In ART

Art historian Pascal Odille and eight gallerists discuss the growth of the regional art market, the evolution of Art Dubai and the importance of international art fairs

The rapid growth of art fairs over the past decade has changed the way art galleries operate. No longer are collectors expected to traipse around their local galleries in search of their next investment — instead art fairs bring together artists from all over the globe, allowing collectors access to safely established and exciting emerging artists in one convenient supermarket-style location. At the same time, art fairs provide galleries with an unprecedented opportunity to interact with a truly global audience, placing their artists in the line of sight well beyond their local or even regional spheres.

In the run-up to Art Dubai, the leading art fair in the Middle East and a well-established stop on the global fair circuit, art historian and consultant Pascal Odille, artistic director of the Beirut Art Fair and the fledgling Singapore Art Fair, sat down with eight gallerists to discuss the changing art market and the role art fairs play in the life of today’s galleries.

French-Algerian gallerist Sabrina Amrani opened her eponymous gallery in 2011, representing artists from the East and West and encouraging intercultural dialogue through art with a social message. She discusses the diversifying art scene in the Gulf and the expansion of the regional market.

Nadine Begdache, whose Galerie Janine Rubeiz is named after her mother, founder of Lebanon’s famed Dar El-Fan, has been supporting Lebanese artists at her Beirut gallery, as well as at international fairs, since 1993. She reflects on the importance of art, not as a financial investment, but as a marker of identity and a reflection on the human condition.

Isabelle van den Eynde founded her eponymous gallery in Dubai in 2006, with a focus on emerging and mid-career artists from the MENASA region. She discusses the growth of the regional art market and Dubai’s role as a gateway to the Middle East for collectors with an interest in discovering regional artists.

As a Paris-based gallerist working with artists from the Middle East and Africa, Imane Fares explains why her eponymous gallery deals mostly with collectors located overseas, and how she is working to educate the local French public about the artists she exhibits.

Malini Gulrajani’s 1×1 Art Gallery, established in Dubai in 2006, specialises in contemporary Indian art. Gulrajani discusses the changing nature of art fairs and the diversifying visitors who attend them.

With over three decades in the business under her belt, last year Leila Heller paired her eponymous New York gallery with a new branch in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue. She recalls how the fair has evolved in the ten years she has been taking part, and explains how she selects artists for particular fairs around the world.

Founded in 2006, Ayyam Gallery has established a global presence in the past 10 years. Ead Samawi talks curating fair booths and how the Gulf collector base has come to outgrow that of Lebanon, thanks to the U.A.E.’s auction houses and art fairs.

When art historian Andre Sfeir-Semler founded Sfeir-Semler Gallery in Beirut, in 2005, it was the first white cube space in the Middle East. She reveals the chaos that characterised the first edition of Art Dubai and reflects on how far the fair has come and the exponential growth of the regional art market.

Sabrina Amrani

Sabrina Amrani

Sabrina Amrani
SABRINA AMRANI GALLERY

Pascal Odille: When did you first take part in Art Dubai?
Sabrina Amrani: Our first participation in Art Dubai was in 2012. It is a great memory — a very successful edition where almost all the artists we presented on the booth sold out.

PO: How has the fair changed and developed?
SA: The fair has evolved very positively throughout the three editions we participated in, even within an unstable global financial context. We can feel the fair is getting more and more international, not only through its participating galleries but also through the artists exhibited at the fair. This edition, for example, will include numerous Spanish galleries, while we used to be the only one.

PO: How do you perceive the evolution of the art market in the region?
SA: Fairs like Art Dubai have brought an international scope of artists and galleries to the region over the last decade, but I really believe that the art market dynamism is also happening thanks to other ingredients: major institutions opening in Doha and Abu Dhabi, coupled with major international artists’ shows, and the very cutting-edge approach to contemporary art of the Sharjah Biennial. They have all contributed to bringing diversity to the region, and by welcoming an international audience they have helped greatly to export art from the region. The recent expansion of Alserkal Avenue is certainly the sign of a will to internationalise the art market and attract more collectors and agents from around the globe. We need some more time, I guess, to appreciate the real impact on the art market.

PO: You participate in numerous art fairs: Art Brussels, Art Basel Hong Kong, ARCO Madrid, India Art Fair, Artissima and, of course, Art Dubai. What comparisons can you make between your experiences of these fairs?
SA: It is very complex to compare these fairs with each other. My partner Jal Hamad and I select the fairs we want to participate in with respect to the artists we work with. Nonetheless, we are aware that the strengths of these fairs are not the same: some are prestigious, some are strong for contacts and other for sales. The ideal development of a fair is when you have these three ingredients together.

PO: Do you modify your artistic programming from fair to fair? If so, can you offer examples of how you have done so?
SA: We certainly adapt our booth to the fairs in which we participate. Though the art market tends to be global, the collectors who attend the fair are still mainly regional. For example, at Art Basel Hong Kong we will present a solo show by our Pakistani artist Waqas Khan, who we believe will resonate with an Asian audience, and at the India Art Fair we presented our South Asian artists.

PO: As a gallery based in Spain, could you describe some of the differences between these the art markets in Lebanon and the U.A.E.?
SA: Every region, every city has its own idiosyncrasy. It is always a difficult exercise, but I would qualify the U.A.E. as an international crossroads, as opposed to the more regionally-oriented Lebanese market.

PO: And finally, what will we discover at your booth at Art Dubai?
SA: At this edition of Art Dubai, the audience will discover new work by our usual suspects: Waqas Khan, Nicène Kossentini and UBIK, but the real discovery will be the works by Malagasy artist Joël Andrianomearisoa and Korean-American artist Timothy Hyunsoo Lee, which will be present at Art Dubai for the first time.

Nadine Begdache

Nadine Begdache

Nadine Begdache
GALERIE JANINE RUBEIZ

Pascal Odille: When did you first take part in Art Dubai?
Nadine Begdache: We have been participating in Art Dubai since its creation, and we continue our collaborations and mutual support. We were very excited to have a quality fair in the region.

PO: How has the fair changed and developed?
NB: The fair has matured to gain its importance and its international reputation. There has been a choice made to present more cutting-edge contemporary art; as it diverges from the visual research in traditional media, such as drawing, painting and sculpture.
The creation of Art Dubai Modern has also been an excellent choice, as a means to present the contributions of the modern founders in the Middle East. This also has been of a great importance as a way to present our artists to the international public.

PO: How do you perceive the evolution of the art market in the region?
NB: In the Middle East we have excellent artists whose work has been recognised internationally. The interest of new collectors and the younger generation in art has created a constant buildup in the art market throughout the years, which is great. Recently, we’ve been witnessing a more developed and refined demand from the public for art in general. More specifically, as the collectors are constantly embellishing and enriching their collections, they have, today, great choices, as the market is endorsing excellence.

PO: You participate in numerous art fairs: Abu Dhabi Art, Art Dubai Contemporary, Beirut Art Fair, Art14 London, Singapore Art Fair and, of course, Art Dubai Modern. What comparisons can you make between your experiences of these fairs?
NB: Participating in art fairs in general has always been a good way for us to present our artists on the regional and international scenes… The art fairs are always occasions to represent our country, in addition to the cultural and commercial exchanges. We were one of the first galleries to join the new fairs in the Middle East, as we believe that art is an important bridge among cultures. Each fair is unique, and we always endeavour to show the public specific selections of our artists.
We feel more at home at regional art fairs, and more responsible for the quality and the success of the fairs. In addition to the cultural exchanges that we establish, there is always an educational responsibility towards the young generation. Our gallery conceives and publishes books on our artists. We always prepare special publications for the art fairs, to ensure good communication with, and education of, our public.

PO: Do you modify your artistic programming from fair to fair? If so, can you offer examples of how you have done so?
NB: As I mentioned, each fair is distinct. Participating has also become very competitive. We work on satisfying the fairs’ conditions, and look forward to the high standards of quality works. We make our selections carefully, as we feel that we play the role of cultural ambassadors. At the same time, we try to give all our artists the opportunity to be featured at international art fairs, especially the younger generation, whenever that is possible.
The general policy of the gallery is to present, as broadly as possible, the works of our artists — the established ones and the emerging younger talents. With the institutional void that our country has been passing through, the galleries in general, and ours in particular, have taken on the role of the cultural representatives, in spite of the fact that we are all private institutions.

PO: Do you see differences between the visitors attending these fairs — the general art-appreciating public and collectors — from country to country?
NB: Fine art has always been a natural index of cultural refinement and social development. The fairs have become the pivots for art lovers, and attract the public and collectors. Everywhere we have gone we were always delighted to see the interest of the visitors.
When we take part in fairs for the first time, we are enchanted with people’s curiosity and their positive reactions to what we present. It takes time to create new markets, of course, but there is always a great interest that we have to follow up on as a gallery. In the U.A.E., especially, we enjoy meeting the enthusiastic public and our collectors, who like to follow up of the developments of our artists and are constantly excited to discover new talents.

PO: As a gallery based in Lebanon, could you describe some of the differences between the art markets in Lebanon and the U.A.E.?
NB: All collectors, I believe, acquire what they like at first — that is, the art that responds to their vision and ways of thinking, art that brings new meaning and vision, and may raise new questions about how we reflect upon our own existence. In the U.A.E., the collectors are passionate and very proud of their collections. We often get invited to view the collections there. In Lebanon it remains more of a private matter — more intimate — although recently a few collectors in Lebanon have been thinking about, and even seriously planning for, housing their collections in private museums.
There are also those who think of art as an investment. Art is not just any investment — it is a cultural product, a question of identity that carries within it more than any commercial product. In the long run, investing in art is investing in and sustaining creativity through the artists. It is adhering to a global vision and supporting an alternative thinking that reflects on human existence in general.

PO: And finally, what will we discover at your booth at Art Dubai Modern?
NB: This year we will be showcasing rare works on paper by Huguette Caland and Laure Ghorayeb. These works are very little known as they have not been shown previously. We have made the choice to put the focus on paper, as we believe it is where great thoughts gestate. We look forward to presenting these traces of the intimate and precious moments of two exceptional artists.

Isabelle Van Den Eynde - Portrait courtesy: Vincent Mercier

Isabelle Van Den Eynde – Portrait courtesy: Vincent Mercier

Isabelle Van Den Eynde
GALLERY ISABELLE VAN DEN EYNDE

Pascal Odille: When did you first take part in Art Dubai?
Isabelle van den Eynde: We’ve been participating since 2007.

PO: How has the fair changed and developed?
I v d E : Art Dubai has maintained a strong identity and the quality of the programme, which is predominantly anchored in the local art scene. This has allowed them to develop an audience that is interested in discovering what is happening in the Middle East. Through platforms such as Global Art Forum, Art Dubai Commissions, Campus Art Dubai, Abraaj Group Art Prize, the newly added Modern section and the Artist in Residence programme, the fair has successfully placed Dubai on the international art map. This has been highly appreciated by the international audience and attracted a genuine attention that our art scene deserves.
Art Dubai has continuously strived to make itself a dynamic and specific fair by celebrating the voices of the region. The selection of galleries is also constantly evolving as we see more and more forward thinking and risk-taking galleries with each new edition of the fair.

PO: How do you perceive the evolution of the art market in the region?
I v d E : Over the years, there has only been an upward trajectory and a positive development in the art market. There is no denying that there has always been cultural production in the U.A.E. In fact, Hassan Sharif had been staging performances since the 1980s and he also created the Al Mareijeh Art Atelier in Sharjah in 1975. Since then a lot has been accomplished, and with recent and upcoming developments, such as the museums in Abu Dhabi, new Dubai galleries with consistent programming and Sharjah’s organic art scene and cultural production, the community is only growing in a positive way and I am very optimistic for the future. Moreover, the U.A.E. is a very economically viable place, with tax-free opportunities for many businesses from abroad. So this inevitably helps the art market to flourish as well.

PO: You participate in numerous art fairs: Art Basel Hong Kong, ARCOmadrid, Frieze New York and, of course, Art Dubai. What comparisons can you make between your experiences of these fairs?
I v d E: In all these various cities, we have observed that Dubai galleries — although quite young in comparison to the main “art centres” (London, Paris, New York) — have secured their place in the international art arena. All in all, these fairs have opened a gateway to many different regions and made it even more exciting for us to showcase our artists to such a diverse audience. We believe that the formal research and investigations, in terms of content of our artists, tackle universal themes, and, therefore, we seek to “de-regionalise” the discourse around our artists through such international opportunities.

PO: Do you modify your artistic programming from fair to fair? If so, can you offer examples of how you have done so?
I v d E: We tend to present specific proposals with in-depth discussion about our artists’ works so people can take away something meaningful about our artists and their oeuvre. We usually do a solo or curated booth that allows us to better introduce and explain the practice of our artists.

PO: Do you see differences between the visitors attending these fairs — the general art-appreciating public and collectors — from country to country?
I v d E: There are two types of visitors at these art events: one is the usual group of people we see at all the major fairs and biennials, and with whom you have a certain level of comfort. Then there is the local/regional audience that the fair itself attracts. In the latter case, the fair facilitates our business in the market by volunteering to provide further information about certain collecting habits. For example, Art Basel Hong Kong provides us with tips on how to conduct business with Chinese collectors by encouraging us to spontaneously reach out to booth visitors rather than waiting for them to approach us for information.

PO: Do you have any future projects in the pipeline, such as opening a new space in Europe?
I v d E: I am fully dedicated to the space in Dubai and to support our existing artists and their endeavours in the future.

PO: Can you tell us more about your outdoor programmes?
I v d E: We are slowly and timidly receiving requests for public art projects in the region. We are currently working on a few public art projects, but these invitations are still not as frequent as we would hope them to be.

PO: And finally, what will we discover at your booth at Art Dubai?
I v d E: For Art Dubai this year, we are presenting an installation by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, accompanied with a few works on paper. In addition to that, there will be a very interesting dialogue between the works of Hassan Sharif and Haleh Redjaian, focusing on the use of the grids and employing the weaving technique in different mixed media installations. Moreover, we will also present a selection of works by Mohammed Kazem and Chinese artist Xu Qu.

Iman Fares - image copyright: Natalie Weiss

Iman Fares – image copyright: Natalie Weiss

Imane Fares
GALERIE IMANE FARES

Pascal Odille: When did you first take part in Art Dubai?
Imane Fares: This year will be the third time that we’re taking part in Art Dubai.

PO: How has the fair changed and developed ?
IF: We feel the fair is in the process of opening up to new horizons — it’s no longer solely focused on the Middle East, its opening up bit by bit to other markets.

PO: How do you perceive the evolution of the art market in the region?
IF: We see a continuous effort to raise awareness of contemporary art through creating new institutions for the public. The market can only benefit from this artistic development.

PO: You participate in numerous art fairs: Art Brussels, Paris Photo and, of course, Art Dubai. What comparisons can you make between your experiences of these fairs?
IF: These are three major fairs for our gallery. Each meets a specific need and allows us to meet our collectors. Our gallery is highly segmented in terms of positioning, and these fairs are too. The common thread is that they all represent a vital platform for us to meet the art world, curators and, of course, collectors.

PO: Do you modify your artistic programming from fair to fair? If so, can you offer examples of how you have done so?
IF: Yes. I try to adapt my programme and show all the artists that I am lucky enough to support. This year, for our third participation in Art Dubai, we will show artists including Alia Farid (Kuwait), Ali Cherri (Lebanon), Mohssin Harraki (Morocco) and Younes Rahmoun (Morocco). And as part of Art Brussels, we will present a solo show by Congolese artist Sammy Baloji.

PO: Do you see differences between the visitors attending these fairs — the general art-appreciating public and collectors — from country to country?
IF: The profiles are very different, but all of them are motivated by the same desire — to discover new artists and new work.

PO: As a gallery based in France, could you describe some of the differences between these two art markets?
IF: This is really a very different market. Sharing my commitment to the artists of the Middle East and also the African continent, most of our customers are located abroad. Our relationship with the French market is unique, and I would define it as more educational. By supporting emerging artists, we try to give them the maximum exposure to the French public, which is becoming more and more aware.

PO: And finally, what will we discover at your booth at Art Dubai?
IF: This year I have decided to present four artists, including the work of a Kuwaiti artist who has just joined the gallery: Alia Farid. We will also present work by Ali Cherri, Mohssin Harraki and Younes Rahmoun. Each will have a dedicated space on the stand. Rahmoun will present his latest installation Manzil Janna (Paradise House), while Cherri continues his reflection on archeology and the life of an archaeological object. Finally, Harraki will present a glass book, in which he pays tribute to the writer and scientist Omar Khayyam.

Malini Gulrajani

Malini Gulrajani

Malini Gulrajani
1 × 1 ART GALLERY

Pascal Odille: When did you first take part in Art Dubai?
Malini Gulrajani: As a gallery based in Dubai we have always hosted major collateral events alongside the fair, but this will be the first time that we will actually be taking part in Art Dubai.

PO: How has the fair changed and developed?
MG: Every edition one can see changes in curation, strategy and design that have over the past decade made the fair evolve into the most important fair in the region. There has been a considerable fine-tuning process, combined with an amplification of the themes that define Art Dubai as an art fair characterised by a strong, strategic focus on the MENASA region.

PO: How do you perceive the evolution of the art market in the region?
MG: The growth of the gallery system and creation of a stronger and more diversified programme will ideally widen the platform and increase exposure both on local and international levels. This in turn will encourage a growth in collection.

PO: You participate in numerous art fairs: Art Stage — Singapore, Contemporary Istanbul, Abu Dhabi Art, India Art Fair and, of course, for the first time Art Dubai. What comparisons can you make between your experiences of these fairs?
MG: Each art fair has its individuality, its agenda and a purpose that mostly reflects the level of development of the art scene in that specific context. A generalised attempt to pair commercial aspects and an intellectual offer is one that I believe should be encouraged, as art fairs are increasingly more occasions to aggregate art professionals, art enthusiasts and thinkers in the same place.

PO: Do you modify your artistic programming from fair to fair? If so, can you offer examples of how you have done so?
MG: I have a belief and a vision and I work with my artists in this direction, regardless of the different levels of understanding towards the artists that I represent.

PO: Do you see differences between the visitors attending these fairs — the general art-appreciating public and collectors — from country to country?
MG: The “art fair” public has changed over time, from a very specialised audience to a more diversified one, including art lovers and intellectuals, beside the specialised public. This is mainly a response to the effort played by the art fair managements to involve a variety of audiences.

PO: As a gallery based in the U.A.E. with an office in India, could you describe some of the differences between these two art markets?
MG: The Indian market is still primarily oriented towards acquiring Indian artists, whilst in the U.A.E. I can observe a wider opening towards a diversified range of artistic production.

PO: What is your new concept for your space in Dubai?
MG: 1×1’s new space in Alserkal Avenue has enormous potential and that can be a challenge for both the gallery and the artists. I like the challenge, and would love to see this space energised with the art that we at 1×1 believe in.

PO: And finally, what will we discover at your booth at Art Dubai?
MG: Let’s keep that a surprise!

Leila Heller

Leila Heller

Leila Heller
LEILA HELLER GALLERY

Pascal Odille: When did you first take part in Art Dubai?
Leila Heller: I have been participating in Art Dubai for the last ten years.

PO: How has the fair changed and developed?
LH: The fair is constantly improving and it has become a very international fair that competes in every way with the top fairs, from Hong Kong to the U.S. The fair’s Global Art Forum is one of the most respected platforms around the world for panel discussions, presentations and talks with key figures in the art world.

PO: How do you perceive the evolution of the art market in the region?
LH: It is mind boggling to compare where the art market in the region is compared to when I first began to travel to the region in 2005. With over 50 galleries and foundations, Dubai has become a major arts hub not only for the region, but for the world.

PO: You participate in numerous art fairs: Abu Dhabi Art, Masterpiece London, The Armory Show and, of course, Art Dubai. What comparisons can you make between your experiences of these fairs?
LH: The gallery participates in eight to ten fairs a year all over the world, and I must say that Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art are two of my personal favourites. The excitement and curiosity of the audiences is very heartwarming. It is very gratifying to be able to share art that I am so passionate about with everyone there. Also, nothing compares to the incredible hospitality of both fairs.

PO: Do you modify your artistic programming from fair to fair? If so, can you offer examples of how you have done so?
LH: Indeed, what we bring to each fair is specific to the fair and the audience. For example, at Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art we like to bring artists that come from the region, or whose work we think will speak to the audience we have become so familiar with after all these years. For fairs such as The Amory Show, Modern Pier or Frieze Masters, we show a variety of secondary market works by major modern and contemporary masters from all around the world.

PO: As a gallery based in the U.A.E. and also in the United States, could you describe some of the differences between these two art markets?
LH: This is a complex question, as New York has been the centre of the art world for so long, and it is the birthplace of and home to some of the most important museums, institutions and galleries in the world. Thus, it is difficult to compare to Dubai, which has only just established itself as a major arts hub. I have enjoyed seeing how the scene has grown, and how educated the audiences are, just like in New York. While Dubai is not as established as New York, London or Paris, we find it very exciting to be part of an art scene that is on the rise, and know it will continue to grow very quickly

PO: And finally, what will we discover at your booth at Art Dubai?
LH: This year at Art Dubai we are bringing two never-before-seen sculptures by the renowned artist Ahmed Al Soudani. We will also be bringing a major presenation of works by Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr, who had his first New York solo exhibition at my gallery there at the end of 2015.

Ead Samawi - Courtesy Ayyam Gallery, photo by Susanne Hakuba

Ead Samawi – Courtesy Ayyam Gallery, photo by Susanne Hakuba

Ead Samawi
AYYAM GALLERY

Pascal Odille: When did you first take part in Art Dubai?
Ead Samawi: Ayyam Gallery has participated in Art Dubai since 2009, shortly after we opened our first Dubai space in Alserkal Avenue.

PO: How has the fair changed and developed?
ES: The fair has grown significantly since it was launched ten years ago. In the past decade it has expanded its reach to include South Asia and Africa, while also delving further into the history of art in North Africa and West Asia. With programmes such as Art Dubai Modern, Marker and Global Art Forum, the fair has made substantial efforts to shift the conversation from the market value of art to the development of art scenes worldwide and the issues that face artists and practitioners.

PO: How do you perceive the evolution of the art market in the region?
ES: The art market in the region is developing at a healthy pace. A decade ago, when the market exploded with the arrival of auction houses, the value of regional art rose at a rapid and exciting rate. Now that collectors have become more selective and the focus of the art scene is no longer the commercial side of things, the market has progressed at a realistic and sustainable pace, allowing a more accurate reflection of regional art.

PO: You participate in numerous art fairs: Abu Dhabi Art, Photo Shanghai, Art Fairs London and, of course, Art Dubai. What comparisons can you make between your experiences of these fairs?
ES: Each art fair is different and aimed towards specific audiences. Art Dubai is arguably the most internationally focused, while fairs such as Photo London are tailored to one medium in order to educate the public on the importance of certain artistic practices.

PO: Do you modify your artistic programming from fair to fair? If so, can you offer examples of how you have done so?
ES: There are several factors that influence how we curate our booths. Often, we seek to feature new or rarely seen works by our artists. Audiences, participating galleries and geographic locations shape how art fairs evolve. When organising our booths we take all these factors into consideration and select works based on what will engage the currents of the international art world.

PO: Do you see differences between the visitors attending these fairs — the general art-appreciating public and collectors — from country to country?
ES: At this point, visitors are familiar with the structure of art fairs and appreciate the diversity they have to offer. Some fairs change from year to year, meaning that the audience grows or shrinks depending on the reception of past editions. The standard art fair audience, no matter what part of the world you are in, consists of collectors, curators, critics and the general public.

PO: As a gallery based in the U.A.E. and Lebanon, could you describe some of the differences between these two art markets?
ES: Lebanon’s art scene is older, although it suffered setbacks during the Civil War, and thus has a history of collecting. Its art market was small prior to 2006, when auction houses were introduced to the region, but a collector base was well established. In the U.A.E., there were only a handful of collectors and galleries in the 1990s, making the art scene quite small. More recently, the market for art in the Gulf has surpassed that of Lebanon. This has come with efforts across the art scene, from government patronage and projects to the work of auction houses, galleries and private collections.

PO: And finally, what will we discover at your booth at Art Dubai?
ES: We will be participating in Art Dubai Modern with a two-person exhibition of Samia Halaby and Moustafa Fathi that explores some of the undercurrents of abstraction in the Levant. In the main section of Art Dubai we will debut new sculptural works by Nadim Karam, while featuring a multimedia installation by Faisal Samra.

Andrée Sfeir-Semler

Andrée Sfeir-Semler

Andrée Sfeir-Semler
SFEIR-SEMLER GALLERY

Pascal Odille: When did you first take part in Art Dubai?
Andrée Sfeir-Semler: We co-launched Art Dubai in 2006, and have been part of the fair ever since.

PO: How has the fair changed and developed?
A S-S: In the first year it was chaos! No one even had a clue how to bring the art in from customs! Some people even came to the booth asking if the works were for sale. But now it is one of the main fairs on the annual art calendar.

PO: How do you perceive the evolution of the art market in the region?
A S-S: It is exponential! Previously it didn’t exist in the region, except for a few collectors. Now is it like an epidemic — everyone is collecting.

PO: You participate in numerous art fairs: FIAC Paris, Frieze London, Art Basel, Frieze New York and, of course, Art Dubai. What comparisons can you make between your experiences of these fairs?
A S-S: Each fair has its own identity and is very much influenced by the city it is in. Basel is the peak. You feel like there is a full museum display in each booth, as well as having bold and innovative project like those at Statements and Unlimited. New York and London are the capitals of contemporary art, so there is always a lot going on and a lot to see. Dubai is still upcoming, but becoming stronger with each year.

PO: Do you modify your artistic programming from fair to fair? If so, can you offer examples of how you have done so?
A S-S: No, we do not.

PO: Do you see differences between the visitors attending these fairs — the general art-appreciating public and collectors — from country to country?
A S-S: In Basel you have more professional visitors, and to a certain extent in London as well. New York brings together the American market. Dubai attracts visitors who are curious to discover the Middle East.

OP: As a gallery based in Germany and Lebanon, could you describe some of the differences between these two art markets?
A S-S: Germany has an old and established infrastructure for its art market. In Lebanon, we are still pioneering to bring up a market.

PO: And finally, what will we discover at your booth at Art Dubai?
A S-S: We will see striking new productions by our artists.


A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The One-on-One Issue #35, on pages 78-86.

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