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Moving the Center: Art Dubai 2023 takes the limelight from the West


The entire attention of the art world is held up by Dubai this week, as the sixteenth edition of the international art fair Art Dubai launched an enthralling and diverse collection of contemporary art. The art fair opened to select audience on invite-only basis on 1st March at Madinat Jumeirah, featuring over 120 contemporary, modern and digital galleries from all over the world. Art Dubai has achieved a remarkable feat: there are a record number of local Dubai based art galleries in participation, many of whom are first time participants. Alongside this, majority of the galleries participating are drawn from the Global South, sending a clear message that contemporary art will not rest in the Western world’s monopoly.

One of the main galleries Bawwaba
Courtesy: Art Dubai

The 16th edition of Dubai, the most-extensive till date, opens to the public on 3rd March and will go on till 5th March. There are four main gallery presentations spread across four sections: Art Dubai Contemporary, Digital Art, Modern Art and Bawwaba. Aside from this, the 2023 Global Art Forum will be held on 3rd and 4th March, centered around the topic “Predicting the Present”. The future facing city of Dubai will host a discussion on what is to come with several reknoweded artists, writers, creative heads and curators, including Ahaad Alamoudi, Rami Farook, Brendan McGetrick, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Clara Peh, and Chris Fussner.

Refik Anadol’s Glacier Dreams at Art Dubai
Courtesy: The National

The fair opens with an immersive audio-visual installation from artist Refik Anadol titled “Glacier Dreams“. This fascinating installation immerses the viewer in a digital sea of images, as an AI looks for patterns among the available visuals about various types of glaciers all over the world. The AI will then generate glacierscapes that are seemingly real, but are entirely comprised of mathematical representations of the data collected. As the glaciers are melting due to global warming the artist empahsies on how this might be one of the last data sets ever generated. This installation is an investigation into aesthetics of data and an acknowledgement of the inevitable environmental damage the planet will face.

Aside from this, there are several sought-after works on display, including the works of Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Othman, Iraqi artist Afifa Aleiby, French artist Miryam Haddad, Moroccon artist Fatiha Zemmouri among others. The sectioned galleries will be curated by key artists from around the world like Clara Che Wei Peh from Singapore, Vipash Purichanont from Bangkok, and Mouna Mekouar from Paris.

The Mu’allaqat (The Seven Golden Odes) by Dia al Azzawi
Courtesy: Art Dubai
An artwork by Ibrahim El-Dessouki
Courtesy: Hafez Gallery

The clear message sent through selection of the art galleries featured here is emphasized by the art director of the fair, Pablo del Val. He comments on Air Dubai playing an active role in promoting non-Western art:

“This is reflected in both the quality and geographical distribution of the galleries participating this year. We want to highlight the growing interest and appetite for non-Western art, the strengthening of galleries beyond the traditional centers of the art world, and the role Art Dubai plays here. There are galleries and they have the opportunity to dialogue with African or Asian galleries through different perspectives. As Art Dubai, we care about this pluralism.”

Art Dubai intends to make Dubai a concrete center of the art world, and this shift will mark few changes to coming art trends. The Dubai-based art galleries, such as Aisha Alabbar Gallery and Efie Gallery, will focus on African and Middle Eastern art, while an entire art gallery Bawwaba will be dedicated to South Asian art. This art fair is emerging as one of the most important global art events of 2023 and is certain to leave a lasting mark in the art scene as it intends shift the focus to the Middle-east and Global South.

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