Art Fairs International MARCH 27, 2007 - by Eliza Gluckman


In Spring 2007, Dubai will host the first Gulf Art Fair of international contemporary art. The fair is a timely event in a prime location both geographically and financially, and has attracted contemporary art galleries from countries across the globe including India, China and the US. Over thirty galleries will fill the Madinat Arena in the Madinat Jumeirah with artworks outside the fair on Fort Island and the beach.

Dubai already has the attributes to become a key hub of the global art market. Situated within easy reach of Russia, India and South East Asia, and with some world-class artists now emerging throughout the Middle East, Dubai is ideally placed to become the focal point for some of the most exciting new art markets in the world. As the region's most important financial market and - as a tax-free location - Dubai offers significant financial advantages for dealers and collectors.

The Gulf Art Fair builds on the success of the first Christies sale in Dubai on the 24 May 2006, which attracted collectors from more than seventeen countries worldwide. Christies' sales totalled three times the pre-sale estimate. Edward Dolman, Chief Executive Officer, Christies International, recognised that the auction was the first phase of development in a thriving art market in the region. He said the auction "exceeded our expectations in terms of the prices achieved and the incredibly enthusiastic response from our new clients in the region." Furthermore, the extraordinary boom in London's art market sales of impressionist and modernist works has been fuelled by the rise of a new group of wealthy buyers from Russia and the Middle and far East. In bringing together some of the most exciting new art in one of the world's most dynamic countries, the Gulf Art Fair will make a significant contribution to the cultural life of the region.

The fair has been embraced by the thriving local art scene. The Third Line Gallery, Dubai's top international commercial space will be taking a booth whilst local galleries will open and exhibit local and Eastern artists.

Honorary Patron, Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE, Ruler of Dubai, will open the fair at an exclusive patrons' preview. The following evening, a gala charity opening will take place and all ticket sales for the opening night and for public days will be donated to the Al Madad Foundation for START, a project to fund children's art workshops in deprived communities. The START project will be an ongoing commitment for the Gulf Art Fair, and in future years, the revenue will fund scholarships and support for the most talented young artists to come through the START workshops.

Running alongside the fair will be a series of artists' projects brokered by Candlestar, the innovative, London-based cultural consultancy. Major artists such as Conrad Shawcross, Parviz Tanavoli and Brian Eno will create a series of installations outside the arena. Eno's work, 77 Million Paintings, has travelled the globe in various guises - from a three-screen projection to a multi-roomed extravaganza. The essence of the work is a slow moving image that changes and morphs from a bank of millions. This "moving painting" creates infinite variants of colour, sound and shape. The work will be displayed on Fort Island outside the fair for visitors and VIPs to relax and enjoy after visiting the fair. The Gulf Art Fair VIP programme will be supported by Quintessentially, a private members club, and will create a bar and lounge area on Fort Island. An onyx stone work, Luna Disc, by Emily Young will be viewed as you cross the bridge to Fort Island, and will appear to float in the water. Emily will be represented inside the fair too by the Fine Arts Society who will take a stand alongside Albion Gallery of London, Galerist of Istanbul, Bodhi Gallery of Singapore, Max Lang of New York and Pekin Fine Arts of Beijing, to name a few.

The Sotheby's Institute will run the education programme during the fair. The programme will bring together leading artists, curators and museum directors to offer a detailed introduction for visitors wishing to learn more about international contemporary art. A comprehensive press and marketing campaign aims to make the work on display accessible and popular to a wide new audience throughout the Gulf.

The organisers of the Gulf Art Fair estimate that the event will attract ten thousand to fifteen thousand visitors over four days. A truly exciting new fair, the Gulf Art Fair will hope to establish itself as the destination for collectors from across the world as well as to develop and nurture the local audience in the Middle East.