A more intimate art fair, Abu Dhabi Art increases engagement from art collectors in 2016.
Art Radar takes a look at some of the highlights from the art fair.
From 16 to 19 November 2016 Abu Dhabi Art was held at Manarat Al Saadiyat, off mainland Abu Dhabi. Now in its eighth edition, Abu Dhabi Art 2016 hosted a programme of live performances, visual art installations, talks and collaborative community initiatives alongside the art fair.
There were 40 participating galleries from 20 different countries in Europe, Asia, North America and the Middle East. A new component this year was “Gateway”, a programme that consisted of exhibitions across three locations, each with its own curator. The other segments of the fair were “Modern and Contemporary”, “Bidaya” (which means ‘beginning’ in Arabic) and “Beyond”.
Emerging and established artists
One section of “Gateway” involved a large-scale installation by Gu Dexin, curated by Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator in Asian Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Gu Dexin’s piece caused controversy due to the use of thousands of bananas, which many considered to be wasteful. This is not the first time Gu Dexin has used large quantities of food in his work in order to question consumption habits. In spite of the controversy, or perhaps because of it, the piece was deemed a success by organisers who saw the work as fulfilling its role as a participatory project that engages the public.
The other segment included a thematic group exhibition called “(Re)Birth” curated by Fabrice Bousteau, a long time collaborator with Abu Dhabi Art. Designed to showcase the talents of both emerging and established artists, the exhibition included artists Faig Ahmed (Cuadro Fine Art Gallery), Gilles Barbier (Galerie GP&N Vallois), Mona Hatoum (GALLERIA CONTINUA), Seidou Keïta (Leila Heller Gallery) and Zeinab Al Hashemi (also Cuadro Fine Art Gallery).
When talking about the mix of artists in the exhibition, Bousteau pointed out the importance of working across generations:
When I was young, I was interested in young artists but I learned quickly that every star artist was an emerging artist once, and also that some stars become forgotten and can be reborn later on. What I believe is that we need to have a dialogue of generations – art has no age, it’s a philosophy of living, and the public should also know that.
Bousteau also curated the programme “Beyond”, which involved large-scale sculptures as well as both indoor and outdoor installations, which will be on display until May 2017.
Potential for growth and development
With only 40 galleries exhibiting, Abu Dhabi Art could be considered a relatively small and intimate art fair, especially in comparison to the better-known Art Dubai. It is difficult to gain an overview of the financial success of the fair since Abu Dhabi Art doesn’t give out sales information. However, the general impression from participating galleries is that it is an art fair with increasing potential.
The smaller nature of Abu Dhabi Art enables it to maintain a tight focus on its core vision, according to first-time attendee Stéphane Custot, founder of Dubai’s Custot Gallery and co-director of London’s Waddington Custot.
Gazelli Art House, with venues in London and Baku, was exhibiting for the third time and showed work of Dubai-based artist Owais Husain as well as a seven-channel video installation by artist duo Aziz + Cucher. The gallery’s founder and director Mila Askarova commented:
At Abu Dhabi Art, there seems to be genuine interest in contemporary arts and a great combination between novice collectors and those that have been collecting for some time […]. Due to our mixed programme, it works out well in that we can offer advice to both of these groups of people and suggest works fitting their interest, both in terms of exposure and price.
Increasing number of local collectors
Although there had been criticisms in past years that there was low attendance, and buyers mainly consisted of Emirati royals, government officials and museum buyers, this year “gallerists are saying that a local collector base has finally emerged”, according to Artnet News.
The preview was well attended and Artnet News cited some early purchases. Some examples include Palestinian artist Samia Halaby with Ayyam Gallery who sold three rare works between USD50,000 and USD100,000 before the fair’s public opening, as well as Iranian Samira Hodaei with the Zurich-based AB43 gallery who sold a large canvas priced around USD22,000 to an Emirati collector. AB43 has worked with artists from the Middle East for the past 12 years and brought over numerous artists.
Leila Heller Gallery also sold work at the VIP preview, such as Lebanese artist Nabil Nahas’ work 24 Carats, which was priced at USD200,000, as well as several works by Iranian-Armenian artist Marcos Grigorian that were reserved by a local institution.
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