The 15th edition of Art Dubai closed yesterday at the Madinat Jumeirah, culminating in the largest presentation for the fair to date. From March 11–13, the show brought together more than 100 galleries from over 40 countries, divided into four sectors: Contemporary, Modern, Bawwaba, and Art Dubai Digital. To complement the fair’s indoor-outdoor show, Art Dubai 2022 also featured a handful of commissioned works throughout the space, held educational talks and workshops, greeted guests to elevated food and beverage outlets, and more.
“For 15 years, Art Dubai has been a place to discover and celebrate new trends, creating and facilitating conversations, and celebrating the strength of creative output across the Global South. Art Dubai is a truly global art fair, and this is reflected in both the quality and geographic spread of the galleries participating this year,” said Pablo del Val, Art Dubai’s Artistic Director. “That so much of the program is drawn from the Global South highlights the increased interest in and appetite for collecting non-Western art, the strengthening of the gallery scene beyond the traditional centers of the art world, and the role Art Dubai plays as a platform for regions that are under-represented in international collections. This year’s program places particular emphasis on where the physical and digital realms intersect, and we are particularly pleased to present Art Dubai Digital to our visitors, which will be an important bridge between the rapidly-developing crypto-sphere and the international art market.”
Whitewall was there to explore the annual presentation, discovering both physical and digital art from emerging and seasoned talents around the globe, including 30 first-time participants, partners, and a handful of esteemed sponsors. Upon walking in, visitors were first faced with a large digital screen on the entryway’s left-hand side, which showed Cloud Seed by the artist James Clar. Commissioned for the Julius Baer lounge, the work depicted the concept of “cloud seeding”—a form of weather modification that aims to alter the amount of precipitation in the air—that is prevalent in Dubai, showing digital droplets of water rolling down a fogged mirror that reflected onlookers.
Just past this presentation was a booth by BMW Middle East, which has been participating in the fair since 2007, showcasing THE 8 X JEFF KOONS car. First seen in Los Angeles last month, the car shined in bold blue and yellow hues and Pop art explosion motifs, positioned next to a wall quote by the artist: “Feelings are the basis of all ideas. First you have feelings, and then, through those sensations, it develops into ideas.”
There was also the Ruinart lounge, which displayed images of the champagne-making process by the Congolese photographer Gosette Lubondo, who won the 2021 Maison Ruinart Prize in partnership with Picto Foundation last year; an immersive installation named COSMODREAMS by Marina Fedorova, which was displayed through life-size objects, virtual reality videos, and interactive panels; and a large booth by the Geneva-based high jewelry house Boghossian, highlighting the beauty of nature and multicultural references through stunning silk cords designed by the Danish design brand KUFstudios and furniture by the Lebanese designer Nada Debs.
Then, we embraced unmissable contemporary art installations, including those from: Galerie Krinzinger (Vienna), featuring a canvas splattered in black, white, purple, red, pink, and orange paint; Zawyeh Gallery (Ramallah and Dubai), presenting photographs of indoor spaces just after explosions ravaged its interiors; Tabari Artspace (Dubai), exhibiting oil on wood works by Maitha Abdalla; Saleh Barakat Gallery (Beirut), showing a montage of people in blue prison uniforms and hats; and Rele Gallery (Lagos and Los Angeles), debuting a solo show of portrait works by Tonia Nneji.
Further in, we followed a path to the digital presentations, which led us outside, along the complex’s waterways, up a fortress staircase, and then back indoors for a dimly lit atmosphere. Punctuated by presentations seen on screens, through headsets, and on projectors, this section tapped into the importance of digital art’s growing industry and showed its dynamic range.
Showing that it’s not just filled with NFTs and dominated by the blockchain, the Art Dubai Digital show highlighted the work that goes into creating, curating, buying, displaying, and selling digital art. Presentations from brick and mortar galleries—including Postmasters Gallery (New York and Rome), MORROW Collective (Dubai), Emergeast (London), PILEVNELI (Istanbul), Keusman Gallery (Seoul), Volte Art Projects (Dubai and Mumbai), Anna Laudel (Istanbul and Düsseldorf), and GAZELL.iO (London)—were seen among installations by digital-only communities, like Dastan x NFTation, Window Project, Fingerprints DAO, and “HORIZONS“ by SO-FAR and AORA.
One of the co-founders Cyber Baat, a woman named Kenza Zouari, showed us around its exhibition entitled “Sacred Roots,” which was filled with gorgeous digital art from 21 artists representing 14 African countries, including pieces like: Reclaiming Alkebulan by the Ghana-based creator Afroscope; Reflection by the Nigeria-based artist Arclight, Papa by the Texas-born, Nigeria-based artist Abieyuwa; Ambiance by the self-taught Beninese artist Serge Agnide Dade; and Bàkk: Grappling Stance by the Dakar-based Senegalese artist and designer Linda Dounia.
In institut.co’s booth, we caught a work by Tyler Hobbs named Elektroanima 0.9, which saw a record-breaking sale of 88ETH; a captivatingly colorful work by the artist Krista Kim; and a digital presentation of Studio Drift’s DRIFT installation in collaboration with Don Diablo and Sil, with its previous iteration of DRIFTER reimagined on screen as a sculpture floating through the sky in an array of unique landscapes.
Anchoring NFT Asia’s booth was its co-founder, Jonathan Liu, who explained how the artist-run community on Discord first began to showcase talent from Southeast Asia, share resources, and speak transparently about the inequities and roadblocks in the digital art world. Then, he walked us through the presentation, which featured works by Art by Nafay, Roost, Rociel, Wayne Chu, among others.
In the Bright Moments booth, we met its co-founder Avi Piekarski, who shared the gallery’s work in presenting physical presentations of digital art in New York and Los Angeles. Ahead of expanding to Berlin and London later this year, they shared their take on connecting communities through generative art, NFTs, weekly meetups, and token-gated events, and showcased a few works that resonated with art patrons around the world.
As we made our way through the Bawwaba and Modern sections to the exit, we also met a handful of wonderful creators, curators, architects, scholars, and designers who stopped to talk about creativity beyond borders, like: the talented Tajikistan-born and Dubai-based fashion designer Oroy Shakhidi, a recent graduate of Central Saint Martins, who recently landed a Vogue Portugal cover shoot with her garments on display; and Daria Borisova, who curated a digital art show entitled “Block Party” with Christie’s in downtown Dubai.