Picture perfect: Abu Dhabi Art

The fourth edition of Abu Dhabi Art fair, which took place earlier in November, was a platform for modern and contemporary art, including a diverse programme of exhibitions, film-screenings, performances and platforms of arts talks.

Attracting collectors from all around the Middle East, Abu Dhabi Art presented an exciting portfolio of 50 galleries showing hundreds of international artists. Among the galleries making an appearance at the fair this year is Galerie Thaddeus Ropac showing Indian artist Raqib Shaw’s rich and colourful works and Lebanese gallery Janine Rubeiz showing work by Adam Henein, known as the godfather of Egyptian sculpture. The gallery also traveled to Abu Dhabi Art with an innovative installation piece featuring an artist encased within four clear walls. Demonstrating art in action, the artist, Mazen Kabraj, drew from within the walls, until all the surfaces were covered.

Abu Dhabi Art was hosted in the heart of cultural hub Saadiyat Island, where talks and discussions included events with leading international artists, gallerists, collectors and curators. UAE based galleries showing at the event included Art Sawa, Artspace, Ayyam Gallery, Galerie El Marsa, Hunar Gallery, Meem Gallery and The Third Line.

Somewhere in-between the serious business of global collectors sizing up the valuable goods and treading the party circuit, was the public programme, which allowed art enthusiasts to exchange ideas and gain insight into the region’s burgeoning arts scene.

The fair’s special ongoing exhibition entitled The Island: A Game of Life is a show encompassing a rich mix of live performances and artistic installations. Visitors found themselves entering an imaginary island and browsing fluidly through these visual attractions. Live performances and contemporary arts installations are running until January 2013 and include global names such as Anish Kapoor, Abbas Akhavan, Camille Henrot, Fabrice Hyber and Camille Zakharia.

The annual event works to cement the region’s new reputation as a cultural innovator. Art is becoming a more vital component of the UAE’s wider cultural strategy and in Abu Dhabi the government has already invested in multi-billion dollar projects including Middle Eastern outposts of both the Louvre and Guggenheim galleries.

One of the key talks at this year’s fair was a panel discussion about the vision and architecture of the future Guggenheim museum. Speakers included architect Frank Gehry and gallerist Richard Armstrong who examined the growing importance of the UAE and wider Middle East in the global art market.