The 16th edition of Art Dubai 2023 was held from 1st to 5th March 2023 at the magnificent Madinat  Jumeirah in Dubai. The event included over 100 contemporary, modern, and digital art galleries from 40 nations, including 30 new participants, with increased participation from leading African and South Asian galleries across four gallery sections: Contemporary, Modern, Bawwaba and Art Dubai Digital. With emphasis on digital art, the second edition of Art Dubai Digital was curated by Singapore based Clara Che Wei Peh. Art Dubai is the leading global platform for art and artists from the Middle East and Global South. Dubai is becoming a global hotspot for art, with more galleries and artists showing than ever before. From Accra to Kolkata and from Singapore to Buenos Aires, over 60% of exhibitors hailed from the Global South.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Art Dubai, a leading global platform for art and artists from the Middle East and the Global South, was inaugurated by Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), and Member of the Dubai Council.

Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed emphasised that Art Dubai 2023 stands out due to its attention to detail and unparalleled ability to emphasise human creativity, providing an immersive and awe-inspiring experience on a regional and international level. Her Highness said: “This artistic event has proven its merits as a hub for innovative creativity, offering a platform for intellectual, cultural, and creative exchanges that celebrate diversity and foster communication. Art Dubai has evolved over the years to become one of the most distinguished and highly anticipated events for artists and creatives worldwide, consistently achieving momentous strides year after year. This has resulted in a substantial increase in participation from the creative sector, with representatives from diverse countries converging to participate in this inspiring and enriching experience.”

Art Dubai was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The event was held in partnership with A.R.M. Holding. The fair is sponsored by Swiss Wealth Management Group Julius Baer. The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) is the fair’s strategic partner.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, inspected the 16th edition of Art Dubai, a prominent worldwide platform for art and artists from the Middle East and the worldwide South.

His Highness was also briefed on this year’s vast agenda, which includes many workshops, over 50 presentations, and a broad educational programme. This year’s highlights include the 16th edition of Art Dubai’s flagship Global Art Forum, the first Middle East edition of Christie’s Art+Tech summit, a series of Modern and Collector lectures established in collaboration with Dubai Collection, and a new event in association with the Art Business Conference.

His Highness was accompanied during the tour by His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of Dubai International Financial Centre, organisers of Art Dubai, and Her Excellency Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, along with a number of senior officials.

During the visit, His Highness was briefed on the exhibition’s significance in establishing Dubai as a major cultural and creative hub, as well as promoting collaboration with regional and worldwide art institutions and global talent.

Art Dubai’s Artistic Director Pablo del Val commented: “Art Dubai is a global fair, and the strength of the applications we received for our 2023 edition reflect Art Dubai’s increasing importance as the region’s premier art event, the gateway to the Global South and the maturing of the art market here in Dubai. We’re particularly pleased to welcome so many first-time exhibitors into the Art Dubai family. Dubai is rapidly developing into a global financial and technology hub – the city.

Further Pablo added, “As the global art fair landscape shifts, Art Dubai continues to play an important role in profiling and supporting the cultural ecosystems of the Global South. The 2023 programme fully reflects this region’s growing importance, energy and vibrancy. One of our strongest ever gallery line-ups, complemented by an expanded commissioning and thought-leadership programme, highlights the breadth of discourse happening here and offers a glimpse into this important region’s past, present and future.”

According to Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, Dubai is experiencing a comprehensive creative and cultural movement that is playing an important role in realising Dubai’s cultural vision of establishing the emirate as a global centre for culture, an incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent.

“At Dubai Culture, we are keen on supporting the cultural and arts sector in the emirate by adopting innovative methods capable of attracting talent and art enthusiasts, in addition to providing creative platforms that allow artists to express their ideas and expand their creative contributions that enrich Dubai’s art scene. The remarkable successes achieved by the 16th edition of the Art Dubai exhibition reflect Dubai’s global position as a vital hub for artistic and creative events.”

Badri added: “Art Dubai has matured and developed into a unique moment in the international art calendar, convening Dubai’s brightest and best cultural and artistic minds each year. The figures announced in the economic impact report further underline the importance of world-class cultural programming in attracting people worldwide to this unique city.”

The 2023 edition included more Dubai-based galleries than ever before, illustrating the emirate’s expanding artistic ecology and growing relevance as a worldwide creative and cultural centre. Art Dubai 2023 delivered an outstanding direct economic impact of AED143 million to the Dubai city. The newly disclosed results show a considerable increase in economic effect, outperforming the most recent comparable data by more than 55% (AED 92 million in 2019). This significant increase underscores Dubai’s emergence as a developing cultural and creative metropolis, as well as its unmatched worldwide presence.

“Art Dubai has always tried to reframe what an art fair can be. This year’s expanded programme fully reflects our role as a meeting point for the region’s commercial and not-for-profit creative industries. As an innovative public-private partnership, we have been an incubator of talent, a catalyst for the creative economy here in Dubai, a convener of great minds, and an entry point to this vibrant ecosystem for the wider cultural sector. We are thrilled that our long-term partnership with Julius Baer will continue into a second decade. Their continued support allows us to provide the next generation of the region’s artists and arts professionals with incredible opportunities.” said Art Dubai’s Executive Director Benedetta Ghione.

“As an independent organisation, we pride ourselves on being more than an art fair – we are an incubator of talent, a catalyst for the creative economy here in Dubai, a convener of great minds, and an entry point to this vibrant ecosystem for the wider cultural sector.”

Art Dubai’s physical section offered a yearly 360-degree overview of the digital art universe, bridging the gap between art and technology. It explores how artists are using immersive technologies to break down traditional art limitations.

Art Dubai is more than just an art show; it is a talent incubator, a catalyst for Dubai’s creative economy, a gathering place for brilliant minds, and a gateway to the region’s thriving cultural industry.

The 2023 edition of Art Dubai Digital, curated by Singapore-based educator and arts writer Clara Che Wei Peh, featured galleries with innovative new media programmes, digital platforms creating virtual art spaces, artist collectives, Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs), and traditional brick-and-mortar galleries that challenge and support new artistic production models.

Art Dubai was the first to include a dedicated digital area, providing a space for artists working with various digital mediums. Art Dubai Digital is a selected segment that reflects a diverse geographic base, including traditional gallery formats, digitally native platforms and collectives, and presentations by some of the most interesting and inventive digital artists working today.

“The sector is experiencing growing pains,” says Art Dubai’s executive director, Benedetta Ghione. She claims that it is intended to represent “a snapshot of the moment” in the digital art industry, which means that the newest edition has fewer NFTs and less “hype”.

TheUpsideSpace took part in the Digital segment to showcase artists from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East who had previously shown through its online platform to a larger audience in the form of a physical presentation. The Upside Space is a curator-led digital arts platform that spotlights artistic expressions from Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.  “We made meaningful connections with stakeholders, artists and patrons coming from a spectrum of backgrounds,” says Rafi Abdullah, Curatorial Lead, TheUpsideSpace. “There was interest from traditional collectors about how to enter and navigate the digital space, as well as from artists who were curious to know how the digital realm can supplement, diversify and potentially empower their practice.” He adds, “We actually managed to dispel the doubts of a few patrons who acquired their first digital artworks with our platform.”

“For nearly two decades, Art Dubai has been a place to discover and celebrate new trends, creating and facilitating conversations, and celebrating the strength of creative output across the Global South,” said the art fair’s Artistic Director Pablo del Val.

“Art Dubai is a truly global art fair, and this is reflected in both the quality and geographic spread of the galleries participating this year. That so much of the programme is once again drawn from the Global South highlights the increased interest in and appetite for collecting non-Western art, the strengthening of the gallery scene beyond the traditional centers of the art world, and the role Art Dubai plays as a platform for regions that are under-represented in international collections.”

Benedetta Ghione, Executive Director of Art Dubai, commented: “The published economic impact data serves to underscore Dubai’s continued growth and development as one of the major cultural centres of the art world and the cultural capital of the Global South. 2023 was Art Dubai’s most successful to date, and our 2024 edition will continue to build on the reputation we have nurtured over the last two decades, reinforcing our unique position in the art market and continuing to push the boundaries of what an art fair can do.”

The 2023 edition of Art Dubai Modern was curated by Mouna Mekouar, a Paris-based critic and curator, and Italian art historian Lorenzo Giusti (director, GAMeC, Bergamo). The exhibition featured solo presentations by the region’s Modern masters, highlighting Art Dubai’s dedication to curatorial scholarship and historical research. The selection focuses on pioneers of contemporary art in the MENASA region, whose works have played a significant role in art history and reflect the region’s cultural variety. Art Dubai Modern will feature a unique lectures programme in conjunction with Dubai Collection, exploring the lives, work, and inspirations of prominent 20th century artists from the Middle East and Africa.

This year marks the 16th edition of the Global Art Forum, the event’s flagship conference. This year’s event focused on “Predicting the Present” and featured keynote speakers such as Sumayya Vally, architect of the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion, and Lukas Amacher, Head of Art at Dialectic and 1of1 works. Additionally, Art Dubai teamed with Christie’s Art+Tech conference, which made its Middle Eastern premiere, bringing together specialists to discuss AI, digital asset ownership, financial innovation, and blockchain.

Art Dubai collaborated with Dubai Collection to produce a series of Collector and Modern Talks. The Collector Talks focused on the individuals and patrons who are driving the growth of art scenes in the Global South, whereas the Modern Talks focused on 20th century artists and art forms from the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the decolonization of the art-historical canon.

Art Dubai 2023 was the tenth edition of the fair’s flagship programme, Campus Art Dubai (CAD), which sought to train the region’s future cultural leaders.

CAD provided educational and professional possibilities for artists, curators, authors, architects, designers, and cultural producers in the UAE. This year, CAD’s Professional Development programme has expanded to include placements at Art Dubai, Alserkal Avenue, Art Jameel in Dubai, and 421, Abu Dhabi’s autonomous platform for new artists. Furthermore, CAD Public Art sought to increase sector expertise and ability in the rapidly evolving field of public art commissioning.

Bangkok-based Vipash Purichanont curated the 2023 edition of Art Dubai’s Bawwaba segment. Bawwaba, which means ‘portal’ in Arabic, exhibited artworks created within the last year or expressly for Art Dubai, as well as individual presentations by 11 artists from around the Global South. Across a variety of mediums, from painting and tapestry to filmmaking and performance, this section explored how contemporary artists from the Global South bring forth concerns within their worlds, from socio-cultural issues such as the tension between rapid urban development and traditional values, the legacy of colonisation on environment, human relationships in the age of hyper connectivity, or personal concerns around the meaning of language and void.

Yavuz Gallery participated in the Bawwaba section at Vipash’s invitation, with a solo exhibition of Zico Albaiquni’s work.  Caryn Quek, Gallery Director, Yavuz Gallery says, “We had a strong reception to our presentation which resulted in many new institutional and collector connections.” She adds, “Art Dubai is a great fair, which is well-organised and improving every year. What stood out for us is the strong diversity of participating international galleries together with the Emirati community. We are confident the success and profile of this year’s fair will result in further growth and attract more exhibitors and collectors from around the world.”

The exhibition will feature new paintings by Zico Albaiquni that continue his critical investigation of the hierarchies, binaries, and legacies of Western colonialism in regard to the Asian art history canon. Albaiquni’s practice acts as an index for delving into history to isolate and highlight Asian art, with a particular emphasis on Indonesia via the prism of colonialism. Known for his stunning neon colour palette and challenge to dominant narratives of representation and interpretation, he deconstructs and dismantles worldwide artistic and exhibition procedures using his unique image-making and composition method. He then strongly embeds and integrates historical allusions, as well as reinterpreting imperial archival photography, into previous and reimagined settings and tales.

Swiss Private Bank Julius Baer debuted its NEXT concept with media artist Refik Anadol at Art Dubai 2023. The commissioned AI project, inspired by the beauty and fragility of the world’s glaciers, will be revealed through a series of multisensory artworks in numerous phases.

Julius Baer commissioned Refik Anadol, an internationally known new media artist, director, and pioneer in the aesthetics of data and machine intelligence, to create a new piece inspired by climate change. “Glacier Dreams” is “inspired by the beauty and fragility of the world’s glaciers” and will be revealed in a series of multisensory artworks spanning numerous episodes.

Refik Anadol said: “As an artist creating AI data paintings and sculptures based on nature-themed datasets for almost a decade, I am very excited to be taking my studio’s research to the next level by compiling a comprehensive visual dataset on the glaciers of the world. With this large-scale project and the consequent artwork, we are hoping to not only generate poetic glacier-themed experiences, but to also use our existing AI tools to contribute to glacier research and raise awareness about climate change and rising sea levels.”

In its second year of partnership with Art Dubai, 421, Abu Dhabi’s autonomous platform for young artists, hosted a group show curated by Dania al-Tamimi, a UAE-based artist and researcher. The show contained artworks that posed the question, “Does time move through you or through time?” The exhibition investigated time as “the binding element of the biography of objects, the active archive of lives, and the solidifying catalyst of experiences.”

This show included selected works from the Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship (SEAF)’s eight-year duration, highlighting research strands and common themes that persisted between cohorts. The collection, which includes painting, textiles, video, and photography, expresses a communal inquiry of memory with regard to location, time, rhythm, and repetition.

The exhibition, titled “Speculative Links,” gathered together artists who appear to have experimented with abstract patternology, participatory narrative, geo mapping, digital dislocation, and fabrication via the lens of research. The exhibition intended to focus on the connections between art teaching and production, as well as the link established between the artists’ real voice and the procedures and criticisms that influence their practice.

Shaikh Rashid, a Bahraini royal artist, showcased some of his work at the Art Dubai 2023 exhibition, with artists such as Herbert Brandl (Austria), Jan Fabre (Belgium), Kendell Geers (South Africa), and Sandrine Pelletier (Switzerland).

Shaikh Rashid’s artistic method makes use of a range of materials and procedures. He commonly uses lacquer paint, cloth, and adhesive to create multiple reliefs on canvas. He is noted for his distinct style, which blends abstract and figurative elements and frequently draws influence from Azerbaijani heritage and culture. His approach entails layering multiple materials to produce a feeling of depth and texture, and he frequently employs light and shadow to highlight the many surfaces and forms in his work. Overall, his method combines old and modern aspects, demonstrating his creative vision and ingenuity.

He displayed a selection of brilliant and colourful pieces titled Spectrum-XX, inspired by Azerbaijani culture, combining traditional components with modern art methods. Shaikh Rashid’s paintings are noted for their distinct style, which frequently combines abstract and figurative elements. It’s amazing to have his art displayed at such a major event, and I’m sure the attendees enjoyed it!

BMW Middle East completed another successful partnership with Art Dubai, displaying a beautiful and sustainable sculpture by contemporary Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim.

BMW Middle East commissioned the exhibition ‘BMW Bonnet (2023)’, which featured artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim upcycling an old aluminium bonnet and infusing it with new life to create the BMW Bonnet, highlighting the automotive manufacturer’s commitment to promoting a sustainable culture and sourcing materials sustainably.

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, one of the UAE’s first generation of contemporary artists from the late 1980s, finds inspiration in BMW Bonnet (2023) by responding to his environment through experimental art, allowing his subconscious to find the forms with the region’s natural landscapes as his muse, bringing to life the artist’s and the BMW Group’s commitment to sparking conversations that encourage responsible resource use. The astonishing show is so more than simply an art display; it is a powerful and uplifting monument to our world, a celebration of BMW’s commitment to decreasing global carbon-dioxide emissions, and a call to action for everyone who saw it at Art Dubai.

The BMW i7 is a stunningly gorgeous vehicle that combines new technology and excellent design to provide an unparalleled driving experience. This premium sedan has a sleek, aerodynamic body with exquisite contours and a prominent, contemporary grille. Inside, you’ll discover a large, luxurious interior outfitted with the best materials and cutting-edge technologies. The i7 is a delight not just to look at, but also to drive, owing to its smooth, quick handling and outstanding electric powertrain. It’s the ideal blend of refinement, comfort, and innovation, making it a genuine standout in the world of luxury vehicles. Simply said, the BMW i7 is stunning.

In the Art Dubai digital section, Art in Space presented, the world’s first multisensory immersive art exhibition stimulates and integrates all five senses. Akiko Nakayama, an artist, developed a piece of art using video, music, scents, light, effects, fog, and temperature. Everything is automated by the room’s centralised control system or may be operated via tablet. If planned, the area may accommodate a variety of multimodal creative experiences. This technology connects modern art with the digital world, resulting in a one-of-a-kind artistic experience.

In the Art Dubai digital section, Art in Space presented, the world’s first multisensory immersive art exhibition stimulates and integrates all five senses. Akiko Nakayama, an artist, developed a piece of art using video, music, scents, light, effects, fog, and temperature. Everything is automated by the room’s centralised control system or may be operated via tablet. If planned, the area may accommodate a variety of multimodal creative experiences. This technology connects modern art with the digital world, resulting in a one-of-a-kind artistic experience.

Boghossian, with its origins in the Middle East, Swiss craftsmanship at its foundation, and an unending desire to push limits and innovate, embodies easy harmony between East and West, heritage and contemporary, jewels and design. With a rich history spanning 150 years, the Maison’s talented artisans are inspired by its origins at the heart of the Silk Route.

Boghossian, a family-run fine jewellery firm, showcased a stunning assortment of rare jewels and distinctive flair at Art Dubai. Set in a ‘cabinet of wonder’ installation, the venerable company with over 150 years of heritage will present its newest creations at the Middle East’s premier international art fair. The booth prepared from silk cords, a material chosen for being the most precious good traded on the Silk Road, where the Maison was born in 1868.

“Art is at the heart of all that we do, with our remarkable jewellery creations as well as the work we do through our Foundation. Returning to Art Dubai for the second time was a seamless decision for us, and perfectly representative of the message we wish to share about how art has brought people together throughout the course of history, and continues to do so today,” said said Albert Boghossian, CEO of Boghossian.

Boghossian’s Art Dubai curation takes cue from decorative motifs that cross Oriental art and architecture. Amongst the highlights are multi-colour Paraiba, Conch and Diamond Necklace and Earrings set, the ‘Kissing’ Multi Colour Gemstone and Diamond Detachable Necklace set in rock crystal and multi-colour melées,  and the yellow gold and diamond ‘Merveilles’ Halo line.

The Maison exhibited multi-colored showpieces that are sure to generate a conversation wherever you go. The Paraiba-the Conch Diamond Necklace and Earrings set is only one of the numerous pieces that will make your heart race. Albert Boghossian, the ever-present boundary pusher, emphasizes the significance of combining flair with refined craftsmanship. “While we are stimulated first and foremost by the gems, our creativity is inherently connected to our craftsmanship and driven by our quest for technical innovation.”

It’s the first time a beauty luxury brand will be featured at the Middle East Leading Art Fair; for the 170th Anniversary of the Bee Bottle, Guerlain presented a journey through the universe of perfume and art through the project ‘Dear Eugenie’, the Bee Bottle,

Guerlain is a Parisian alchemist who has been pursuing an unending quest for sensory surprise and creating creative beauty from nature since 1828. As a House of High Perfumery and High Cosmetics, it raised bespoke to the status of art. This is what makes it remarkable.

“Since its creation, Guerlain has developed an intimate relationship with the artists of its time. 2023 is a great year for the House of Guerlain which, through the anniversary of the Bee bottle, celebrates 170 years of our commitment to beauty, creativity and the protection of biodiversity.”

Kanso is the first Arab designer to work with the LVMH-owned perfume and cosmetics brand. She created 30 limited edition bee-inspired bottles adorned with 1,710 crystals and Arabic calligraphy that says “Love.” The crystals are 24 karat gold plated.

“Designing the exceptional piece for Guerlain and having my Arabic signature calligraphy on it is not just a pleasure—it proves to me that beauty and love have no boundaries,” she said in a released statement. “This collaboration gave me hope. I appreciated the love and appreciation given to me.” 

1710 crystals embellish calligraphy that reads “Love”—an ode to and call to the emotion that is so emblematic of the Middle East area.

The gems are mounted on 24Karat plated gold, and each bottle requires 12 hours of artistry in the Guerlain atelier. Inside the flacon, the scent Rêve d’Amour smells like tangerine and petit grain, with white flowers at the centre. Its base notes include woody cedar, ambrette, and benzoin.

The bottle’s design, which is equal parts jewellery and art, was entrusted to Guerlain’s historic atelier, which has been designated as a “Living Heritage Company” and collaborates closely with Swarovski. Each of the nine designs on the jewelled bottles was created by hand, requiring more than 12 hours of precise artistry to place the 1,710 crystals one by one.

“I chose the word ‘love’ to show the world that with love we can accomplish beautiful things.” — Nadine Kanso.

This rare bottle, crafted in a limited edition of just 30 numbered pieces, is filled with a special eau de fragrance developed by Guerlain perfumers specifically for this edition. The passion of the Guerlain Perfumers for the luscious flowers, that make up this special eau de perfume, Rêve d’Amour.