Dialed back versions of art events of all kinds have become the norm during Covid. The Art Dubai fair, whose latest edition opens to the public this Friday, bucks that trend with its biggest edition yet. The picturesque city-within-a-city Madinat Jumeirah is currently host to over 100 galleries, 30 of whom are participating for the first time at the fair. Around half of those exhibitors are from the global south.
The 2022 event is sandwiched between two conferences at in nearby Sharjah—one, hosted by the Sharjah Art Foundation is called “The Afterlives of the Postcolonial,” the other, put on by the Africa Institute, is “Global Ghana”—making the U.A.E. the place to be this week for collectors, scholars, and everyone in between.
It’s widely believed that the Emirates are where cultural traditions meet a futuristic fanaticism, a truism confirmed by the 2022 edition’s new digital section. Its entryway was plastered with printouts of screenshots, and its booth walls were painted black instead of white. In that section, the light bulbs of the luxe chandeliers have been swapped out so that they emit a green glow. Throughout the fair, QR codes have largely replaced wall labels, just as they’ve usurped menus in restaurants. Even a brand-new iPhone hardly has the requisite battery life to keep up.
Scanning and capturing the names of all the interesting artists feels like a game of Pokémon Go. With the list below, we’ve selected the eight best booths on offer at the fair.