The sixth edition of Art Dubai returns to Madinat Arena from March 21 to 24. Although it doesn’t yet attract New York and London’s super-galleries, Art Dubai has quickly established itself as the biggest art fair in the Middle East. Last year some contributors took advantage of Dubai’s relatively open environment to comment on the Arab Spring, so it will be interesting to see how current events are reflected in this year’s festival.
Some of Dubai’s more outlandish plans for cultural institutions may be on ice, but the high turnover ensures that Art Dubai can pay its own way. But it isn’t just about matchmaking between cashed-up collectors and artworks. Curators, art critics and, naturally, artists all take part in Global Art Forum, a series of lectures, workshops and more informal get-togethers. There are also satellite programs of residencies, performances and site-specific works in various locations across the city.
All of that comes under the banner of Art Dubai, but Art Dubai is itself (bear with me, it gets a little confusing here) only one part of an umbrella program called Art Week. Other events include the Sikka Art Fair, returning for the second year in a row and taking place in the historic precinct of Al Bastakiya. Sikka concentrates exclusively on local creativity, so this is the place to come to see what Emirati artists are up to.
Another major component of Art Week is the inaugural Design Days Dubai, from March 18 to the 21st. It bills itself as “the Middle East’s and South Asia’s first fair dedicated to collectible and limited edition design” and will be held in a specially designed venue at the foot of Burj Khalifa.