Art Dubai: Interview with Fair Director Antonia Carver

Ahead of Art Dubai 2016, Fair Director Antonia Carver talks exclusively to LUXOS about the region’s thriving art scene

Art Dubai is to the UAE what Frieze Art Fair is to London and Art Basel to Basel, Miami and Hong Kong. And while it might still be quite a youngster on the contemporary art scene, as Art Dubai prepares to celebrate its 10th year, it is proof that Dubai and the UAE has a deserved place in the international art arena.

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Art Dubai is one of the most important cultural events of the UAE’s calendar, and not only a platform for local Middle Eastern artists but artists and galleries worldwide. Art Dubai 2015 hosted the biggest global-line up of participants of any fair worldwide.

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Ahead of Art Dubai 2016, LUXOS caught up with Antonia Carver, Art Dubai’s Fair Director, to get her thoughts on the burgeoning Middle Eastern art scene, the must-visit art galleries in the region and an exclusive look ahead to what art purveyors can expect from the upcoming edition of Art Dubai and beyond...


Art Dubai is celebrating its 10th year in 2016. How has the arts scene in the UAE developed in the last decade?
“The tenth edition of Art Dubai offers a great opportunity to pause for a moment and look back on the phenomenal development in the arts over this time. The arts scene of Dubai itself has transformed – from a handful of galleries in the early 2000s through to around 40 today, plus artists’ studios, foundations, and so much more. In 2006, when Art Dubai began, it was one of the first major art fairs in Asia – and its growth has mirrored this broad shift from West to East in the global art world.”


Why do you think contemporary Middle Eastern art is becoming so increasingly popular in the West?
“The international attention being paid to Middle Eastern art has been steadily growing over the past 10-15 years. It is part of a growing awareness of the depth of talent in this region, and the ways in which artists are tending to address real life concerns. Perhaps there is a certain fatigue growing in dominant art world capitals with ‘art about art’ or art that references a very small, privileged and somewhat closed group of insiders. Many artists in the Middle East are making work that’s urgent, that’s highly contemporary and that debates ideas and concerns that are part of the everyday. It’s a hugely exciting scene to be a part of.”


What can visitors expect from Art Dubai 2016?
“As well as a nod back through the past decade we will also have a firm face-forward, after all, Dubai is known as a city of innovation, one that is constantly reinventing itself, and we’re very much attuned to that. There will be a focus on GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) youth, of looking forward to the future of the art world and beyond. The Modern section of the fair is growing fast and our contemporary gallery halls are ever more daring and diverse.”

Art-Dubai-Antonia-Carver HH-Sheikh-Hamdan Luxos-Magazine-2Antonia Carver at Art Dubai 2015

The gallery scene is rapidly expanding in Dubai. Which galleries should art lovers make sure they visit?
“Be sure to visit the Al Quoz industrial area, including Alserkal Avenue, home to many of the most exciting galleries. Don’t miss Green Art Gallery, Carbon 12, The Third Line, Ayyam Gallery, Isabelle van den Eynde, Grey Noise and Lawrie Shabibi.”


How do you see the art scene developing in the UAE over the next decade?
“The gallery scene is ever growing and new galleries planning to arrive in the city this year will diversify the scene even more. Abu Dhabi’s major museums are set to start opening over the next two years, while Sharjah’s Biennial grows in stature each edition. Dubai is slated to open a Future Museum, while private patrons and gallerists are focusing also on studios, foundations and not-for-profits. There are a few holes to fill in terms of a mature, rounded arts scene, but we’re getting there – and in leaps and bounds.”