Paintings and African art to dominate in Abu Dhabi Art


“It really felt like business as usual,” said Abu Dhabi Art director Dyala Nusseibeh of her experience at Frieze London last month. “People were hungry for it. As international fairs get back on track, each physical iteration acts as a litmus test for the next. Abu Dhabi Art is as follows: it returns this week to its usual location in Manarat Al Saadiyat after an online-only edition in 2020. While Nusseibeh says the online viewing room was a good substitute in difficult circumstances which “has managed to achieve very good sales for a number of galleries ”, she is delighted to see the art world return to the emirate.

Another more local test of the willingness to travel and attend large-scale events was the Dubai Expo, which finally opened last month; it would have received more than 400,000 visitors in the first ten days, one in three having come from abroad. The World’s Fair hopes to attract 25 million people before it closes in March next year.

“It has been a very good indication that people have the confidence to travel again – from the United States to the United Arab Emirates in particular – and they don’t feel like it’s too difficult,” said Nusseibeh.

Fifty galleries are participating in Abu Dhabi Art this year, as before Covid, with 14 debutants, including Rossi & Rossi (London); Colnaghi (London); Baró Galeria (Palma); and Galeria La Cometa (Bogotá). The fair is not jumping on the NFT bandwagon, and although some galleries display digital works, Nusseibeh says painting will dominate on the stands this year (a sighting highly noted by many at Frieze London as well).

“The counterweight to [digital] is, of course, the materiality of paintings, ”she says. “I could go through a number of different artists who show wonderful paintings at the fair. Colnaghi proposed paintings by Raqib Shaw, and Rasheed Araeen, well known for his geometric structures, created a whole series of paintings. The United Arab Emirates market responds very well to this.

This year, a special contemporary African art section of four galleries is organized by curator and African art expert Simon Njami. Called Kind of Blue, it uses jazz as a metaphor for the current role of African art on the international scene. The exhibit will be the first thing you come across upon entering the fair, Nusseibeh says. “It’s like a central marketplace from which everything else starts. It will definitely be something special.

Abu Dhabi Art, November 17-20, Manarat Al Saadiyat

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