Art Dubai ED Benedetta Ghione on its impact and reach 03/23 
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Interview: Benedetta Ghione, executive director, Art Dubai   

Interview: Benedetta Ghione, executive director, Art Dubai   

Ghione talks about the region’s art scene going from strength to strength and Art Dubai 2023, which concluded on March 5

Neesha Salian
Art Dubai Benedetta Ghione_supplied

1. How has Art Dubai supported the UAE as an incubator for creative talent? 

We have always viewed ourselves as an incubator of talent and a catalyst for the creative economy here in Dubai. As a convener of great minds, we are an entry point to this vibrant ecosystem for the wider cultural sector. Indeed, this year’s expanded programme fully reflected our role as a meeting point for the region’s creative industries, both commercial and not-for-profit.

We had more Emirati artists than ever across our programme this year, which is an indication of the creative talent our region has. For example, I recently saw Dwelling in the Gap –  Shaikha Al Mazrou’s second solo exhibition at the Lawrie Shabibi gallery. She is considered to be among the most dynamic and promising artists of her generation from the UAE and her work was a big draw this year.

It was also a terrific and notable achievement for Art Dubai to celebrate 10 years of Campus Art Dubai (CAD) in 2023. This is our flagship initiative to support the region’s artists of tomorrow and a core component of our year-round education programme.

The 2023 edition featured the tenth edition of our Professional Development programme, which offers placements at Art Dubai and other leading UAE cultural institutions, including Alserkal Avenue and Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, and 421 in Abu Dhabi.

2. In what way have art and artists developed in the Middle East in recent years? 

 I doubt that many would have considered the UAE a global art centre not so long ago but today it is firmly established as the pivotal link between East and West and a platform for regional artists to receive international exposure.

There has been a significant shift in the artistic and cultural development of the Middle East – and subsequently, its art scene is going from strength to strength. This has been buoyed by the huge commitment to and investment in culture with the establishment of economic free zones (which have acted as a catalyst for attracting foreign investment) and strong government support).

We are now internationally recognised as a region of creative talent. Our role is to continue to amplify the voice and heighten the vision of all up-and-coming cultural workers who are underrepresented in the wider art world. There were more than 130 participants from all around the world at the event, showcasing a more diverse mix of artists than ever before.

The region’s thriving art scene in the region is no longer just homegrown. We have seen a large number of collectors from all over the world base themselves in Dubai and international galleries opening spaces in the Emirates. For example, the commercial gallery Perrotin opened its first space in the Middle East in Dubai in November 2022. International contemporary art gallery, Galleria Continua, will also show at Art Dubai this year and they opened an exhibition space inside the iconic Burj Al Arab – their eighth such space globally.

3. Why is digital art so important? 

As innovators, artists and creatives have always been early adopters of – and adapters of – new technologies. Likewise, innovation has always been a cornerstone of Art Dubai, reflecting both the spirit of our home city and the rapid changes that happen in the creative world as artists are increasingly both adopting and adapting new technologies.

It’s such a fast-moving and developing space – and we want to reflect this energy and creativity through Art Dubai Digital. Our dedicated section aims to build bridges between the world of art and technology by exploring how artists are using new, immersive technologies to collapse the boundaries of the traditional art world.  And with the growth of digital art showing no sign of abating and in light of the positive response we got from last year’s first Art Dubai Digital section, this year we expanded this section.

We worked with some of the very best names in crypto art including the Lian Foundation, founded by Fiorenzo Manganiello, an expert in blockchain technology, which showcased a selection of artworks that bridge the gap between physical and digital.

It also included our friends at MORROW collective who presented ‘UAE First Immersion’ and the Punk6529 Museum of Art, which has one of the largest and most valuable NFT collections in the world.

Read: Will non-fungible tokens (NFT) revolutionise the world of digital art?


Art Dubai Pic: Supplied
Art Dubai 2023 was held at Madinat Jumeirah, in Dubai, (Photo by Spark Media for Art Dubai)

4. Tell us about some of the highlights of the recently concluded Art Dubai 2023. 

We had the largest presence to date of UAE galleries this year, we also partnered with a greater number of the most important and influential organisations from across South Asia, including the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation and the Kochi-Muziris Biennal, as part of the fair’s not-for-profit programme, Art Dubai Commissions.

Together we selected contemporary artists from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and UAE, who presented their work alongside five artists from our participating galleries including Prajakta Potnis (Project 88), Rathin Barman (Experimenter), Gunjan Kumar (Exhibit 320), Anoli Perera and Tayeba Begum Lipi (Shrine Empire).

Our thought leadership programme also expanded this year and included a two-day edition of the Global Art Forum, our flagship talks programme and the first Dubai edition of Christie’s Art+Tech summit and a conference on sustainability in the art sector.

For the second year running, we partnered with 421, Abu Dhabi’s independent platform on a group exhibition curated by UAE-based artist and researcher Dania Al Tamimi. Another highlight was our dedicated digital section, Art Dubai Digital, which offered a 360-degree look at the digital art ecosystem and how it is evolving.

5. What sets Art Dubai apart from other global art fairs?

A key element of Art Dubai is offering top-quality art and artists that you simply will not see at any other art fair and showcasing them first. This philosophy has helped the event become one of the most important in the global art world’s calendar.

Dubai is a city of relentless innovation and development, which is why it’s one of the most exciting places to be right now. The art and culture scene here has developed enormously and many great grassroots initiatives are maturing, including both commercial and non-profit philanthropic initiatives.

We believe we play a role that is more than an art fair – we’re an institution in our own right and we want to be the moment that brings all the key players together. As the landscape of international art fairs changes, Art Dubai will continue to play a significant role in highlighting and assisting the cultural ecosystems of the global south, and the programme this year completely represented the region’s increasing importance, vitality and vibrancy.

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