NEW YORK—The launch of the first-ever Gulf Art Fair, held at the Dubai International Financial Centre, United Arab Emirates, March 8-10, drew more than 9,000 visitors and exhibitors from around the world, organizers report. Dealers on the whole praise the fair’s organization and attendance, with several galleries vowing to return to Dubai for a larger edition of the event, slated for 2008.
While galleries offering Indian art appeared to win the strongest sales, some dealers showing more contemporary Western art say they are encouraged by the interest of new buyers at the fair. Looking ahead, many see the fair as a valuable resource for developing clients in the region.
Amit Judge, director of Bodhi Art, with branches in Delhi, Mumbai (formerly Bombay), New York and Singapore, told ARTnewsletter that “in a completely nascent, undeveloped market, the organizers did such a fantastic job and were able to draw in lots of people from all over the world.” Judge says he sold 22 of 30 works at his stand, including pieces by Atul Dodiya and his wife, Anju Dodiya, and Dhruva Mistry, at prices ranging from $10,000/80,000. Bodhi Art plans to exhibit again at next year’s fair, Judge notes.
Max Lang, of the Max Lang Gallery, New York, believes it may take a while for the fair to build up the franchise, but says he had a good experience his first time out, especially with collectors from Russia and India as well as Dubai. His sales included works by Keith Haring, Bernar Venet and Tom Wesselmann, with prices “up to the low six figures,” Lang affirms.
Diana Lowenstein, of Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts, Miami, found the fair to be “a very good experience.” Looking back, she adds, “I never thought I could get engaged in such an open dialogue with local collectors, who were very interested in the young contemporary artists” whose works were on display.
At the Lowenstein gallery’s stand, a work by Puerto Rican artist Melvin Martinez—in pigment-based inks, oil, acrylic, glitter and polyoptics on canvas—was sold to collectors from Kuwait; and a piece by Swiss artist Karina Wisniewska—in acrylic, lacquer and quartz sand on canvas—fell to a European buyer based in Hong Kong. The works brought about $20,000 each, Lowenstein notes.
The dealer says she plans to reapply for next year’s show. Organizers report that 40 new galleries already have applied for that event.
As a new crop of wealthy international buyers turns increasingly to the collection of fine art, the Middle East is rapidly becoming a major focus of the art world—something that has happened just in the past two years. Christie’s has held two successful modern and contemporary art auctions in Dubai to date, and Sotheby’s has been expanding its operations in the region as well.
Cultural officials in Abu Dhabi recently announced ambitious development plans for Saadiyat (“Island of Happiness”)—a multibillion dollar tourist attraction that is expected to open in 2012 (ANL, 1/23/07).
The cultural complex will include a 320,000- square-foot branch of Manhattan’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and an outpost of Paris’ Louvre Museum, among other participating institutions.