Antonia Carver, the director of Art Dubai
, announced an eye-opening statistic at the opening of the tenth edition of the fair (16-19 March, Madinat Jumeirah): according to her calculations, 45% of the around 500 artists represented at the fair this year are women, which is a “higher percentage than the majority of other international art fairs”, according to a press statement.
The figures reflect how women seem to be powering ahead in the Emirate; Saeed al Nabouda, the acting director general of the state-backed Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, commented at the launch that most employees in Dubai’s arts administration are female.
Among the 94 participating galleries from 40 countries, there is a preponderance of work on view by female artists. At Chatterjee & Lal, a Mumbai-based gallery, works by two artists, Goa-based Minam Apang and Karachi-born Nasreen Mohamedi, stand out. Apang’s 2015 ink-and-wash piece Wrest in Peace ($15,000) sold to a European collection while her Moon Mirror Mountain series (2013), two charcoal on cloth works, are priced at $7,000 each, a lower price range which is indicative of the fair in general. “It’s our local fair; we’re seeing active participation by Indian and Pakistani collectors,” says Mort Chatterjee, the gallery co-director.
Nalini Malani, Complexity of Communication 1 (2013)
Galerie Lelong of Paris says that it has “experienced a lot of interest in the work of [the Karachi-born artist] Nalini Malani”, and had sold the artist’s work, Complexity of Communication 1 (2013), to a London-based collector. Another prominent stand, Marianne Boesky gallery of New York, is dedicated to the Syria-born artist Diana Al-Hadid. Five of her works, including the gold-leaf piece Bandwidth (2016), had sold by the end of 16 March, mainly to Middle Eastern collectors.
Marianne Boesky's stand with works by Diana Al-Hadid
There are, meanwhile, more galleries from the UAE than ever before: 13 in total, including Carbon 12 of Dubai. Hisham Samawi, the co-founder of Ayyam Gallery, which runs a branch in Dubai, says: “We’re seeing mostly regional collectors but many more international buyers have come in the past few years.” Large-scale sculptures by Nadim Karam, including Shhhhh...Shout! ($300,000, edition of three) were popular, catching the attention of the Crown Prince of Dubai who posed beside the shiny, teardrop-shaped pieces.
Even though the VIP preview on 15 March seemed particularly slow at times (official visitor figures were unavailable at the time of publication), some dealers were upbeat, including fair newcomer Toby Clarke, the director of London’s Vigo gallery. He citied sales such as two rare Tree drawings (1977 and 2010) by Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi, priced at £55,000 and £48,000. Another work by El-Salahi shown at Tate Modern in 2013, The Opening of Khartoum (1989), was sold to a private collector.
“I’m here to touch base with four or five major Middle Eastern clients, and to meet people in the flesh with whom I have only had correspondence previously,” Clarke said.
UPDATE, 21 March: A spokeswoman for Art Dubai says that visitor figures for the VIP preview on 15 March were 5,142, compared to 4,200 for the same day last year.