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DUBAI: After a scaled-down version in 2021, Art Dubai returned to its original home in the Madinat Jumeirah, featuring 100 exhibitors from 44 countries including Pakistan, looking to live up to its promise of developing the art ecosystem and promoting digital art at the same time.

The three-day event, which concludes today (Sunday), opened for the public on Friday and played host to collectors, galleries and institutions. A quick walkthrough conveyed how the venue was filled with excitement with everyone expressing the common sentiment of how it was “good to be back to old times”, as the world comes out of its worst crisis in a century. Benedetta Ghione, Executive Director at Art Dubai, said this is one of their “largest programmes to date”.

In conversation with Business Recorder, Benedetta expressed how great it is to see Art Dubai back to a larger format post-Covid-19, given the “critical role it plays in the development of the art ecosystem”.

Art Dubai 2022 set to open tomorrow

In 2022, the introduction of a new format remained evident, with galleries divided into 4 sections - Modern, Bawwaba (meaning ‘Gateway’ in Arabic), Contemporary and Digital.

At the preview, established international names such as Perrotin and Galleria Continua alongside local galleries such as Leila Heller, The Third Line and the Green Art Gallery could be noticed.

However, what was also interesting was the addition of a new digital section, comprising 17 galleries, presenting a variety of NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens).

The popularity of the art form was evident, as the preview night saw much footfall from young collectors and those looking to educate themselves on NFTs and Blockchain.

Benedetta highlighted how Dubai is growing as a crypto hub and Art Dubai is in a unique position to present the role technology increasingly plays in the art market.

The Digital section looked to provide an education on NFTs and how they are not born in a vacuum; rather they are an evolution of digital practices that have existed in the traditional art space for many years. She also added that “technology can be a bridge between the traditional art world and what comes next”.

This idea is complimented by the Global Art Forum’s four-day schedule titled, ‘This is the Picture’, which focuses on the rising role of technology and Campus Art Dubai’s 9.0 ‘Blockchain Edition.’

South Asian presence and Pakistan’s participation:

The South Asian presence was also incredibly strong this year, with multiple galleries from the subcontinent exhibiting, as well as, South Asian artists being represented by international galleries. Jhaveri Contemporary (Hall 2, D-1) featured 3 artists: Lubna Chowdhary, Rana Begum and Amina Ahmed. Other exciting gallery names were Experimenter, Nature Morte, Eye for Art and Canvas Gallery.

Pakistan artists set to showcase at Art Dubai 2022

Within the South Asian contingent at Art Dubai, Canvas Gallery (Hall 3, G-6), located in the Bawwaba section, exhibited a solo show by Wardha Shabbir.

This was the debut of this particular series of work and the high level of interest was evident by significant footfall within the booth on preview night. The beautiful and brightly covered canvases combined with the intricacy of the architecturally-inspired scenes were truly striking.

Business Recorder spoke with Wardha at the preview, prior to her being interviewed by CNBC, about her early training in the academic discipline of miniature from the prestigious National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan.

She explained while she may practise miniature, the development of her practice allows her to transcend beyond the traditional cannon. Her work is moving in that each piece encourages the exploration of an individual’s spiritual pathway and as a result, impacts the evolving of Wardha’s own. Her practice also calls attention to the female perspective and the role women play in wider Pakistani society.

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

Dubai-based Gallery, Lawrie Shabibi (Hall 1, C-3), also exhibited Hamra Abbas’ portraiture works of Lahore’s transgender community. Vienna-based, Galerie Krinzinger (Hall 2, F-1), exhibited a striking black ink work by Waqas Khan, which was also garnering a lot of attention.

At the preview, the intricacy and detail of the artworks saw a lot of viewers initially walking past and then coming back for a second look. London- and Berlin-based Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, (Hall 1, B-5), also displayed a beautiful series of works by Karachi-based Rabia Farooqui.

Within the Modern section, Grosvenor Gallery (No 2, E-10) featured 3 artists, 2 of which are Pakistani. There is a newer work by Rasheed Araeen complemented by Zarah Hussein’s resin works. It was impressive to see the array of established Pakistani artists that are being represented and the interest that they are garnering from the wider art community.

Art Dubai this year also provided a platform to multiple MENA galleries along with the wider Asian diaspora. Additionally, the continued presence of various forms of Abstract art has always been a key feature at Art Dubai. However, this year, there was an increased presence of figurative and digital media-based works.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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