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Art Dubai 2016.
Art Dubai 2016.

Art Dubai 2021 Confirms In-Person Event for March

Organizers of Art Dubai recently declared that its fourteenth edition will take place in person next year from March 17–20 and that the fair will involve a revised format and expansion, stretching beyond its headquarters at the beachside gallery complex at the beachside Madinat Jumeirah resort to venues across Dubai, Sharjah, and, for the first time, Abu Dhabi. While gallery participants have not been named, the fair will thematically revolve around the “vibrant and dynamic local art ecology” of the United Arab Emirates, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary next year. Also announced was the appointment of Hala Khayat as regional director; previously, Khayat was head of sales at Christie’s Dubai. The announcement arrives during an uptick in Covid-19 cases in the region, which on September 11 saw its highest infected number since May with 931 new cases. With regard to safety measures, the fair’s new layout promises to be “adapted to the current times.”

Art Dubai, which since its 2007 founding has become a leading art fair of the Middle East, pumped $33 million into the local economy in 2019, according to Arabian Business. Along with most international goings-on, the fair called off its physical 2020 event due to the coronavirus—the UAE has seen a total of around 85,500 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic emerged—and its recent announcement arrives at the heels of cancelation and delay notices from the 2021 editions of the Melbourne Art Fair and Taipei Dangdai, respectively.

The news also follows an open letter, signed by over 80 Arab artists and art organizations, pledging a boycott of UAE-sponsored cultural activities due to the Gulf country’s recent “normalization agreement with Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid.” The letter’s signatories, who include Samia Halaby and Rachid Koraichi, express their support for “the Palestinian struggle for liberation, self-determination and the return of refugees.” In response to the two nations’ historic peace deal, the Berlin-based Palestinian photographer Mohamed Badarne withdrew his work from a group exhibition last month at the Sharjah Art Foundation. Whether Art Dubai—which is partnered with the governmental entity Dubai Culture & Arts Authority—will become the subject of a concentrated boycott effort among art workers remains uncertain.