Dubai's Art Week is upon us and if you've never delved into the UAE's arts scene then this is your perfect introduction. During March the Emirates plays host to a variety of art fairs, exhibitions, events, and arts initiatives— from locally based artists to the big names grabbing attention at art auctions, it's a fun packed calendar that'll keep you busy and your eyes wide open. We'll take you through some of the highlights…
SIKKA takes place from 14 – 24 March in the houses, alleyways and courtyards of Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (formerly known as Bastakiya). It offers a more laid back vibe to the other fairs in the lineup this March, and has a locally driven arts community at the heart of its programme.
The fair displays new artworks by more than 70 Emirati and UAE based artists with a programme of poetry readings, live music, performance, outdoor film screenings, cultural walks, artist led talks, workshops and a child centric educational programme— so there's lots to keep you busy.
If you're worried about finding parking they've arranged for Tuk Tuk rides from the Iranian Embassy. We recommend heading down there just before sunset in the cooler part of the day— you'll get to view the artworks in the daylight, and then settle down in one of the courtyards for one of the many performances running into the evening. It's the perfect chill out from Dubai's hectic pace, and a unique way to experience the beauty of the historical neighbourhood.
Started in 2011, dXb Store was launched as a not-for-profit space to promote UAE-based artists and designers, by providing them with a platform to showcase and sell their creations including limited edition objects, artists' multiples, jewellery, portable furniture, stationary and clothes. This year, dXb features not only the works of established names, but introduces new and aspiring talent on the local scene. Get down there quick as items sell out fast, which is why we're thankful that this year sees the launch of the dXb Classics— a collection of favourite products from previous years. This March the store has three locations across the city at SIKKA, Design Days Dubai, and Art Dubai.
Following its inauguration last year Design Days Dubai is back for its second edition from 18 – 21 March on Emaar Boulevard, Downtown Dubai. With a 30% increase in participating galleries, featuring from all six continents it's an impressive programme complete with talks, performances, workshops and installations both on and off site. This year also sees a special collaboration with the British Crafts Council including the talk ‘The Value of British Contemporary Craft', and 5 short films that each focus on a leading British contemporary craft maker exploring their work, inspirations and work processes.
On the evening of 18 March Dubai's art galleries in DIFC Gate Village and Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz will each present their latest exhibitions with a collaborative opening. This is a great introduction to the arts scene, a chance to mix with Dubai's arts enthusiasts, and you may even get a chance to meet the artists themselves. Special performances and activities will take place in both venues, and with Alserkal kicking off proceedings at the earlier time of 6pm we recommend heading there post work and then ending up the evening in DIFC. It finishes at 10pm so you'll be ready to pop into the nearby restaurants and bars to mark the end of your night.
Dubai's most established art fair takes place from 20 – 23 March 2013 at the Souk Madinat Jumeirah featuring 75 galleries from 30 countries, and showcases the works of over 500 artists. Look out for Art Dubai first timer Victoria Miro who will present a solo exhibit of artist Yayoi Kusama, whom many will know from her collaboration with Louis Vuitton.
Art Dubai 2013 also boasts a strong not-for-profit programme of curatorial and educational projects, including a new sculpture park on the beach at Mina A Salam, site-specific artworks created specifically for the fair, performances, talks, and film and video screenings.
Running until 13 May Sharjah Biennial's curated programme is inspired by the courtyard in Islamic architecture, and in particular the historical courtyards of Sharjah, where the Biennial is presented. Wandering through the sprawling plot of houses and courtyards, you discover artworks, performances, film screenings, and installations that introduce you to interactions, experimentations and new journeys that make you consider the meaning of the courtyard in a global context.
As always the works presented at the Biennial are inspiring, well researched, and of an International standard. This year there is a lot of video art (maybe too much) which demands time to fully appreciate the work, so at least 2 days is needed to see all the exhibits. Time these visits in with one of the many musical performances curated by artist Tarek Atoui, or the programme of film screenings and you'll see Sharjah in a whole new light.