Naqsh Collective, Unit and Diaspora, 2018, Gazelli Art House. Stone with brass (60 pieces), 300 x 300. (Courtesy: Art Dubai)

With countless art fairs being canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak across the world, the art world must take a step back and look for new ways to present artwork— in a new dimension, without the usual crowds. The 14th Annual Art Dubai Festival was originally scheduled to take place, as usual, in early spring, but like many others, Art Dubai’s directors were forced to rethink and adjust the plan of action. Instead of canceling or postponing, on March 23, Art Dubai went digital, presenting an online catalogue of works that features more than 500 artists from over 50 galleries.

Last month, a similar move was taken by Art Basel Hong Kong.

Art Dubai’s online platform also features live-performance videos as well as a special broadcast entitled “Newshour Special” that discussed the effect this pandemic has been having on the Festival and on the art world in general. Global Art Forum Commissioner Shumon Basar hosted the broadcast.  

 In a statement to CNN, Art Dubai’s directors Chloe Vaitsou and Pablo del Val addressed this new platform and the Festival’s decision to take a different approach rather than cancel or postpone the event. “Adapting to a digital program enables us to uphold our mission to support galleries and nurture Dubai’s arts ecosystem, even in these challenging circumstances.”

Moslem Khezri, “We Keep Reviewing 28,” 2019, SARADIPOUR Art Gallery. Oil on canvas 90 x 120 cm.  (Courtesy: Art Dubai)

The Festival’s Curator Marina Fokidis is spearheading a performance program entitled (On)line Healing. Artists include Bahar Noorizadeh from Iran,  Greek artist Angelo Plessas, French artist Tabita Rezaire and Tiago Sant’Ana from Brazil. In her curatorial note regarding the project, Fokidis said, “We came up with a program that would look into healing as an act of togetherness and art. Who could imagine that just before the opening we would be confronted with an unprecedented “temporal convention” such as the one we are living through now?”

Imaad Majeed (1991, Colombo),  “Please share my self care,” 2020. Video performance, 4 min 24 sec. (Courtesy: Art Dubai)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy recently purchased more than $400,000 in art made by Emirati artists since the launch of the online gallery. The work will be placed in the United Arab Emirates embassies through its Artists in Embassies program.

 “With the cancellation of the many art events that were scheduled to take place this season, we wanted to send a message of solidarity to our artists,” the Minister of State Zaki Nusseibeh told The National. “It is a message that demonstrates our deep appreciation and support for the local arts, and acknowledging that they are a critical part of the national identity.”

 Art Dubai has taken place since 2007 and plans to go on as regularly scheduled in March 2021.