2017 marks the 11th edition of Art Dubai. Yet another successful year of art-fairing and exhibiting was held under the patronage of his highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ruler of Dubai. I am always welcomed by the many faces, languages, and people who host, attend, and exhibit in this fair. Over 25,000 people attended Art Dubai in 2016; this year was the most well attended and international to date–93 galleries exhibited from a total of 43 countries.
Divided between Contemporary and Modern, with several ancillary spaces and projects for speakers, talks, and residencies, the fair’s exhibition halls provide a multitude of great things to see and attend. I spent most of my time in Contemporary, as that is the shared focus of the Farmboy Art Fund and our core Farmboy Fine Arts work. The Modern area provided a view into the world of MENA art from 1940 -1980, and showed an intriguing connection of the past and present.
Contemporary Bangladeshi-British artist Rana Begum was the 2017 Abraaj Group Art Prize winner, represented by The Third Line, Dubai, UAE. Working on our first project in the region in 2008/2009 we acquired works from The Third Line, as we appreciated their roster of artists and strong programming. Begum was one of the first artists we saw back in 2009 and began to follow, intrigued by her minimalist practice focused on light, color, and texture.
Rana Begum, ‘No.695’, Mixed-media including colored glass, Dibond, steel, and aluminium
Represented by Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde, Hassan Sharif is often referred to as the founder of UAE contemporary art, and we have always been fascinated by his work. In late 2008 I had the opportunity to meet him and tour his studio where I was taken with his process and practice. At the time we were looking to connect to an emerging contemporary art scene in the UAE and Sharif’s Flying House was the place to do it. As Co-Founder, The Flying House was a place where the promotion of contemporary Emerita artists was happening and we welcomed the connection. Unfortunately, Hasaan Sharif passed September 2016, but his work and influence remains strong in region and beyond.
I was incredibly intrigued by the collaboration between Martin Browne Contemporary, Pace Art +Technology and teamLab. teamLab is a collective, interdisciplinary creative group that brings together artists, programmers, CG engineers, animators and designers to create unique limited-edition immersive experiences. I am a huge fan of this new and grown space/practice and generative art, but few can execute at a level that would in my eye qualify as museum-quality, collectible works. I believe teamLab is doing just this and I left wanting it badly for our Art Fund. The works were incredibly seductive, immersive, and all encompassing. I found myself staring for long periods of time at a particular piece called ‘Flowers and People – Dark’:
“Neither a prerecorded animation nor on loop, the artwork is rendered in real time by a computer program. The interaction between the viewer and the installation causes continuous change in the artwork. Previous visual states can never be replicated, and will never reoccur. The flowers bud, grow and blossom before their petals begin to wither and eventually fade away. The cycle of growth and decay repeats itself in perpetuity. Depending on the proximity of the viewer to the work, the flowers shed their petals all at once whither and die, or come to life and blossom once again.”
Todd Towers is the CEO and Founder of Farmboy Fine Arts and the Farmboy Art Fund.