Global Art Daily Publication™
United Arab Emirates
Lee Ufan, detail, at Abu Dhabi Art, 2014
Installation view, Abu Dhabi Art, 2014
Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Room, 2016. View at 'Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection', Manarat al Saadiyat, 2014
“The local public became more engaged with the artworks
than in previous years” - That was a conclusion of Leila Heller,
owner of Leila Heller Gallery. According to her team, questions
directed to the gallerists shifted from being “Are you the artist
of all these works?” to more inquiries about the works themselves.
Many conceptual museum-quality works were present throughout the
booths . David Zwirner’s booth looked like the ultimate white
cube gallery with a minimalistic selection of Donald Judd’s pile
of black stacks and Dan Flavin’s neon tubes. Mona Hatoum’s
Reflections (2013) photographic installation at was a nice
touch of museum quality Arab conceptual art by an Italian/Chinese
gallery. Following the contemporary conceptual, the ultimate
commercial was present too. Acquavella’s Picasso and Rauschenberg
paintings gave a certain upscale feel of buying and selling art.
It made it a ‘legitimate’ art fair – yes, modern masters have this
quality to legitimize any space they stand in.
Some Dubai-based gallerists
view calligraphy and geometry-based commercial Arab art as a
narrow-minded view on the works of Arab Contemporary Art. A lot of Alserkal Avenue-based galleries aim to
sell pieces from MENA and international artists that can stand
legitimately in the International Contemporary Art scene, such as Driss
Ouadahi or Hamra Abbas. One of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s prime mission
is indeed promote Contemporary Arab Art; and in order to gain art
historical significance, contemporary Arab artists will have to produce
something else than home décor.
Another market trend worth noting is a regional focus on
Asia. Galleries of Korea and Japan were first-time comers
to the fair. They enjoyed it and will probably come back
in the following years. Their commercial success was evident
as I was passing through their booth everyday to a new layout.
Kukje/Tina Kim Gallery, with their Lee Ufans (Figure 1), had
one of the fastest rotating booth. When asked about Korea and
the UAE, its Director pointed out underlying historical pearl
trade relationship even before the oil boom, mentioning the
Gulf as crossroads for Asian cultures.
Perhaps a seed against the West-centric art market has
been planted at this year’s Abu Dhabi Art. East-East
dialogues have been developed, and will continue to grow
as Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong becomes an established stops
in the art world. Nothing can be generalized, but the
commercial success of Chinese and Korean galleries in
an art fair hosted in Abu Dhabi should not go unnoticed.
Sophie Arni, November 2014, Abu Dhabi.
All images are taken by Sophie Arni at the art fair. Copyright Global Art Daily, 2016.