Artistic Unity: Art in the UAE: Interview with Art Dubai’s Benedetta Ghione

This article appeared in The Artistic Unity Issue #67 that was dedicated to the art scene in the UAE in which we unravel the threads of unity by exploring the perspectives of various stakeholders within the UAE’s art community. Through insightful interviews with galleries, art institutions, and auction houses, a vivid mosaic emerged, depicting how unity has been woven into the fabric of the art scene.

Rima Nasser: How has Art Dubai, under your leadership, evolved its vision of curation to reflect a global south perspective and differentiate itself in the international art fair landscape?

Benedetta Ghione: Art Dubai is the meeting point and platform for the global art community to discover art from the Global South. I strongly believe we are more than just an art fair. We have assumed the responsibility of an institution by consistently being at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in culture.

Unlike other fairs, Art Dubai has a highly curated approach to exhibiting art across Contemporary, Digital, Modern and Bawwaba sections, each meticulously developed in collaboration with leading critics, scholars and visionaries who not only shape conversations about history and art originating from the region but also drive them forward. The Global Art Forum, the annual transdisciplinary summit which takes place at the fair, has also grown into a significant platform aimed at nurturing original thinking and questioning around contemporary culture.

The fair is also dedicated to creating educational programmes and opportunities for the next generation of artists, audiences and leaders. We work with corporate partners who share our commitment and long-term vision such as A.R.M. Holding, and together, we deliver the largest children’s arts education programme in the UAE, which started at the fair and since expanded to engage with more than 15,000 children in 100 schools across the UAE. Additionally, we’ve successfully run Campus Art Dubai, the fair’s flagship professional development programme, for over a decade, providing traineeship and professional development opportunities for fresh graduates looking to work in the art market.

Our commitment to scholarship, combined with the art market’s gradual yet consistent growth, has led to a holistic and robust expansion of the region’s art scene.

RN: In terms of clientele, could you provide insights into any notable shifts or changes compared to the previous year? How has Art Dubai adapted to the evolving interests of its audience?

BG: We are witnessing the expansion and maturation of the region’s art scene. New institutions are emerging to contextualise modern and contemporary art in new and exciting ways. Collecting art, whether for pleasure or as an investment, has become popular in mainstream society. Notably, many wealthy individuals, including ultra-high-net-worth individuals, have moved here and now call Dubai their home. Artists are actively developing their markets, both locally and internationally. Simultaneously, there has been a steady rise in the quality and diversity of galleries, along with artists who have established their bases in Dubai. We are confident that the market here is experiencing resilient and sustained growth.

RN: Building on the growth of the UAE, how has the fair’s focus shifted over the years, and what key aspects define the current direction of Art Dubai in the context of the ever-changing global art landscape?

BG: At the Art Dubai Group, our mission has been to build thriving ecosystems with a global impact through initiatives that encompass world-class events, the commissioning of creative talent, innovative professional development programmes, and the provision of industry expertise to private and government institutions.

Over the past two decades, we have seen Art Dubai’s growth mirroring Dubai’s remarkable development. The fair has evolved to showcase not only artists, galleries, and partners from the Middle East but also from South and South-East Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe on the global stage, reflecting the diverse cultures and communities that make up our home city. The recent post-pandemic boom has solidified Dubai’s status as the centre of the Global South, and we take pride in championing the voices of these regions at the fair.

Beyond the fair, the group now encompasses over 30 initiatives, including Dubai Design Week, the Middle East’s design platform; Downtown Design, the region’s leading design fair with a focus on high quality and original design; Prototypes for Humanity, the world’s largest and most diverse assembly of academics addressing social and environmental challenges, among others. Cumulatively, all these initiatives have played a significant role in building capacity, attracting talent and opportunities in the creative industries.

RN: From the perspective of the UAE’s growth, who are the new clients acquiring art on an international scale, and how has Art Dubai played a role in attracting and engaging this emerging clientele?

BG: Over the years, we have built strong relationships with collectors, patrons and curators from around the world. We design special programmes to not only invite them to the fair but also educate them about Dubai’s fast developing art scene through exhibitions in galleries, museums and alternative spaces taking place across the city, particularly during Art Dubai month.

In addition, we also focus on supporting the next generation of collectors through a range of initiatives. Whether through the Dubai Collection, the first art collection for the city of Dubai, to supporting corporate patronage for the arts at the highest level through our partnerships with Julius Baer––which boasts one of the world’s leading corporate collections––or engaging in more local initiatives like Art Salon, a club for established and aspiring collectors who not only meet regularly here in Dubai, but also travel to different cities to seek new experiences and engage with non-Western and alternate scenes.

Furthermore, each year, we host a series of talks covering modern greats and art collecting. I am particularly pleased that as a growing centre, Art Dubai will once again host The Art Business Conference, offering a deep dive into trends into the art market.

About Benedetta Ghione

Benedetta Ghione, the executive director at Art Dubai since 2015, oversees the strategic direction and delivery of the fair, emphasising year- round programming and partnerships. With nearly two decades of experience in international art businesses, including roles at Sotheby’s London, Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery, and Bonhams auction house, she brings a wealth of expertise to her leadership. Ghione leads Art Dubai’s institutional, governmental and commercial partnerships, as well as professional development and education initiatives, contributing significantly to the fair’s success.

Caption featured image: Benedetta Ghione, Executive Director, Art Dubai.



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