A Gothic tower by Wim Delvoye and an oil painting of three heads from Rajasthan by Maqbool Fida Husain are among the stars of this year’s Art Dubai fair, with as much as $45m worth of contemporary works on sale.
The 19-foot stainless-steel tower is priced by Galerie Perrotin at 750,000-850,000 euros ($1.1m). The Husain picture, offered for sale at $150,000 to $200,000, is reserved on the booth of Grosvenor Vadehra. Prices at the event range from $2,000 to $1m.
This year, the sixth edition of the fair has more works from East Asia as it expands its reach beyond the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. About 90 percent of the 81 galleries that exhibited last year applied to re-attend, and the fair capped exhibitors at 75 to increase quality, according to Antonia Carver, its director.
“A number of galleries requested a bigger space,” Carver, 40, said in an interview, “which in art market terms is a real sign of confidence, because galleries pay per square meter, so their keenness to show large-scale works shows they have confidence in this market.”
A third of the galleries come from Europe, including Paris- based Galerie Perrotin and Belgium’s Rodolphe Janssen. Another third come from South Asia and the Middle East, and the rest from the US and East Asia.
Art Dubai received more than 20,000 visitors and more than 40 museum groups last year. The United Arab Emirates city is the nucleus of the region’s art scene, according to gallerists and collectors. Dubai has more than 50 galleries of its own, with another four opening this year, including second branches of galleries in Lebanon and Pakistan.
This year, Art Dubai is taking 65 museum groups - including the Aspen Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and British Museum - to Qatar as part of a week-long art discussion. Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is using its wealth to become a global art player.
Last year, Qatar bought Paul Cezanne’s painting “The Card Players” for $250m, the most paid for a work of art, Vanity Fair magazine reported. Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, daughter of Qatar’s Emir and Chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority, was named the art world’s most influential person by Art & Auction magazine in November.
The QMA is presenting Takashi Murakami’s and Louise Bourgeois’s first solo exhibitions in the Middle East, and has a touring show from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art entitled “Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts” to coincide with Art Dubai.
“Doha is focusing on collection building, and Abu Dhabi has large-scale museums with a focus on bringing international collections, while Dubai is the commercial center,” said Bashar al-Shroogi, director of Dubai-based Cuadro Fine Art Gallery and a collector. “For lots of Western collectors, the first time they were exposed to Middle Eastern art was at Art Dubai. The number of museum groups is comparable to Art Basel.”
“Dubai has an important place in the art world because of the galleries, events, and now it’s focusing on design too,” said Isabelle de la Bruyere, director of Christie’s Middle East, referring to the Design Days fair that focuses on furniture and objects. “It’s a great platform because it’s a turntable of the Middle East and North Africa region, and including South Asia.”
The fair runs through March 24.