REMEMBERING THE 4TH EDITION OF ABU DHABI ART Why Was Abu Dhabi Art 2012 So Good and What Can We Expect this Year?
Sep 17, 2013 Art Event
The fourth edition of Abu Dhabi Art held in November of last year created the image of an important art event among the growing number of global art fairs taking place in other big centers. And certainly, the latest Abu Dhabi Art offered more than it had in previous years. That the fair is not only a place to discover and see great art but also a place where one can attend good panels, meet and talk to world class artists and architects and participate in a remarkable public program makes this fair very different from other similar events.
However, let me be more precise: Why was the fourth edition of Abu Dhabi Art so good?
Well, all aspects of the event have developed and naturally improved over the four years, including its location. The Saadiyat Cultural District -currently home to the Manarat Al Saadiyat exhibition center and UAE Pavilion- seems to have been chosen as the definite venue of Abu Dhabi Art, at least for now. This is a commendable move aimed at further consolidating the district's transformation into a unique cultural zone whose scale and scope is not seen elsewhere. Its geographical isolation from the city centre and the construction of important museums like the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum nearby make this part of the island very attractive for art aficionados. The Manarat Al Saadiyat exhibition center and UAE Pavilion offered ample space for the exhibitor galleries to present art by both established and upcoming artists.
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / Hall2 Galleries / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / Hall1 Galleries / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / The visitors infront of Tadashi Kawamata's Chairs / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
In true Gulf fashion, the organizers lifted the 2012 event to an elite level and added much glamour like the stunning presentation of Bulgari jewellery. The feeling created was similar to that of a fancy star-studded European film festival. Moreover, the program of events scheduled over the four days was very rich. There was always something to do and one could never be bored no matter how many hours one had already spent on site.
In addition to leading galleries from the Gulf countries, many established galleries from Europe and Asia, especially China and Japan, had also chosen to take part and exhibit their artists.
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / AB Gallery / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / Ayyam Gallery / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / Left:Bait Muzna Gallery / Right: Galerie Kashya Hildebrand / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / CDA-Projects Gallery, Istanbul / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
As mentioned above, Abu Dhabi Art is not just a large scale international art show. The quality of the additional activities and events make it a global collective of creative minds and a place where the visual arts are presented in all of their beauty. A large number of panels on different topics in the field of contemporary art took place, such as the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Talking Art Series, the Abu Dhabi Art Panel: Where is the Centre? Searching for the Cross-Roads of the Art World, the Saadiyat Cultural District Talking Art Series, the Architecture Visionaries series that featured renowned architects Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry as guests, the Abu Dhabi Art Conversation with Marina Abramovic, and many others. It was certainly these encounters and discussions which raised the rating, interest and significance of the event as did the exhibition of “classics,” such as Picasso, Frank Stella, Sam Francis, Roy Lichtenstein, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Anish Kapoor and other such artists especially interesting to a wider audience.
Marina Abramovic at Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / Picasso - Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, New York / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
A problem particular to art fairs is the uneven quality of the art exhibited. Besides masterpieces, good and less good artwork can be seen, which makes it harder for spectators to decipher. However, the quality of the work on display at the latest Abu Dhabi Art was exceptional. It is so rare to find so much quality art in one place. True art enthusiasts felt like children in a candy store explaining the ambient euphoria of both the visitors and art dealers.
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / Leila Heller Gallery / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
Painting dominated Abu Dhabi Art 2012, both in quality and quantity. Most of it was abstract painting that would be best defined as amazing examples of contemporary Islamic art. The conceptual art displayed, though diverse, could not compete with the painting, nor could the few video installations present. Though Abu Dhabi Art is, in light of its’ mandate, an event of contemporary art and potentially new artistic tendencies, there reigned an almost academic spirit and museum-like atmosphere in the exhibitor booths. There was no truly provocative art, and political issues were reduced to a minimum. This can be considered as a disadvantage, but also as an advantage, depending on one’s the point of view. It does mean, however, that Abu Dhabi Art is a highly profiled event with an understanding of the taste of the regional audience.
All in all, Abu Dhabi Art 2012 has secured its place amongst the best art events in the world. The quality of the art, exhibitors and speakers will without a doubt keep garnering and increasing international attention and could definitely provide an alternative to the explicit aesthetics of Western art tendencies. In addition, the latest Abu Dhabi Art definitely proved that painting remains a good and relevant art, despite the ubiquitous 'painting is dead' mantra.
Abu Dhabi Art 2012 / Meem Gallery / Photo by Islamic Arts Magazine
This year’s fair, Abu Dhabi Art 2013, will take place between November 20-23, and expectations are nothing less than what was seen last year. Considering that an impressive list of reputable galleries has already announced their presence, we have no doubts of its’ success. It is vital that the organizers maintain the refined nature of the event, dominated by highly aestheticized forms of art in which the once forgotten but today revitalized expressions of Islamic, Arab and Persian art will be revealed once again. This would consolidate the event’s innovative and unique spirit compared to the now often used-up concepts of selection witnessed in some other art fairs. This would also provide a good chance to Abu Dhabi, together with Dubai, to take on strong leadership in the global world of contemporary art and, through strategic cultural investments, to offer up a new art scene that is an alternative but also powerful partner to artistic movements in Europe and USA.