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Art Dubai is back in Madinat Jumeirah, with artists including from Pakistan gearing to showcase their exhibits to the public starting tomorrow (March 11).

With more than 100 galleries, this year’s fair is the largest ever, in terms of number of booths, as reported by The National.

There are some changes to the feel of this year’s three-day fair from previous years. African art is continuing its ascent in terms of market and general interest, with more galleries, such as Gallery 1957 from Ghana and Circle Art Gallery from Kenya. Circle’s Cyrus Kabiru is also leading art workshops for families and children at the fair.

There is an increased Saudi presence, both in terms of galleries – Athr, Mono and Hafez – and in terms of visitors, as AlUla continues to draw spectators from the kingdom and across borders. Athr is also collaborating with Alserkal Avenue in a pop-up space featuring a fantastic work by Mohammed Al Faraj reflecting on climate change, with desiccated stems of palm trees lying supine on the floor like lifeless articulated spines.

Pakistan artists set to showcase at Art Dubai 2022

In the space that formerly showcased the Abraaj Prize, a show curated by Mays Al Baik and Maryam Al Dabbagh features highlights from the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship, signalling a shift this year from highlighting regional art to homegrown production.

Aside from these few notable changes, Art Dubai continues as business as usual. And business seems good: collectors milled about eagerly at galleries on opening night; Jal Hamad from Sabrina Amrani Gallery said he blinked and three hours had gone by. The Madrid-based gallery is showing textile works by the Egyptian-Armenian artist Chant Avedissian, who is better known for his Pop images of icons such as Umm Kulthum.

“We want to show the three decades of Avedissian’s work before the 10 years that everyone knows,” says Hamad.

The Modern section of the fair is especially strong this year, with the selection of booths, each focusing on one artist, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath. It is also displayed separately the rest of the fair via at an elevated exhibition display — a welcome integration between Modern and Contemporary versus Modern’s previous location in another wing of Madinat Jumeirah.

That area is now home to Art Dubai Digital, the fair’s much hyped-about exploration of the digital realm. Echoing Dubai’s emergence as a centre of blockchain trading and NFT development, this year, the fair is showcasing some of the makers of art in this new area, curated by Chris Fussner.

On the opening day, the digital section attracted many who were curious. As the list of art invitees blends into general attendees, this area is coming into its own among those who know the field better, particularly supplemented by the talks on the subject curated by Shumon Basar in this year’s Global Art Forum, to be held from Friday to Sunday.

Design and culture take centre stage as Art Week Dubai kicks off next month

“The Digital section is a platform for increasing awareness of cutting-edge technologies,” says writer Laura Egerton, a former Dubai resident who is visiting from London. “This sits comfortably alongside its established identity. Art Dubai has yet again proven itself to be the place to see new work by artists from the Global South.”

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