai’s dhow-making dockyard.  

But Art Dubai continues to loom large. This year, it will showcase over 500 artists from 90 galleries and 40 countries, spanning four gallery sections: Contemporary, Modern, Residents and Bawwaba. The global south is stealing the spotlight this time around, with Africa, Latin America and Asia, so often omitted from mainstream art dialogue, at the heart of this all-compassing event.

Maryam Hoseini; The Persian artist explores the concept of ruins through abstract human subjects

The fair’s commercial element is balanced out by a vibrant and extensive not-for-profit programme, one of the largest of any international art fair. It includes commissioned projects and performances, artists’ residencies, radio and film, and the Global Art Forum.

Culturists have plenty to look forward to, says Pablo del Val, the artistic director of Art Dubai. Del Val is particularly giddy about UAE Now, a first-time initiative that belies the notion of the UAE just being about cultural consumption. Curated by Munira Al Sayegh, the grassroots platform will highlight the spectrum of the country’s art scene and champion local creatives.

“The success of Art Dubai works in two ways,” explains del Val. “One, you have the galleries having successful sales and collectors responding positively. Second, all the performances, talks and presentations, the not-for-profit component, balances the commercial part of the business. There’s also a direct dialogue between the projects that are for sale and those that are not.”

Finally, Latin America takes centre stage for the second edition of Art Dubai Residents, co-curated by Fernanda Brenner and Munira Al Sayegh. The four to eight-week residency programme had 12 artists from the continent’s leading galleries immerse themselves in the UAE art scene and create site-specific works that speak of their artistic practice and their temporary home.

How to Collect Artfully

Breaking news: there is no perfect way to start an art collection. Luckily, Chloe Vaitsou, international director of Art Dubai, can point you in the right direction  

1. Choose with Head and Heart

Collecting art is a personal experience, defined by taste and knowledge building. While having a work ‘speak to you’ is important, educate yourself on what it’s about. See as many exhibitions as possible, read and learn about specific artists, periods and styles, tune into the meaning as much as the looks. Talk to the experts, keep an open mind, and take risks.

The art in your home should be about your philosophy of life, rather than a signature style. It can be a conversation starter as much as a trigger for reflection. It offers experience, originality and elevates your life.

2. Make the Most of Art Dubai 

Both seasoned and novice collectors will find something at the fair, from emerging artists to institutional heavyweights, across different price points. This year, Art Dubai has launched a digital catalogue in advance, featuring the works each gallery will bring. Use it to hone-in on interesting pieces before the fair. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the artists and their works, either.

3. Find the Deal

Stay clear of buying art that ‘works with your couch’. Set a budget in advance and then decide how best to allocate it. For a young collector, price points can sometimes be intimidating – so focus on works on paper and then graduate to paintings. Professional art advisors or designers who buy art on behalf of their clients can also help you navigate the landscape.

4. Display It Well

Practical considerations such as light, heat and humidity aside, I would give a work enough space to breathe. Some of the most interesting art experiences come with cross-collecting art displays. For instance, displaying antiquities alongside some contemporary art.

Three Artists To Watch

The Thought leader
A trained architect, Argentine-German artist Tomás Saraceno, makes his Art Dubai debut. Expect brilliantly architectural, lighter-than-air works.

The Old Master
SH Raza is famous for his contemplative works on the bindu (a cosmic black circle). He explores Indian spiritualism through geometry and bold colour.

The Young Turk
Acclaimed and emerging artist Ramazan Can uses concrete and carpets to comment on cultures falling prey to the onslaught of modernity.