“We know the future is a source of anxiety. To greet visitors we have therefore created an avatar to accompany them on their journey.” Brendan McGetrick is the creative director of the museum that has just opened in Dubai: the Museum of the Future.
200 to 300 million dollars
It would have cost between 200 and 300 million dollars according to the local press. Its unique design, the work of local architecture firm Killa, is instantly recognizable: a metal structure in the shape of a giant rubber ring covered in calligraphy inscribed with the words of the leader of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
A sign of the spirit of the Emirati city, there are no artworks to be found inside this museum. Conceived to anticipate and assuage anxieties about the future, for the most part it presents immersive interactive installations which discuss major challenges (ecological, etc).
Visitors from Ukraine and Russia
Speaking of anxiety, the armed conflict on Ukrainian territory following Russia’s aggression is currently at the global forefront in this respect. But in Dubai the situation is unusual, because here we encounter many Russians mixing with Ukrainians, who are used to visiting this coastal holiday destination less than six hours away from them.
Pablo del Val
This is the context in which the Art Dubai fair is due to stage its fifteenth edition, which will run from 11 to 13 March 2022. The artistic director of the event, Pablo del Val, notes that “unfortunately the region, with the Middle Eastern conflicts, is used to hearing talk of wars and conflicts.”
The nebulous world of NFT’s
This year – in innovative ways – Art Dubai is the first fair to plunge into the nebulous world of NFTs (read here, here and here reports about NFTs). Out of the 114 booths at the fair 17 are dedicated to digital art, the vast majority of which are focusing on this new artistic phenomenon. The non-fungible token (NFT) is not a new art form but rather a means of using blockchain technology to inscribe secure and irremovable data relating to the form of the piece (which may be art or may be something else) and its successive owners.
Series of screens
The least we can observe is that the series of screens on offer in the digital section varies in quality. A number of the displays more closely resemble animated illustration.
Over the past year Jennifer Stelco, who is based in the Emirates, has created an art gallery in the Metaverse (the virtual world accessible via the internet) with her two associates from Morrow Collective, which proposes to help get to grips with NFTs.
She recognizes that this is a world with volatile values. At their booth the artworks (see the video here), payable in Ethereum (a digital currency), are on sale for the equivalent of 1300 to 25,000 dollars.
The sponsor of the Art Digital section is ByBit, a Singaporean based firm which is a leader in the exchange of cryptocurrencies with national currencies. The director of communication of ByBit, Igneus Terrenus, himself admits that the majority of the artistic offerings in the NFT world still are not satisfactory.
“A lot of pieces in the NFT market are probably not art and probably complete speculation. But the technology is good”.
The most interesting part of the “traditional” section at Art Dubai is the part dedicated to modern art. For Benedetta Ghione, executive director of Art Dubai, the show is a hub where discoveries can be made which are then exhibited around the world. She cites the example of the Lebanese artist and poet Etel Adnan (1925-2021), who lived in Paris and has been the subject of numerous exhibitions in recent years (See here and here reports about Etel Adnan). “It was at Art Dubai that Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, saw her for the first time.” (See here and here interviews of Hans Ulrich Obrist).
This year the curation of the section dedicated to modern art is being overseen by probably the best connoisseurs of early 20th-century creation in the Middle East, Sam Bardaouil and Till Feilrath. They have also just been named directors of the major contemporary art museum in Berlin, the Hamburger Bahnhof.
Single artist shows
For teaching purposes, they have requested that exhibitors at the fair dedicate their booth to a single artist. The history of art made by artists from the beginning of the century in the Middle East is still in fact being written.
Aref El Rayess
The Sfeir-Semler gallery from Beirut and Hamburg is showcasing fascinating work made by a Lebanese artist, Aref El Rayess (1928-2005), while in the city neighbouring the Emirate, in Sharjah, the Sharjah Art Foundation is dedicating a retrospective to him. El Rayess was an abstract painter. At auction his record price for a painting from 1982 reached 130,000 dollars at Christie’s in 2015.
In the 1960s, the artist was interested in questions concerning the depiction of space and particles. He therefore featured cells levitating on canvas using fascinating harmonies of colour. Andrée Sfeir-Semler announced they would be representing his estate a year ago. His paintings are on sale at Art Dubai for between 40,000 and 100,000 dollars.
The Comptoir des Mines gallery from Marrakesh is exhibiting one of the great classics of postwar Moroccan art, Mohamed Kacimi (1942-2003). In his abstract works from the late 1960s to the 1980s he symbolically addresses questions of fraternity, humanity but also exile and migration.
Mucem in 2018
An exhibition was dedicated to him at the Mucem in Marseille in 2018 and his work is featured in major permanent collections such as those of the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris. Comptoir des Mines is presenting works for between 15,000 and 90,000 dollars. The highest prices at auction were all obtained in Morocco, up to 231,000 euros in 2019.
African art on trend
Contemporary African figurative art is very on trend right now at an international level. Seven African galleries are taking part in Art Dubai. Furthermore, there are numerous western galleries also promoting African artists. This is the case for the Senegalese artist who is based in Brussels, Omar Ba (born in 1977). At the booth of the Templon Gallery from Paris, Brussels and soon New York he is exhibiting, as he usually does, a painting composed of an infinite number of brushstrokes that create a colourful mosaic.
Brussels and Baltimore
They come together with virtuosity to form a composition animated by figures. “Superman and the Constitution” is on sale for 100,000 euros. There will be an exhibition staged on the artist in September 2022 at the Baltimore Museum and ahead of that in April 2022 at the Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.
Support independent news on art.
Your contribution : Make a monthly commitment to support JBH Reports or a one off contribution as and when you feel like it. Choose the option that suits you best.
Need to cancel a recurring donation? Please go here.
The donation is considered to be a subscription for a fee set by the donor and for a duration also set by the donor.