Amid coronavirus shutdown, UAE’s Art Dubai goes online

Besides a catalogue of 500 art works, there are also performances pieces going online


At a time when even the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed, Art Dubai has refused to press the pause button. As the UAE went into lock down on Wednesday, one of the biggest art fairs in the region—with a considerable Indian art component—came alive.

“We are currently all experiencing an unprecedented situation on a global scale which means we, like many other fairs and institutions, have quickly adapted to replace physical experiences with digital, said an Art Dubai spokesperson.

“Adapting to a digital programme enables us to uphold our mission support galleries and nurture Dubai’s arts ecosystem, even in these challenging circumstances. Online initiatives have always been meant to supplement the physical, corporeal experience of visiting the fair and seeing works in person, but in the current situation they have come very rapidly to the forefront,” the spokesperson said.

Art Dubai is not the only fair that has been hit. The coronavirus has severely impacted art events across the world. Art Fair Tokyo was one the first few casualties to the virus. In its 15th year, the fair with 146 exhibitors—cancelled to avoid the spread of infection. Art Basel, the biggest destination for modern and contemporary art is still planning to stick to its schedule in June. But Art Brussels has been pushed back a month to June after Basel. Germany, which had Art Cologne has pushed to November.

Going beyond just the online catalogue of 500 art works, there is also an Art Dubai Performance Programme, which has been adapted to an online performing space. “We did this every year in March,” said Shumon Basar—commissioner of the global art forum, Dubai, in the Global Art Forum which is being streamed as NewsHour on Wednesday. “We took it foolishly for granted. It is already become a cliché to say these are exceptional times. The constant use of the word of unprecedented, is beginning to bore.’’

This uncertainty—coupled with the lingering feeling of doom—where the virus has made borders irrelevant looms large. “Nothing feels distant from the threat,” says Basar. “Every man-made border is powerless and porous.” The Global Art Forum reflected this strange time and Music for Homes, which debuted by Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi, which was made in her New York home under quarantine.

Trying to offer succour through art, the festival has a performance programme on healing. A collaborative effort across the world, the programme has been curated by Marina Fokidis who lives in Athens. Bringing together artists from Iran, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Greece and French Guiana, the programme that was planned a year ago, much before COVID-19 became a reality, uses art to explore “medicinal space for our collective therapy to exist,” Fokidis has been quoted as saying.

For the desis, there is more. Art Dubai, which has become a platform for artists from India, has much more participation from India this time. “This year’s edition has seen a rise in the presence of Indian galleries and artists showcasing works. Live on the Catalogue now, you can peruse through works created by artists represented by Kolkata-based Experimenter and New Delhi’s Gallery Latitude 28, Nature Morte, Vadehra Art Gallery and Blueprint 12 Gallery,” said a spokesperson. There will also be a keynote address by Anjolie Ela Menon.

This time, everyone is invited. You don’t even need a ticket—just visit the Art Dubai website.

📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines