Thousands of visitors of all ages return to Abu Dhabi Art year after year in anticipation of encountering wow-factor installations and some of the strongest artists and galleries the global art market has to offer. The fair's seventh edition, running from November 18 to 21 at Manarat Al Saadiyat, is organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and promises not to disappoint, bringing together 40 participating galleries from the Middle East, Asia, North America and Europe, along with a robust public programme. TCA programme manager Michelle Farrell elaborated, saying: "Each gallery brings a selection of modern or contemporary artworks to display at their booths, from outstanding new works by emerging artists to iconic pieces from modern masters.”
Curated by Fabrice Bousteau, the fair's "Bliss” programme presents live choreography, interactive film screenings, performances, and sound art installations, all rooted in Abu Dhabi's distinct cultural topography. Bousteau says that the aim this year is to thoroughly engage the community: "I wished to go beyond the conventions of a traditional art fair and propose to the visitors, the collectors, as well as the general public, an immersive experience to be lived and not just to be viewed from a ¬distance.”
The "Beyond” initiative will feature large-scale installations that surpass the confines of the exhibitor's hall, including Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri'sShukran, a sarcastic sculpture of candy-coloured kitchen knives, in conjunction with Dubai gallery The Third Line, and a conversation-starting light installation by British artist and musician Martin Creed (Hauser & Wirth) promising fair goers that: "Everything is going to be all right.”
Ayyam Gallery Co-Founder Khaled Samawi has observed that the fair's presence has successfully put Middle Eastern artists and galleries on the global art map with each successive edition. "To witness an increasing interest in the region's practitioners has been very gratifying, which is why we continue to take part in this constantly expanding yearly event,” he said. Ayyam Gallery, which has a presence in Beirut, two spaces in Dubai with a third in November on Alserkal Avenue, has been showing at Abu Dhabi Art since its inaugural run at Emirates Palace as Art Paris-Abu Dhabi. Among a group exhibition and works from Syrian painter Safwan Dahoul's poeticDream series in the Ayyam booth, look out for a significant installation by Lebanese artist Nadim Karam, who has bedecked one of his signature omniscient elephants in hundreds of crystals.
Founded in Ramallah in 2014, Gallery One is Palestine's first commercial gallery and has been recognised with this year's Bidaya award, a special designation given to a space that is fewer than three years old and shows great promise. Samar Martha, Gallery One's Director, says that though there is strong interest in the arts, the collector base in Palestine is still small. The fair will provide a much-¬needed international platform that transcends borders. "Through our participation in Abu Dhabi Art we hope to be able to widen the collectors base for Palestinian contemporary art and also get artworks by prominent Palestinian artists into major museum collections,” she says. The Gallery One booth will present pieces by Sliman Mansour, Nabil Anani and Tayseer Barakat, founding members of the New Vision Movement, who Martha says "responded to the first Intifada by boycotting Israeli products and instead used local materials such as mud, leather, and wood to produce artwork”.
While falling oil prices have made some collectors cautious, it remains to be seen whether regional economics will have an impact on overall sales results at this year's fair. London's Paul Stolper Gallery will return to Abu Dhabi Art's exhibitor halls for the fourth consecutive year with a booth including works from Damien Hirst's Love series which showed at the gallery's space in February, as well as Ben Johnson's painting of the Alhambra, which references principles of Islamic geometry.
Though these works are financially accessible only to institutions or elite private collectors, Founder Paul Stolper said he is not concerned about making sales: "The collector base is very diverse and has expanded as we return each year to Abu Dhabi Art. Clients include both expats and, more importantly, clients from the UAE. I am feeling very positive about the fair and anticipate another successful one.”