How Art Dubai's inclusive new direction is a win for us all

Dubai’s biggest art fair is set to return to the city this week with a focus on inclusivity, diversity and the future of education
How Art Dubai's inclusive new direction is a win for us all
Aya Haidar

Women may be greatly underrepresented in many leading art galleries worldwide, (according to the US National Museum of Women in the Arts, although women make up 51 per cent of all artists, less than 13 per cent of the art on display in museums is made by women), Grazia was excited to learn that Art Dubai 2019 is seeking to redress the balance.

One of the key themes at this year’s event is inclusivity. The annual event, held between 20-23 March, is a celebration of both international and local art, with pieces exhibited from 42 countries at this year’s event. To encourage more women to attend Art Dubai, there will also be a women’s-only preview of the art gallery before the VIP opening on the first day, from 1pm-4pm on 20 March, to which all women in the city are invited to attend to view all four exhibits at the art fair.

One of the most interesting female artists being exhibited at this year’s event is Hayv Kahraman. Born in Baghdad and currently living in Los Angeles, Hayv depicts a Middle Eastern female figure who reappears throughout many of her key works.

“I spent four years in Italy, I studied the old master paintings, I was engulfed in the Renaissance," Hayv tells Grazia. “I was reading a lot of academic texts, so stuff to do with post-coloniality, decolonisation... so I slowly started realising that she [the character she paints in her work] is actually a projection of an assimilated body, that I was taught to believe by white European art history was the ultimate ideal.” She continues, “The character evolves many times based on what I personally go through.”

Hayv’s work on display at the show is part of a partnership with local gallery The Third Line, one of many partnerships that Art Dubai has this year which enables the breadth of work on display.

Hayv Kahraman’s work examines post-colonialism and corporeal assimilation

Another such partnership sees the work of Aya Haidar on display this year. The Lebanese-British artist, was born in the US, lived in Saudi Arabia until she was six, before relocating to the UK. Speaking about her upbringing, she reveals, “It’s such a big mix, it’s something that I wanted to be able to place my own narrative on.”

One of the main aspects of Aya’s work focuses on used items. “All my work uses objects I’ve reappropriated. It’s important because there are stories that are inherent in these objects she continues. Her work documents the effects of war, and the changes which have taken place in Lebanon over the past 50 years and further in the country’s past. She explains, “My work focuses on my personal history, whether it’s my memory, or my mother’s memory or my grandmother’s history and what it means to be Lebanese across these intergenerational differences.”

Rodolpoho Parigi

As much as heritage walks hand-in-hand with this year’s theme of inclusivity, another key focus of the fair is education, with the provocative question Is school a factory line? forming the backbone of the fair’s main talks this year. According to the event organisers, the discussion will address “some of the urgent challenges and opportunities facing education today,” with a particular focus on the academic structure of education and the arts. The talks will also cover innovative ideas about how society can benefit from co-learning and AI in the academic space.

A historic photo of Dubai from the Tolerance, has history collection

In a show of the country’s support for this year’s themes, one of the most unique features at the 2019 fair is a personal collection from HH Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. In line with the country’s theme of tolerance this year, his collection is called Tolerance, has history and will focus on the welcoming, diverse and past of the country. Indeed, this year’s show looks to be one of the most diverse yet, with art on display from everywhere from the Middle East, South Asia to Africa.

This year, Art Dubai is holding a residency programme for Latin-American artists

After last year’s successful inaugural residents' initiative, the show also has a dedicated Latin-American partnership programme which will see artists from countries in Latin America take place in a four to eight week residency in Dubai. And surely there is no better way to generate meaningful inclusivity in Dubai’s creative arts than by welcoming artists from other countries to live and create art in the city?

Photos: Courtesy of Art Dubai