From March 21 to 23 Art Dubai returns to Madinat Theatre. Here’s why this exhibition is one of the best in the region…

Now in its 13th year, Art Dubai is the region’s premier art fair that puts Dubai on the world’s art map, and it returns to the city from March 21 to 23.

With more than 90 galleries representing 40 different countries, this year’s edition promises to be a belter. Here’s a look at the different zones within Madinat Jumeirah to help you navigate the event a little bit easier…

The Contemporary zone

(Credit: Joel Mpah Dooh_sans titre_2018_sheet metal engraving_100x200_courtesy the fragility of the human condition)

The largest section showing work mostly produced in the past 10 years. Presentations will be from across the Global South: an art-world term that means the Middle East, North Africa, Africa, Latin America and South Asia. Whilst that is a wide remit, the booths have been arranged to help you notice links between them all. The fair’s revamped structure offers visitors greater access to art from these non-Western geographies.

The Modern zone

(Credit: Georges Albert CYR_Les Bateaux_1952_oil on canvas_60x50cm_courtesy ELMARSA)

A much smaller selection of galleries showing art from the mid-20th century, so it’s a bit like a history lesson in regional art. This year, organisers have moved the Modern section from its former home in the Mina A’Salam hotel into the main halls alongside the contemporary galleries. This is great for contextualising both sections.

The Residents zone

(Credit: Flora Rebollo_Untitled_2017_graphite,marker,colored pencil,pastel,spray and oil bar on paper_280x400 cm_PILAR)

This is only the second edition of residents, and this year there is a special focus on Latin America. Curated by Brazilian Fernanda Brenner and Emirati Munira Al Sayegh, 12 of the leading galleries in Latin America have sent an artist to live and work in the UAE for a six- to eight-week residency to produce new work inspired by the country. It’s an excellent way to merge creative minds.

The Bawwaba zone

This is a new section and consists of 10 single artist presentations situated in a marked off section of the fair. Curated by French-Cameroonian curator Élise Antagana, the work has all been created within the last year and in some cases, especially for the fair.

For the intellectuals

1. Modern Symposium: A series of talks and presentations focused on the life, work and cultural impact of artistic masters from the 20th century. Renowned curators, scholars and patrons will lead the sessions that delve into the styles, influences and practices of artists whose work contributes to the history of art across the region.

2. Global Art Forum: This is a forum for debate, questioning and conversation around a particular – though often wide-ranging – topic. This year, that title is School is a Factory? and picks up themes of automation, accelerated mechanisation, experimental education as well as social class systems. GAF is often labelled as the “think tank” of Art Dubai.

For the children

Bubble Sculptures with Sally Curcio

(Sally Curcio, Bottle Caps Full Spectrum (Detail 2), Bottle caps on painted panel, 6×10 ft, 1.8×3 m, 2007)

As part of the annual Sheikha Manal Little Artists programme, American installation artist Sally Curcio will be taking children through interactive workshops to make cities from shiny glass beads, and other fragile materials, which are not only sparkly and fun to work with but also help to teach kids about the need to protect our fragile planet.

5 must-see highlights at Art Dubai this year

1. The Ithra Art Prize: This is a $100,000 prize offered to artists who live and work in Saudi Arabia and it is now in its second year. The digital work of Daniah Al Saleh, the winner
of the 2019 edition, will be unveiled at the fair.

2. Performances: Ranging from Marlon Griffith’s take on a Trinidadian carnival in collaboration with Dubai’s Filipino community to artist Samson Young’s unique sonic experience taken from everyday sounds.

3. Julius Baer Lounge: As sponsors of the fair, the Julius Baer Lounge is the place to go to hear talks on issues pertinent to the rest of the event, such as art patronage as well as notions of migration.

4. Campus Art Dubai (CAD) exhibition: CAD is a six-month seminar and residency programme for UAE-based artists to develop their work under the mentorship of tutors and to exhibit it during Art Dubai.

5. Opavivara! Don’t miss the installation of giant deck chairs and colourful beach-style umbrellas by Brazilian art collective Opavivara. The commission will be in the communal F&B area on Fort Island at the centre of the fair, and is the perfect place to catch some downtime.

Day tickets cost Dhs60 (online) and Dhs90 (on the door). Alternatively, you can pick up three-day tickets for Dhs100 (online) and Dhs150 (on the door).

Madinat Jumeirah and Mina A’Salam conference halls, 2pm to 9.30pm Thursday March 21, noon to 9.30pm Friday March 22, noon to 6.30pm Saturday March 23. Tel: (04) 5631400.

— For the best of Dubai straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.

Images: provided