Art Dubai – Huge Success for Africa’s Dynamic Art Scene

Art Dubai, March 2013, has become the most elegant and exciting international art fair circuit in its seventh edition. Inviting 75 galleries from 30 countries to the lavish fair venue, Madinat Jumeirah, attracted an impressive array of visitors from the Serpentine Gallery director, Hans Ulrich Obrist to Deutsche Bank Curator Alistair Hicks, both part of the 25,000 visitors made up of collectors, curators, artists, art enthusiasts and 75 museum groups.

The fair expanded its demand under its director, Antonia Carver, with an exceptional VIP programme, solid public art commissions, educational workshops and acclaimed talk programme featuring more than 40 contributors (the Global Art Forum).

A number of galleries benefited from the excitement of first time collectors, European, American, Chinese and most importantly Middle Eastern collectors, to whom they made significant sales.  Some of the collectors had been flown in on trips organised by 75 museum groups including the Tate in London, the US-based Centre Pompidou Foundation and the Macro & Maxxi contemporary art museums in Rome.

Art Dubai 2013 also featured the third edition of Marker, a curated section of gallery booths, focusing each year on a different country or region.  This year, the spotlight was on the West African cities of Douala (Cameroon), Ségou (Mali), Lagos (Nigeria), Dakar (Senegal) and Accra (Ghana).

Inviting the Lagos-based curator Bisi Silva to select West Africa-based galleries and institutions for the fair’s curated Marker section was also an ingenious move on the part of the fair’s organisers, who have turned to an exciting and important emerging market.

As our focus is on African Artists, I have only highlighted the success of Marker galleries and African artists from other galleries at the fair.

The participating artists included Ablade Glover, Harandane Dicko, Soly Cissé, Ndidi Dike, Charles Okereke and Emeka Ogboh. There were also independent special projects and presentations by the likes of Aboubakar Fofana and Abdoulaye Konaté.  The featured works – varying from painting, photography and sculpture, to sound art and film – were bought by private individuals and collectors during the fair, with serious interest from major museums and institutions keen to acquire certain pieces for their collections.

The sales at Marker were impressive with six works out of seven by Ablade Glover (solo exhibition), ranging between $15000 and $20,000, sold by the third day. The overall sales response and interest was phenomenal.

Outside the Marker section, African artists made a huge success. For instance, the headdresses by hot-hot-hot Benin artist Meschac Gaba, which sold for $19,500.

Immerse yourself in Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art, this summer at the Tate Modern. Exhibition 3 July – 22 September 2013.

It is therefore interesting to note that Abu Dhabi’s Guggenheim museum project for the Saadiyat Island project, has released details of a few more acquisitions. They include an El Anatsui “tapestry” made from bottle ends and two photographs by Youssef Nabil inter alia.

I am, indeed, looking forward to Art Abu Dhabi come November!

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