- By Sophie Arni
Abu Dhabi has opened its Manarat al-Saadiyat doors once again to its annual international art fair. Not too many things changed from last year, but things have developed in terms of #global awareness. Three notable pieces from what I could call historical artists of the contemporary art world introduced visitors to the fair. Interesting to note, none of them were from Europe nor the USA which are usually the centers of art making today. The first installation was by Iranian Fahrad Moshiri. The second, from Chinese superstar painter Yue Minjun, and the third - from the Emirati father of conceptual art - Hassan Sharif. These three pieces set the tone for the "global" fair's content: a mixed media, mixed culture new kind of art that embraces local non-Western heritages. [post-scriptum: 05/10/2018 It appears that NYU Abu Dhabi acquired this artwork for an undisclosed sum as the sculpture is currently hanging in its Welcome Center on the university's Saadiyat Island campus.]
Abu Dhabi, as a city, indeed embraces cosmopolitanism as part of their national identity. Abu Dhabi is a crossroad city as we heard Neil Macgreggor, the president of the British Museum repeat during his star-studded panel talk 'Museum and the Stories They Tell'. This is true indeed, coming from a student who has been living in Abu Dhabi for three years. This city has the ambition to become global in the 21st century sense of the world in the way it balances and equates Western and non-Western perspectives on business, education, and cultural activities. The talk, I must say, was more of a PR roadshow for the British Museum, the Guggenheim and the Louvre than an intellectual debate on what it means to have these three superpowers of Western culture implanting themselves in the city of Abu Dhabi. The emerging nature of Abu Dhabi as an art city has an effect on the pieces offered at the fair. Only a select handful of local art collectors seem to be dedicated to buying art. It's the kind of fair where galleries do not need much persuasive power to sell. They know beforehand who's buying what; the buyer knows what he wants already.
Let's get into the art. Acting as a collector, if I had a $1 million to spare, the slideshow above shows what I would buy.
All images are taken by Sophie Arni at the art fair.