‘Confident start’ to Art Dubai

by Noni Edwards (originally written for Emirates News 18/3/10)

Fair Skies - Mahmud Obaidi

Organisers describe last night’s public debut of Art Dubai 2010 as a “confident start”.

In the lead-up to the fourth annual Art Dubai fair, its co-founder wasn’t certain what this year’s response would be like, given the still-subdued art-investment climate. But as it happens, he needn’t have worried.

“When the fair opened there were collectors queuing up waiting to get in, they made a beeline straight for galleries they wanted to see first, they bought work immediately,” said John Martin.

“There was hunger and excitement about last night that we certainly didn’t see last year,” Martin continued.

The Patron’s Preview, held over several days prior to the public opening, saw record attendances from international and regional collectors.

Those attendances translated into healthy sales, with one work reportedly selling for more than US$200,000.

Berlin-based ‘Caprice Horn Gallery’ scored well with opening night buyers, selling two pieces buy Saudi artist Abdullnasser Gharan for an undisclosed price in the range of US$15,000-100,000.

According to Martin, the tougher economic times have forced galleries to adapt their approaches.

“In the art market and particularly in the contemporary art market, it’s about what’s good, it’s about quality so galleries have really worked harder, they can’t be lazy anymore, they’ve got to bring the very very best work.”

Artists featuring in this year’s fair have also adopted creative strategies to appeal to audiences.

Canadian-Iraqi artist, Mahmud Obaidi, created a series of works called ‘Fair Skies’  in response to a humiliating experience when stopped by American airport security.

His deep embarrassment stirred the creative juices, and resulted in his satirical pieces that highlight the difficulties of being stereotyped while travelling.

The mixed media series includes a ‘Fair Skies’ kit with hair bleach and blue contact lenses, to be sold in a simulated vending machine.

But Obaidi says his work is only an attempt to draw the humour out of his experience.

“Of course I won’t be doing it myself, but I developed the idea on the plane, I always carry a notebook, and I sketched something on ‘how not to look like a terrorist in the eyes of the American airport authority’, this was the basic idea,” said Obaidi.

Art Dubai is open to the public at the Madinat Jumeirah until Saturday.

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