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Life & Style

‘Global cultural hub’: Art Dubai draws to a close

  • London-based Grosvenor Gallery cites interest in Pakistani art as 'robust'
Published March 4, 2024

The 17th edition of Art Dubai came to a close at Madinat Jumeirah on Sunday, cementing the emirate’s position as a ‘global cultural hub’, while also featuring the works of several Pakistani artists.

Charles Moore, director of London-based Grosvenor Gallery, said the interest in Pakistani art in Dubai remained high.

“In Dubai, the market for mainly Pakistani art is pretty robust, primarily due to the large South Asian community,” Moore told Business Recorder in an exclusive conversation.

Citing Dubai as a “great connector” for the global art fraternity, Moore added how the region’s “ecosystem is very well-developed”.

Specialising in South Asian modern and contemporary art, Grosvenor Gallery featured the works of several Pakistani artists at the fair.

The works of modernists Syed Sadequain and Rasheed Araeen were featured alongside contemporary pieces by Zarah Hussain and Mohammad Ali Talpur.

Benedetta Ghione, Executive Director of Art Dubai, echoed this sentiment.

“The centre of the world in the 21st century is undoubtedly shifting from West to East, and we believe Dubai stands at the crossroads of this change,” Ghione told Business Recorder.

“The growing number of galleries, creatives, collectors and artists relocating here from all over the world is making Dubai a global cultural hub,” she added.

Works of Pakistani artists, including Sadequain, set to feature at Art Dubai 2024

Moore added how the fair is generally “well-attended” and that this year the footfall has been great as well.

“All the curators from the region have come out. We’ve brought a mixture of contemporary and Modernist pieces — the latter of which sold very quickly,” he added.

Art Dubai is the Middle East’s premier platform to see and buy modern and contemporary art from the Global South.

This year, it welcomed over 120 contemporary, Modern and Digital gallery presentations, over 65% of which were drawn from the Global South.

Although Pakistani galleries were missing this year, there were plenty of international ones representing their works.

Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery was showing Faiza Butt while Jhaveri Contemporary showcased Shezad Dawood.

Artists Aisha Khalid and Saad Qureshi were represented by New York-based Aicon Gallery, Hamra Abbas by Dubai-based Lawrie Shabibi and Imran Qureshi by Delhi-based Nature Morte.

Ghione said, “We have particularly strong representation from South Asian galleries and artists, which reflects the changing demographics of Dubai - from galleries like Chemould Prescott Road, Nature Morte and Experimenter, to younger galleries like Emami Art and their solo Debashish Paul presentation.”

“We are a meeting point for the Global South’s art world and welcome diverse presentations that articulate the Global South experience,” she added.

Moore said this phenomenon was likely to grow.

“In the UK, our clients are mainly South Asian,” said Moore. “There are certain artists who are able to generate interest the Middle East, America, Europe – but the works tend to be sold mainly to members of the Asian diaspora.”

Beginning in 1960, Grosvenor began specialising in South Asian art in the early 2000s.

It has since worked to make Pakistani contemporary art a big part of their gallery program, which includes collaborating with Pakistan’s Canvas Gallery on projects, even hosting their artists in London.

“The biggest challenge with featuring Modernist work such as that of Sadequain is sourcing it,” added Moore.

“Authenticating the works is another. The material is scarce and with each passing year, getting scarcer still,” he added.

Working with artists directly helps since there is then a larger variety of works available.

“We have recently begun working with Pakistani artist Imran Mir, whose works were recently shown in some museum shows in Europe. It’s our job then to position them in the right context and to build awareness,” he added.

On the horizon for the gallery – along with sourcing more Sadequains – is to help grow those artists who are well known within Pakistan but less so globally.

Art Dubai 2023 opens with focus on the ‘Global South’

Looking forward

Looking at the road ahead, 2024 is proving to be an exciting year for Pakistani art within the global calendar.

“There is much to look forward to,” cited Moore. “Rasheed Arain will be exhibiting in the UK, the Venice Biennale in April will showcase Pakistani artists in a show titled ‘Foreigners everywhere’.

“This is an important moment because you don’t have many museums anywhere in the world mounting art shows of Pakistani modernists or review shows like these.”

“For example, whilst some Pakistani artists are held in the Tate collection - Rasheed Araeen, Anwar Jalal Shemza, Zahoor ul Akhlaq – we are now seeing much more interest in the work of their contemporaries,” he added.

Also on display in Sharjah is the first major survey of late Pakistani artist and women’s rights activist Lala Rukh – reflecting on three decades of works produced against the backdrop of political turmoil and feminist movements in Pakistan.

Dubai as a “great connector”

Ghione explained how “Art Dubai has evolved in tandem with the remarkable growth of its home city, Dubai, over the past two decades.”

“The ecosystem is developing quickly and Art Dubai plays an important role in the development of the cultural infrastructure here.”

Moore added that along with the fair, “Dubai’s network of galleries, museums such as Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the upcoming Sharjah Biennial are all contributing to this growth”.

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