Art Dubai’s aim of giving back to region realised? Media round-up


In an interview with ARTINFO published just before Art Dubai 2011 began, new director Antonia Carver stated the importance of giving back to a region lacking in “analysts and experts…, particularly with modern Arab art.” To what extent has her vision been realised?

Inside Art Dubai. Image courtesy Art Dubai.

Inside Art Dubai. Image courtesy Art Dubai.

Click here to read the ARTINFO interview with Art Dubai director Antonia Carver.

Art Dubai entered its fifth year in 2011 with 81 galleries from 31 countries present, with 80 percent reapplying from last year. Attendance figures reached a record high with over 20,000 guests welcomed at Madinat Jumeriah, a 30 percent increase from 2010. “Artworks were priced from $5,000 to $1 million,” reports Bloomberg in an article titled, “Billionaires Splash Out on Middle-East Art as Dubai Fair Grows”.

Read on for a selection of quotes pulled from a variety of media reports on Art Dubai 2011…

Perceptions of the fair

The public

This place has a great vibe and is truly inspirational. I am amazed at the artistic appeal here. There is so much innovation and creativity in these art forms. The paintings here are really incredible.

-Sayeda Toufiq, a visitor (as quoted on

We are actually impressed by the showcased arts and the innovative creations by artists from different cultures,… not to mention our first impressions of the spacious area of the exhibition and its decorative style, which is really fabulous.

-Ala’a Ali Reda and Faye Behbehani, visitors (as quoted on

Great energy, a lot of new galleries were showing their stuff. I realised, however, [that] there were quite a few pieces we’ve seen many times over the years. Don’t worry if you missed it!

blogger and art director Anna Maria Aoun

Sheikh Mohammed bin Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan at Art Dubai 2011.  Image from

Sheikh Mohammed bin Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan at Art Dubai 2011. Image from


The New York and Beijing collector Richard Chang had come with a group from MoMA – one of 60 museum visitor groups. ‘This is my first visit and I’m adoring it. I really didn’t know the art of the region well,’ he said, shortly after scooping up two works by Tala Madani at the booth of London-based Pilar Corrias, herself showing for the first time at the fair.

… Art Dubai is the foundation of the future of art in Dubai and I believe that it’s working really well, considering that art in Dubai is still in its infancy and needs more hard work to be at par with international levels. But I see it’s moving forward steadily and the expected outcome seems very promising.

-Anna-Maria Bersani, Italian art collector (as quoted on

Leila Pazooki, 'Orientalism', 2010, blue neon tubes, 60 x 140 cm, edition 1 of 4. Image from

Leila Pazooki, 'Orientalism', 2010, blue neon tubes, 60 x 140 cm, edition 1 of 4. Image from

Artists and galleries

Art Dubai is … evolving remarkably and we’ve seen more international galleries take part. And what I admire most about Art Dubai is the concept of bringing the entire world under its cultural umbrella, and that enabled me to build relationships with others.

James Clar, American artist at Dubai-based Traffic Gallery (as quoted on

‘[Art Dubai] has had a big turnaround,’ says Asmaa al Shabibi, a co-founder of the Lawrie Shabibi gallery and a former managing director of Art Dubai, ‘and I think Antonia is the right person to have [been] brought in to do that. Two years ago, there were very few speakers from the Middle East. I think now it’s much more about regional speakers and those who have real in-depth expertise on the region speaking to international audiences who have flown here to listen to them. So it’s almost the reverse. If we want to learn about the Russian art market we’ll go to Russia. If we want to hear Anish Kapoor speak we’ll probably hear him in London or [at] Basel.’

Nadim Karam, 'Father Elephant', 2009. Image from

Nadim Karam, 'Father Elephant', 2009. Image from

West Asian art market

Market strength

We’re one of the few fairs that survived the global downturn in the last couple of years, and we’ve come out stronger for that…. Though marketed using the international benchmark, art shown in the UAE is generally more affordable – with larger pieces usually in the USD20,000 range – than counterparts in Europe and America.

-Savita Apte, fair director and the chairwoman of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize (as quoted on

The prices are very fair indeed. In Australia, we have a very strong market for art and prices are really high.

Anita Archer, Australian art consultant (as quoted on

By comparison, the present incarnation of Art Dubai strikes me as regional in the best sense of the word, in that it feels like it is part of an actual regional axis of interest. If in 2007 the fair was about chasing wealth, this year it certainly felt like there were much more adventurous things going on…. A real local collector base from Dubai and the Middle East is trying to plug into the sense of pride in homegrown accomplishment.


Isabelle Cornaro, 'Homonymes 3 (detail)', 2010, grey hard plaster, 120 x 60 x 36 cm. © François Doury. Image from

Isabelle Cornaro, 'Homonymes 3 (detail)', 2010, grey hard plaster, 120 x 60 x 36 cm. © François Doury. Image from

Gallery sales

ARTINFO has published an in-depth run-down of sales at Art Dubai 2011. Click here to read the article.

Galleries participating in Art Dubai 2011 reported solid interest in a number of works with Nja Mahdaoui‘s drums from the Tunisian Galerie El-Marsa going to a private collector from Saudi Arabia as well as local gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde selling works from Iranian brothers Romni and Rokni Haerizadeh.

The majority [of galleries in attendance] experienced strong sales from the outset with major purchases from international and regional institutions in addition to established and first-time collectors from the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the United States.

Galleries sold well all around, succeeding particularly with pieces priced in the tens of thousands (for those who are not regular art shoppers, that makes Art Dubai “mid-range”). A few exceptional works by established names — like Susun Hefuna‘s “Ana (Myself)” at Rose Issa Projects, or a film by Shazia Sikander at London gallery Pilar Corrias — also sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.


I had a great experience here at Art Dubai and really met a lot of people who are very interested in our work…. And equally important – the fair was satisfying as a human experience; great people, great parties and a great spirit.

-Sappho Ma, Gallery Director of Hong Kong based Connoisseur Contemporary (as quoted on

Diana Al-Hadid, 'Edge of Critical Density', 2009, fiberglass, polymer, gypsum, steel, wood, paint, 228.6 x 200.7 x 230.5 cm. Image from

Diana Al-Hadid, 'Edge of Critical Density', 2009, fiberglass, polymer, gypsum, steel, wood, paint, 228.6 x 200.7 x 230.5 cm. Image from

Not just a commercial venture

Art Dubai was viewed as the “key event to engage world’s leading art collectors, professionals and students.” Complementing the fair was this year’s extensive programme of events.

Art Dubai is a fantastic educational platform for students. They get to see art and have the opportunity to intern here as well. Some of our students are exhibiting this year such as Tashkeel, [founded by] Shaikha Latifa who is a … graduate of Zayed University and we also have Emirati artist, Maitha Bin Demaithan. This makes us very proud.

-Karen Oremus, Associate Professor, Department of Art and Design, Zayed University (as quoted on

This year, Art Dubai has organised its activities more precisely than the previous edition. For example, the venues of the Global Art Forum are now close to the main interaction of the galleries. And I appreciate the informative talks at the different sessions of the forums. I really enjoyed it.

-Ubik, Indian artist at Dubai-based Traffic Gallery (as quoted on


Related Topics: art fairs, art collectors, Dubai art venues, West Asian artists

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