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Art in the city

Art season is back in full swing in the UAE with the return of two prestigious events on the creative calendar – Dubai Design Week and Abu Dhabi Art 

Set against the backdrop of some of the world’s most artistic architectural marvels, the UAE’s creative scene has blossomed over the last decade. Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in particular, have played a significant role in cementing the country’s status on the global creative stage. Not only have gallery districts been established across the emirates – from Alserkal Avenue to Dubai Design District (d3) – but dedicated hubs, such as the renowned Louvre Abu Dhabi, have opened to the world, with the long-awaited Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on the way.

More importantly, a culture for nurturing creativity has been adopted by the emirates, with the introduction of several art programmes, such as Dubai Design Week, Abu Dhabi Art, Art Dubai and World Art Dubai, to cater to established and upcoming artists from all over the world.

This November, art season makes its comeback with the return of two prestigious events on the UAE’s creative calendar. The Middle East’s leading design fair, Dubai Design Week, will run from November 8 to 13, 2021, celebrating regional design and creativity. While in the UAE capital, the annual art fair, Abu Dhabi Art, will mark its first physical event since the onset of the pandemic, with an in-person exhibition running from November 17 to 21, 2021.

A leading platform in the Middle East championing regional design and creativity, Dubai Design Week returns for its seventh edition, featuring an extensive programme of exhibitions, installations, special commissions and activities for creative enthusiasts of all ages. Taking place at its main hub in Dubai Design District (d3), the event will also see activities across key locations in the city. This year’s theme underscores sustainability through restorative and circular design, which is also a key focus of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Highlights from the fair include the return of Downtown Design, the leading event for the Middle Eastern design market, which shines a light on small-scale, limited edition and bespoke design solutions from regional brands.

The headline commission, Abwab, will showcase the latest innovations in contemporary architecture, under the theme of regenerative and restorative design. In an initiative led by Global Grad Show, the MENA Grad Show will highlight the most innovative social impact projects from the Middle East and North Africa, focusing on solutions to improve and transform lives. And in support of the creative community in Lebanon, the Beirut Concept Store will turn the spotlight on rising and established Lebanese talent.

Another interesting showcase for audiences this year is the 2040: d3 Architecture Exhibition, which will teleport visitors to the next 20 years of Dubai through stunning architectural installations.

After being held as a virtual event in 2020, Abu Dhabi Art will return to its physical form this year at Manarat Al Saadiyat. This annual event has become a pivotal part of the region’s art calendar and celebrates the UAE’s creative scene.

This year’s fair will welcome galleries from across the globe. Visitors can expect an inspirational showcase of sculptures, installations, artefacts and paintings alongside an educational programme of talks and events aimed at younger artists looking to make a name for themselves in the art world.

Each year, distinguished guest curators work closely with a number of galleries exhibiting at the fair to present curated gallery sectors and programmes. This year, Simon Njami and Rose Lejeune have been chosen as the guest curators, after having contributed to the virtual edition of the fair in 2020.

Drawing connections between artists through the language of music, Njami’s sector will spotlight galleries under a new curatorial framework titled Kind of Blue, referencing Miles Davis’s album from the late 1950s. Through his showcase, Njami will position the genre of jazz as a metaphor for the open-ended parameters of the exhibition. Kind of Blue likens galleries to orchestras, each presenting musicians who together create a collective project that is wider than their singular expression.

Meanwhile, guest curator Rose Lejeune will bring together a new performing arts programme at Abu Dhabi Art featuring a diverse line-up of immersive acts. Each commissioned artist will select a site for a live performance in various locations across the UAE capital and also at the fair, with the aim of offering an abstract and poetic experience against the backdrop of unique sculptural landmarks and sceneries around the city.

Abu Dhabi Art’s agenda extends beyond the annual five-day fair at Manarat Al Saadiyat, with this year’s edition welcoming a number of exhibitions and commissions that will continue beyond the fair walls. Taking place as part of the initiative, the Beyond: Artist Commissions programme will see creative works displayed at historic and cultural sites across the emirate. The exhibition will launch during the fair but will remain open for three months as part of Abu Dhabi Art’s year-round programming.


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