Art Dubai is for more than Dubai’s creative connoisseurs and savviest art dealers. While there will be plenty of buying and selling, with the works of 500 artists representing 70 nationalities on show, this is a cultural adventure anyone can delve into. Here’s your guide…

How to make your way around

It’s an artistic jungle out there. Here’s how to navigate the galleries like an expert.


Etel-Adnan,Untitled,2015,Courtesy-of-Galerie-LelongUntitled by Etel-Adnan, 2015, courtesy-of-Galerie-Lelong

The biggest and most exciting part of the exhibition is the contemporary halls. Here you’ll find art produced after 1980, and mostly very recent work. The galleries in the two largest halls will choose bright and bold art to grab your attention and if you look carefully you might notice links between them all because there are trends for each season, rather like fashion.


Muhanna-Durra,Untitled,1981,70-x-90-cm,Courtesy-of-Wadi-Finan-Art-GalleryUntitled by Muhanna-Durra, 1981, 70-x-90-cm, courtesy-of-Wadi-Finan-Art-Gallery

A fairly new edition to the fair’s programme, Art Dubai Modern is a smaller collection of about 15 galleries showing art from the mid-20th century. It’s fascinating to learn about these masters of their practice – a walk through this section is like a thorough lesson in the history of regional art.

*READ MORE: 11 cool galleries, stores and cafes opening at Alserkal Avenue’s new extension*


The non-profit part of the fair is often the most fun. Where commercial activity takes place in booths inside the halls, the non-profit art can be found all over the public areas – from stairwells to the café. Art Dubai commissions several artists to make pieces to be installed at the fair and also gives six artists the chance to work on their art over the three months leading up the event from studios in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.


marker-Trap by Roberto Chabet, 2010, Courtesy of Ringo Bunoan

Every year, the art fair chooses a geographical area to dedicate a portion of the event to. This year it’s the Philippines and the curator, Ringo Bunoan, has chosen five cultural centres from across the large country and will showcase artists from their regions. With so many Filipinos living in the UAE, this is an exciting chance to learn more about their culture and art.

For the kids


Art Dubai is also the ideal family day. With world-class art for mums and dads, the kids can also be entertained with the Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program. This is designed for children and teenagers aged five to 17, aimed at encouraging young people to get involved in the arts. London-based artist Polly Brannan leads the 2016 program; her practice focuses on human interaction within transient spaces.

The Global Art Forum

global art forum art dubai

This is the thinking person’s part of the Art Dubai. The Global Art Forum is a fair-long programme of talks and panel discussions that tackle many subjects surrounding one theme. This year, the title is ‘The Future Was’, exploring the ways in which artists, writers, historians, musicians and thinkers have imagined – and are shaping – the future.

The Abraaj Prize


Through an annual exhibition The Abraaj Group Art Prize allows one winning artist to develop their practice by realising a unique project. This year the prize went to artist duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (pictured), who will show their work at the fair.

Tips to get the best out of Art Dubai

01. Wear flats

Sprawling across the conference halls of the Madinat, you’ll need to do a lot of walking to truly enjoy everything on offer.

02. Participate

Look out for the many interactive parts to the fair and, for the most enjoyment, get stuck in.

03. Drink water

The weather is still fair, but a day’s art viewing and walking around is thirsty work so make sure to keep hydrated and refuel and the fair’s onsite café.


04. Don’t be shy

Gallerists are more than happy to answer questions, trivial or otherwise. Don’t feel put off by hefty price tags or fear of sounding ignorant – art fairs are for learning about artists.

05. Take pictures

There’s always a lot to take in so if you’re feeling overwhelmed pull out your phone and take a snap of the art and the label. That way you can look up the artist online later.

Meet the director

art dubai 2016 antonia carver

We talk to fair director Antonia Carver about what to look out for.

How does it feel to have Art Dubai reach its ten-year anniversary? We’re feeling celebratory, but mainly pouring this spirit into the fair itself and, of course, we’re already thinking about the 11th and 12th editions. It’s a milestone, though, for us and for Dubai in general. Back in 2006 or 2007, the arts scene here was wholly different and the international art world had yet to recognise Dubai’s extraordinary potential.

Are there any notable new galleries this year? Oh yes. All year our team scopes out galleries from Mali to Pakistan and Georgia to Jordan – this is one of the things that makes the fair unique. With galleries from 40 countires, we’re the world’s most global fair.

*IN PICS: 10 eye-popping artworks from Dubai Canvas Festival*

Newbies this year include Moscow’s Artwin with a group show of young Russian artists, major London gallery Blain/Southern, Sri Lankan gallery Saskia Fernando and Amsterdam’s Upstream with a hightech booth of artists working in new media.

Another highlight is a project with the Atassi Foundation, which works with Syrian artists and is developing a film, art and archive space to showcase their history.

If there is one thing a first time visitor should do, what would it be? Invest in an original work of art. It’s a myth that the art at the fair is only for the collectors. Many of the galleries have works priced at around US$500 to US$1000. This isn’t pocket change, but we have many Dubaians who save and buy one work each year, so they’re building up a great collection of original one-off works.

Meet the artist

jumairy artistA still from ٧ (7), 2015, Music/Video, courtesy of the artist Jumairy

Emirati artist and musician Jumairy is a self-described experimentalist and also one of six artists taking part in Art Dubai’s three-month residency programme

What do you mean when you call yourself an experimentalist? When it comes to my practice I enjoy playing with all the crayons in the box. I don’t like limiting myself to one medium, but the thing that connects all of these things together is my point of view.

Are you generally more interested in aesthetic or concept? Concept first, aesthetic second…

You exhibit your work on social media, how does it impact your art? I’m a child of the internet, I learnt everything I know today online so it’s only natural for me to gravitate towards social media and online experimentations.

jumairy-3A still from Aconite, 2014, Music/Video, courtesy of the artist Jumairy

Can you tell us about the project you’re working on for Art Dubai? My project is inspired by two things: my studies in psychology and my grandmother. She’s been through a lot in the past few years, so in a way this project is my quest to find a solution to these issues and the pain they’ve resulted in my family.

Has this residency pushed you past your usual limits? Definitely, I think if anything it’s given me the platform to experiment with certain ideas that I was afraid to express before

Meet the curator


Ringo Bunoan, curator of the fair’s Marker section, talks choices, themes and representing the Philippines

Is there a theme that links all the artists you chose? They mostly use unconventional materials and have unusual subject matters. I try to steer away from the typical representations of Philippine art, which is mostly figurative painting, and instead show the diversity of practices by young Filipino artists today.

Did you have the UAE’s Filipino residents in mind when you were selecting? Yes, I’m very happy actually that Art Dubai selected the Philippines as the focus of this year’s Marker exhibition, given that there are so many Filipinos living and working in the Middle East. We’ve included artist Mark Barretto, who’s now based in Dubai. I hope that his participation will open new opportunities for exchange between Filipino artists in Manila and Dubai.

What would you advise an art collector looking to add some Filipino art to their collection? An artwork is like a window to another culture. It’s always good to know the context of the work, the story behind it, and what it represents.

March 16 to 19

Madinat Jumeirah, Al Sufouh Road, Umm Suqeim, Dubai, Wed (ladies preview) 1pm to 4pm, Thur 4pm to 9.30pm, Fri 2pm to 9.30pm, Sat noon until 6.30pm, from Dhs50. Tel: (04) 5631400. Taxi: Souk Madinat.

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Artworks in main image: A World Within a World Within a World, 2014 by Basim Magdy, courtesy of the artist and Gypsum G. Two Less One Colored, 2014 by Michelangelo Pistoletto, courtesy of GALLERIA CONTINUA.