Art Dubai wraps up after skipping 2020 due to COVID-19, Saudi artists on full display

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Art Dubai in its 14th year featured 50 contemporary and modern galleries from 31 countries, specializing in regions that are not main players on the international art scene. This year’s exhibitions also focused on artists from the Gulf and Middle East.

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Works of Saudi artists were on full display represented by galleries based in the Kingdom making an effort to gain exposure for these artists.

With the Saudi art scene having always “been rich in its content,” Riyad based Mono Gallery’s creative consultant Reem Yassin said that in recent years there has been an increase in local interest in the arts, with more people attending art exhibitions, and fairs as well.

She also said the gallery, currently based in the southern part of the capital, will be relocated to the north, closer to Diriyah, an area that has recently flourished with cultural attractions.

“As we see, most of the cultural attraction is happening towards the north and we wanted to be in the mix,” Yassin told Al Arabiya English.
While an exposition like Art Dubai may highlight works but various artists, galleries work behind the scenes to bring more exposure to benefit the artists they showcase.

Jeddah-based Athr Gallery has been working on an artist exchange program through residencies.

“When you bring international artists to Saudi, you have this exchange of knowledge, information and viewpoints,” international director Alia Fattouh told Al Arabiya English.

This creates a “new sensibility,” she added. “You create a new language, an interesting discourse between [the artists].”

An artist residency program was established by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture in the old town in Jeddah, according to Fattouh.

It has been a “bit haunted by COVID-19 but will start again once this [the pandemic] is over,” she added. “It’s very important to bring these talents to Saudi for artists who don’t have the opportunity to travel.”

Canceled in 2020, back in 2021 with a bang

After being canceled in March last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Art Dubai returned to the sunbaked desert metropolis it calls home, becoming one of the first in-person international art fairs of 2021.

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“Art Dubai was the first art fair to be canceled, just when the pandemic started” and now it’s the first to be back live, the show’s artistic director Pablo del Val was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

“I think it’s been an emotional, fantastic moment,” he added. “I think everyone was looking forward to stop looking to screens and having a physical relationship with a work of art.”

While some galleries and artists weren’t able to attend this year’s fair due to travel restrictions, others, like Dubai-based Ayam Gallery, have participated for the past 13 years.

Gallery director Maya Samawi told Al Arabiya English that it’s “refreshing” to be able to do something like this amid the ongoing pandemic, and after the lockdowns and restrictions over the past year.

“One difference [this year] is some galleries weren’t able to come because of the travel restrictions, but it’s been good… lots of excitement… people are happy to be around physical arts.”

With the Associated Press

Read more:

In Dubai, an art show’s return reflects city’s new normal

Ithra Art Prize winner Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif’s installation on show at Art Dubai

Art Dubai 2021 next week to feature 50 galleries from 31 countries

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