Friday, April 19, 2024

From Global South to Global Stage: Art Dubai Redefines Contemporary Art

From Global South to Global Stage: Art Dubai Redefines Contemporary Art


Profile
Pablo del Val, Artistic Director at Art Dubai.

Throughout his career, Pablo Del Val has amassed a wealth of experience as a cultural manager, curator, and director of contemporary art galleries. Renowned for his unwavering commitment to excellence in artistic production, he has also made significant contributions to the promotion of art collecting.
Del Val’s dedication to championing emerging artists and fostering a culture of quality underscores his professional ethos.


How does your past experience influence your outlook for 2024, and what is the critical element in your strategy to guarantee the success of Art Dubai?

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Pablo del Val: The cultural scene in Dubai is booming, reflecting the growth in both the city and the wider Gulf region. It’s also maturing quickly – a combination of long-term investment, grass-roots initiatives and the key ingredient of time.

In recent years, we have worked hard to very clearly define what Art Dubai is, and the communities we represent – what we do is unique, both in the region, but also in terms of the international art scene.

Visitors this year who haven’t been to Art Dubai for many years will notice a significant shift in the volume and quality of the programme, with a strengthened gallery roster, as well as a significantly expanded programme, talks and workshops. This is all achieved through partnerships and collaboration plus long-range strategic thinking – the aim being to ensure the success of Art Dubai for years to come. 

Art Dubai has become a beacon for contemporary art from the Global South, offering a vibrant alternative to Western-centric narratives. Can you elaborate on how Art Dubai has succeeded in amplifying voices and narratives from the Global South within the contemporary art scene?

Pablo del Val: Art Dubai has always been a window to the “Global South”, offering a glimpse into the rich community of artistic voices that shape it. Our guided curation across the fair’s sections – Contemporary, Art Dubai Modern, Art Dubai Digital and Bawwaba – is a nod to our home city’s distinctive identity and its diverse cultures. We are proud to champion art from regions including Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia and we have been doing this for nearly two decades. 

What truly distinguishes us is our unwavering commitment to placing often-overlooked perspectives at the heart of the fair’s programming. Over 65% of our presentations originate from the Global South, so we stand in contrast to any other international art fairs, which have a heavy reliance on what one might term the traditional Western art centres. Other art fairs have a much more regional focus. We are proud to be truly global and our goal is to leave visitors with an authentic experience of the artistic vibrancy of the artists and galleries from across the Global South. 

We are proud to be truly global and our goal is to leave visitors with an authentic experience of the artistic vibrancy of the artists and galleries from across the Global South. 

Pablo del Val

In 2024, we’re exploring the concept of the ‘Global South’ across more than 120 presentations drawn from over 60 cities and more than 40 countries. The diversity is striking, with contributions from places as varied as Sao Paulo, Cairo, Tehran, Beirut, New Delhi, Seoul, and Buenos Aires, just to name a few, but also highlighting the communities and artists whose experiences may be defined as “Global South” but who are based in more traditional art centers.

And we’re seeing the impact of Art Dubai on the evolution of the region’s contemporary art scene, not just at the fair itself but also throughout  the UAE, which is buzzing with exhibitions everywhere – from galleries, museums, national institutions, festivals and  independent art organisations, as well as an extensive talks and conference programme, highlighting the appetite and opportunity there is for cultural education and learning here. From gallery openings in Al Quoz and DIFC, exhibitions at Jameel Art Centre and Ishara Art Foundation in Dubai, to venues like Sharjah Art Foundation, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and 421, there are so many reasons to visit the UAE during Art Dubai Week.

The Global Art Forum at Art Dubai 2024 is themed around “Whether or Not,” focusing on the relationship between extreme weather and cultural responses. How does this theme contribute to broader discussions within the art world, and what outcomes do you hope to achieve through this forum

Pablo del Val: Artists have a significant influence in raising awareness and even inspiring action, including on urgent issues such as climate change. In this context, Art Dubai plays a key role in bringing the art communities of the Global South together in dialogue through initiatives such as the Global Art Forum.

Under this year’s theme “Whether or Not”, the forum will look into the cultures, technologies, sciences and initiatives surrounding extreme weather and change. Together with renowned artists, architects, academics, curators, and thinkers, its Commissioner Shumon Basar and Curator Nadine El-Khoury, have set out to shape an important debate on the future of our planet.

Art Dubai plays a key role in bringing the art communities of the Global South together in dialogue through initiatives such as the Global Art Forum.

Pablo del Val

It will be both insightful and thought-provoking to hear from speakers such as Dr. Stephanie Rosenthal, Director of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Project in Abu Dhabi, Anne Holtrop, Architect from Muharraq (Amsterdam), Monira Al Qadiri, Artist based in Berlin, Samir Bantal, Architect and Director AMO at OMA in Rotterdam, Nadia Christidi, Researcher, and Arts Practitioner from MIT, Cambridge (Massachusetts), among others.

The Modern and Collector Talks at Art Dubai 2024 focus on exploring the impact of Soviet geopolitics on artistic developments in the Global South. How do these historical connections continue to shape contemporary art practices, and what role do they play in fostering cultural exchange and understanding?

Pablo del Val: We’re collaborating with Dubai Collection, the first institutional collection of the city of Dubai, to deliver a series of Modern and Collector and extend our ongoing dialogue with Dubai’s creative community. In 2024, the Art Dubai Modern Talks will explore the artistic connections facilitated by the geopolitical landscape of the Cold War, shifting focus from Western metropoles to examine the impact of Soviet education and exhibitions on artists from the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Leading figures, including Bilal Akkouche from Tate Modern, Dr. Masha Kirosirova from NYU Abu Dhabi, Inga Lace from Almaty Museum of Art, Daudi Karungi from Afriart Gallery in Kampala, and more, will contribute their insights.

We’re very proud of our lasting collaborations with key institutional, corporate and government partners, and major corporate patrons have commissioned works for the 2024 fair. For instance, Julius Baer has commissioned a significant digital project by Canadian Korean artist Krista Kim. Clinique La Prairie is working with Syrian artist Sara Naim, Piaget is collaborating with Saudi fashion designer Razan Alazzouni, plus Emirati artist Shamsa Alabbar is crafting a new watchpiece set to be unveiled at the fair.

HUNA is supporting the creation of a new sculpture park at H-Residence, part of a wide-ranging and reaching year-round Cultural Programme, and BMW has commissioned Dubai-based Asma Belhamar to create a new work for the fair. Additionally, we are joining forces with the Public Art Strategy to reveal a large-scale public art project led by a regional artist in the city. 

The A.R.M. Holding Children’s Programme, now in its fourth year, aims to engage young minds in creative exploration and critical thinking. The A.R.M. Holding Children’s Programme at Art Dubai 2024 is set to reach over 15,000 students across the UAE. How does this initiative empower young participants to envision and shape the future of their cities through artistic expression and environmental stewardship?

The fair isn’t just about the sale of the best art to top collectors; it’s a platform  to educate the next generation and one we take very seriously. One of our proudest initiatives in this space, now in its fourth year, is the A.R.M. Holding Children’s Programme. Led this year by Indian artist Sahil Naik, it aims to ignite inspiration in young minds through art-making workshops, encouraging active participation in building and designing their cities. After the fair, the programme will reach over 15,000 children in 100 schools across the UAE, making it the most ambitious unified art education initiative in the region.

Together, we design and implement joint programmes focused on educating and involving children in art education, contributing to larger societal impact and artistic enrichment.

Pablo del Val

Our collaboration with A.R.M. Holding reflects a shared commitment to community development and artistic advancement in the region. Together, we design and implement joint programmes focused on educating and involving children in art education, contributing to larger societal impact and artistic enrichment.

The roots of the A.R.M. Holding Children’s Programme trace back to the Sheikha Manal Little Artists Programme in 2012. Initially crafted to introduce young audiences to the world of art, it has evolved with each edition. Past collaborations have featured innovative artists like Cyrus Kabiru and Jacob Dahlgren, leading workshops that encouraged unconventional art techniques, such as transforming everyday objects into artworks.

In a similar vein, our flagship Campus Art Dubai professional development and traineeship programme has, over the past decade, provided opportunities for 400 alumni to engage with cultural initiatives and leading organisations. It has made a real impact on the foundational development of a dynamic cultural ecosystem.

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