A one-on-one with Pablo del Val, Artistic Director, Art Dubai. Art Dubai, the world’s most internationally diverse art fair, has today announced a full list of participating galleries, as well as details on the new gallery hall layout and programme for its 2019 edition. Showcasing +90 galleries from 41 countries, between 20 and 23 March, the fair will reconfirm Dubai’sposition as a global meeting point for the arts.

Image: Hamra Abbas 

Art Dubai’s new structure includes four main sections complementing each other, which will offer visitors greater access and deeper engagement with artists and galleries from non-Western geographies. The new format positions the Contemporary section as the core section of the fair, with Modern presented alongside the Contemporary galleries, enabling an elevated understanding of the region’s art history. The inaugural Bawwaba gallery section, taking its title from the Arabic word for ‘gateway’, focuses on different geographies and viewpoints from new markets and features solo presentations of works produced specifically for the fair. The programme-cum-gallery section Residents, a project inviting international artists for a 6-8 week residency in the UAE to produce new work and immerse themselves in the local art scene, will see its second edition in 2019 and will specifically focus on Latin America. 

Continuing the fair’s commitment to supporting the development of the local art scene, Art Dubai will dedicate a new section in the fair to showcase young, local projects from the fields of art, culture and creativity in the UAE, as well as produce an exhibition by the artists participating in Campus Art Dubai 7.0 programme. 

Back for a 13th edition, and after many years of outstanding success, what have you done for this year to maintain the show’s relevance in the global art world?

Thank you. Well, the 2019 edition of Art Dubai – the 13th edition – will be our most diverse to date, with 42 countries represented across the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. We’ve also expanded our gallery sections to include the second edition of Residents, this year we have 12 artists from Latin America’s leading galleries come to UAE for 4 to 8 week residencies in studio in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to create new works to be exhibited at the fair. We also have new section, Bawwaba (taking its title from the Arabic word for ‘gateway’) which aims to offer new perspectives through 10 solo shows on the Global South.

What I’m really excited about too is ‘UAE NOW’, an exhibition that explore the country’s independent local artist-run platforms. This is about the self-organising underground and grass roots artistic collectives and platforms that are springing up here in the UAE and contribute to our flourishing art ecosystem by creating new ways of thinking, theory and artistic movements. 

As an art fair we’re known internationally for our quality non-commercial programme that runs alongside the galleries and this year is no exception: from Global Art Forum, the biggest arts conference of its kind in the region, to discover tours, Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program, performances, installation commissions and the Ithra Art Prize.

Who are the biggest gallery names in 2019’s edition? Who should we be sure not to miss?

This is always such a difficult question to answer as we have over 90 galleries and all are selected via an expert committee, meaning all bring with them significant collectable artworks – whether from early-career or very established artists. They all have their value. So, I’ll mention some of the first-time exhibitors: Akar Prakar (Kolkota/New Delhi), ANDERSEN’S (Copenhagen), Seimasuno (Madrid), SMAC Gallery (Johannesburg/Cape Town/Stellenbosch), Spruth Magers (Berlin/London/Los Angeles) – all first rate leading contemporary art galleries. Then in Art Dubai Modern, our section dedicated to the region’s 20th century modernist masters, we have Dhoomimal Gallery, the older gallery in India (based in New Delhi).

And which of the region’s artists is currently most exciting you?

There are so many on my radar but to pick just five, I’d say Daniah Al Saleh, Marwan Rechmaoui, the collective of Mohamed Kazem, Dorothea van der Koelen and Isabelle van den Eynde, Farah Al Qasimi and Kuwait’s Hamra Abbas.

Tell us more about the ‘Residency’ programme-cum-section. What’s its aim? 

Art Dubai Residents is a very unique offering. For fair visitors it’s a chance to see and buy completely new – literally just finished! – works by young artists from emerging galleries, whose work wouldn’t ordinarily be exhibited at the fair. For the artists, this year from Latin America, the residency allows them to immerse themselves in the local art scene and learn about the UAE in general – vice versa for the community here – all the artists are hosted by studio spaces: Tashkeel and d3 in Dubai, and Bait 15 and Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi. 

Continuing the Latin American focus, this year’s main commission will be produced by the Brazilian artist collective OPAVIVARÁ! who will be welcoming visitors to the fair with a vibrant immersive installation. 

What are the non-gallery events lined up that we should be taking note of? Lectures, screenings etc? 

There’s so much happening from fair opening through to our after-dark music programme which, this year, is powered by the legendary NTS Radio. We have a packed talks programme which includes Global Art Forum; Modern Symposium, for those wanting to learn more about the development of modernism in the region; talks on arts patronage; our children’s programme; performances, one of which is led by Marlon Griffith, a carnival artist, and will have 150 performers – and visitors – parading through the fair. 

What do you feel the current global status is of regional artists? And what do you see Art Dubai as having done over the years to raise their profile? 

I think Art Dubai has been instrumental to raising the profile of regional artists. Since its inception in 2007, the fair has shone a spotlight on art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Beyond the diversity and quality of its art programming, is a commitment to being a place of discovery for art from geographies that are usually outside of art’s mainstream dialogue. 

But it doesn’t exist alone; we have commercial galleries, public museums, government organisations and foundations, studios and other making places – all factor into the UAE’s thriving art ecosystem and act as platforms to promote the region.