Art reference

here’s what’s sold so far

On Tuesday (through March 13), a large crowd of well-heeled showmen filled the halls of the luxury Madinat Jumeirah hotel for Art Dubai’s first day of previews. The 15th edition of the show is also its first return to “business as usual” since 2019.

“This edition is one of the most vibrant I have attended,” says dealer Leila Heller, who has been coming to Art Dubai since its inception. His eponymous gallery is exhibited in the contemporary and modern sections.

Art Dubai is back this year at the five-star Madinat Jumeirah resort Photo: Cedric Ribeiro/Getty Images for Art Dubai

Art Dubai, which is partly supported by the state, is not known as a particularly commercial fair, with a focus more on building networks, promoting underrepresented galleries (particularly from the South) and delivery of educational programs.

The institutional presence is particularly strong this year, with 25 guest museums and more than 100 present. Art Dubai’s support can also be seen in the new booth pricing system – one of the remnants of the fair’s Covid-19 measures – where galleries under five can pay 50% of sales rather than the cost total. This is probably a big incentive this year where more than 30 galleries are exhibiting for the first time and many have never attended a fair before. It is also the largest edition of Art Dubai to date, with 100 exhibitors from 44 countries.

Nonetheless, a flurry of sales was reported over the two preview days across multiple sections of the show. Dubai-based Lawrie Shabibi sold works for a total of $180,000, including a painting by Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim that went to a private collector and a marble inlay by Hamra Abbas that went to a regional institution. Stockholm and Paris-based Andrehn-Schiptjenko Gallery, one of Art Dubai’s premier exhibitors with works priced between $30,000 and $40,000, has sold a wall sculptural piece by Martin Soto Climent at a Dubai-based corporate collection. 1957 Gallery, which has spaces in Accra and London, sold six works by Nigerian artist Modupeola Fadugba (priced between $35,000 and $52,000) on the first day of the preview, all to private collectors based in Dubai.

At Mous Lamrabat Call your mother or another relative (2022) sold at Loft Art Gallery for $7,100 © Loft Art Gallery

One of the best stands in the contemporary section is the Casablanca-based Loft Art Gallery, where the impressive large-scale photography Call your mother or another relative (2022) by Moroccan photographer Mous Lamrabat depicting a woman in a Superman-style Islamic dress, was purchased for $7,100. The gallery also sold a mixed media and embroidery work by Marion Boehm titled Nadira (2022) for $32,000 and an untitled work (2013) Mohamed Melehi for around $90,000.

Strong sales were also reported at the Kolkata Experimenter Gallery, which placed over 15 works (between $2,700 and $75,000) with a mix of regional and international individuals and institutions. Sales were undoubtedly supported by current and upcoming exhibitions: among the works sold are those of Radhika Khimji, who is representing Oman at the Venice Biennale this year, and Samson Young, who is exhibiting at the Jameel Arts Centre.

At Maitha Abdalla’s Animals telling stories (2022) sold $12,000 with Tabari Art Space Image courtesy of the artist and gallery

Dubai’s Tabari Art Space features large-scale works by Emirati artist Maitha Abdalla and smaller-scale paintings by Palestinian artist Hazem Harb. He sold four works between $3,000 and $12,000, including that of Abdalla Animals telling stories (2022) and Forest #2 (2022), the first day of preview. A $35,000 work was in reserve. “We found that visitors were eager to engage on a deeper level, they weren’t rushing like they might have been in previous years,” says Laura Beaney, the gallery’s communications director.

In Bawwaba, a curated section that shows works made last year or specifically for the fair, Lisbon gallery Madragoa has sold three of its hammered bronze pieces by Mexican artist Rodrigo Hernandez (price up to €18,000) to European and local collectors. In the Modern section, the Sfeir-Semler gallery based in Beirut and Hamburg “initiated a conversation towards a major museum acquisition”, explains director Lea Chikhani.

Let’s be phygital

All eyes were of course on Art Dubai’s new digital section, which is in a separate building from the rest of the fair, marked with huge fluorescent green banners. Walking down the escalators to this area is like walking into a teenager’s bedroom: dark walls, neon lights, stale air, and an endless number of screens in every direction. There is even a smoke machine at the entrance. “We really wanted to feel like we were stepping into another world,” said Art Dubai executive director Benedetta Ghione. The arts journal.

Art Dubai’s artistic director, Pablo del Val, insisted during the fair’s press conference that the new digital section is “not a section about NFTs”, but that they are present on almost all stalls. Photo: Cedric Ribeiro/Getty Images for Art Dubai

The section aims to “examine the context in which NFTs, cryptocurrency, video art and virtual reality (VR) have developed since the rise of digital art in the 1980s, including those that are leading the way in the growing digital arts space.” , says a press release. Seventeen galleries and platforms present works in this section with the participation of traditional galleries and native digital platforms. Art Dubai’s artistic director, Pablo del Val, insisted at the fair’s press conference that “it’s not a section about NFTs”, even though they are present on almost every show. stalls. The focus, however, was clearly on ‘phygital’, i.e. the combination of physical and digital works on each stand in one way or another.

The section’s lead partner is cryptocurrency trading platform Bybit, which also sponsors a series of talks aimed at demystifying the burgeoning digital art scene. Most exhibitors have a sales plan in hand, from QR codes that take you directly to the online sales platform to in-person guidance on buying cryptocurrency (most spaces accept Ether for works) and setting up a wallet to store your purchases.

There was first-time jitters around the section, which is packed with first-time exhibitors. “There were nerves that everything will be fine in the digital section which, to our relief, has,” says India Price of Gazelli Art House/GAZELL.iO. “All the exhibitors present really strong works. In many stalls there are a lot of references to the region, which is great.

For Bright Moments, DAO Says Their “Crypto Citizens” Initiative Is More Important To Them Than Selling Work Photo: Aimee Dawson

But, in general, this section doesn’t seem particularly sales-oriented either. Bright Moments, for example, is a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization, a type of community-driven entity with no central authority) and the organizers explained how more important it was for them to publicize their “Crypto Citizens” initiative. than to sell any work. It’s also much harder to keep track of these digital sales at the show because most of the works are simultaneously available online, so without intruding on visitors it’s hard to tell if someone made the purchase in the booth or elsewhere.

Either way, business was still going. By the end of the first day of previews, GAZELL.iO had sold £15,000 worth of NFTs by artist Orkhan Mammadov. His work Singularity of heritagepart of the The revival of aesthetics series, uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to collect Middle Eastern rug patterns to produce generative “imaginary” patterns. Horizons (SO-FAR x AORA) dropped artist Lawrence Lek’s first eight NFTs and sold 111 editions, priced at $1,111 each. The online gallery reported selling “hundreds” on the first VIP day. Istanbul Pilevneli Gallery has sold two works by Refik Anadol, priced at $85,000 each, and has three more in reserve. And the fair’s biggest reported sale also came from the digital section: London’s Institut.co sold Tyler Hobbs’ NFT work. Area of ​​interest to a private collector for 88ETH (about $230,000).

Distant War in Europe

While most Europeans have spent the last few weeks in a state of anxiety watching the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the whole crisis feels a million miles from the chandeliered halls of Art Dubai.

“We love being back in Dubai, the atmosphere and the energy keeps you thinking about all the things happening in the world,” says Kristin Hjellegjerde, founder and chief curator of the eponymous gallery with branches in London, Berlin, Schoss Goerne (Germany) and Nevlunghavn (Norway).

Natia Bukia, co-founder of Gallery Artbeat, based in Tbilisi, Georgia, covered the booth table with a Ukrainian flag and wore the Ukrainian colors for Art Dubai’s VIP preview Courtesy of Artbeat Gallery

But the conflict nevertheless made itself felt. Tbilisi, Georgia-based gallery Artbeat covered its booth table with a Ukrainian flag and Georgian co-founder Natia Bukia also wore a matching blue and yellow outfit in solidarity with Ukraine. And an installation of works by Russian artist Marina Fedorova, backed by art incubator Sputnik Partners, caused offense for her sculpture of a Matryoshka doll adorned with the Soviet hammer and sickle symbol. And finally, Art Dubai responded by making its own pledge to Ukraine: “The fair strongly supports the right of its participants to express their support for Ukraine and, for our part, we will donate 25% of all ticket sales this year to help the plight of Ukrainian refugees.

• Listen to this episode of art week podcast to learn more about the digital section of Art Dubai