Between November 7-10, Saadiyat Island will be visited by thousands of people looking to buy, study and engage with Abu Dhabi Art 2012. With an impressive list of 50 galleries, showcasing hundreds of artists, this year’s venture is setting the bar high for regional, as well as international, art fairs. Whether you consider yourself an art aficionado or not, this festival of creativity is one not to be missed as it transcends many different platforms of cultural and artistic expression.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (the festival organiser) is a newly formed entity that has been entrusted with the task of promoting the capital city’s cultural and artistic identity, dually promoting local Emirati art while also accommodating global and international styles. Executive director of Abu Dhabi Art, Rita Aoun-Abdo, tells Time Out, ‘Cultivating an art market is an important step in the maturity of any cultural hub. Abu Dhabi Art and the engagement with the international arts scene are integral to supporting Abu Dhabi’s evolving cultural ecosystem. Abu Dhabi Art is already helping us move towards these long-term goals by supporting UAE and regional artists, bringing museum-quality work to Abu Dhabi and creating a wide array of public programmes for the community to enjoy, while continuing to attract a growing number of international visitors to Abu Dhabi on an annual basis.’
This year will be the second time the art fair is hosted at Manarat Al Saadiyat. Senior project manager of Abu Dhabi Art, Nicola Ure, says, ‘We are delighted to be hosting the fourth edition of Abu Dhabi Art at the UAE Pavilion and Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island. Having launched the unique venue last year, this space, located in the heart of the Saadiyat Cultural District, showcases the dedication and integrity that Abu Dhabi maintains in cultivating the country’s cultural landscape, and welcomes leading and innovative galleries from the art scene again this November.’
There are five areas grouping galleries this year: Modern and Contemporary, Design, Signature, Beyond and Bidaya. The art fair will be located at the UAE Pavilion as well as Manarat Al Saadiyat. Each section follows a unique theme in grouping and presenting various galleries, artists and performers.
Speaking about the Design program, head of public programming Tairone Bastien says, ‘Design is etched into our history and continues to be an ever-present part of our culture. This year, Abu Dhabi Art explores the roots of Emirati aesthetics – bringing together top international designers and Emirati artisans who will produce new commissions. Examining how form follows function and design here evolved from ways of life, the workshops and programmes supporting them, give a sense of true Emirati culture – with, in some cases, a contemporary twist.’
A special range of activities has been incorporated to make this year’s Abu Dhabi Art unique. ‘A rich and diverse programme is integral for Abu Dhabi Art to evolve,’ says Bastien. ‘We are cultivating a platform to stimulate an exchange of ideas between some of the world’s most influential artists, collectors, galleries, writers and curators. Our myriad of events includes film-screenings, design and art-based workshops, performances and talks which are open and accessible to all visitors. We encourage interaction as a key facet for education and have developed the comprehensive public programme to satisfy the creative needs of our audience.’
Nicola Ure states, ‘This year’s programme includes a schedule of talks, discussions and book launches featuring renowned artists, curators, art historians and galleries as well as the return of the dedicated children’s art zone, which welcomed 4,000 kids in 2011, all of which enhance this year’s cultural event.’ Keep reading for our pick of the many exciting features to be seen at this year’s fair.