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Art Dubai with Antonia Carver

February 13, 2012

A preview of the world leading art event with one of Art Dubai's three directors

  • Text by Kate Hazell

As the countdown to Art Dubai begins, which is being held on March 21 - 24, Satellite Voices talk to one of the directors about her top tips and must-sees for this year's fair.

Satellite Voices: What do you love most about your job?
Antonia Carver: I love seeing the whole fair coming together over the course of 11-and-half-months of the year, and I sort of love feeling the pressure crank up and up towards those 10 days in March when we are onsite and life becomes an absolute frenzy. But the most exciting thing is to see what the artists come up with and how they deliver on their projects – galleries apply with proposals way back in June each year, with the selection process complete by September.

We’re a contemporary fair, so much of the work is brand new, and so artists are making work through the year and galleries 'saving it up' for Art Dubai. We’ve also commissioned 10 artists to make site-specific work or new performances as part of our not-for-profit programme Art Dubai Projects, and that’s an incredible process – this year the projects involve everything from fortune cookies to gallons of oil, sounds recorded all over Dubai, recruiting piano players that specialise in cheesy ballads…

SV: What are you most excited about for this years’ Art Dubai?
Antonia Carver: Everything above – and the influx of incredible people coming into Dubai at this time of year. We’ve got over 65 museum groups already booked – which includes the museum director and curators, plus members of their boards and patrons – and an ever-increasing guest list of collectors, curators, artists, critics and gallerists flying into Dubai from the usual places (New York, London, Paris, Beirut, Beijing) plus Lima, Dakar, Singapore, Jakarta, Karachi, Gwangju...

SV: What / who do you recommend we check out this year?
Antonia Carver: I definitely recommend you check out and sign up for the commissioned performances – Carlos Celdran is a sensation in the Philippines, and starting to become very well-known internationally. He’s known for his Imelda Marcos performance works, but for Art Dubai he’s devising “seven acts for seven works” – a kind of performative guided tour of the fair. Koken Ergun is another artist I’ve admired for years – he works across different media and always does something that surprises, confounds, challenges, but often with the wittiest twist. No spoilers – but his work involves a particular rendition of George Michael’s "Careless Whisper".

SV: Who is your favourite regional artist and why?
Antonia Carver: That’s so tricky to say, and too many know where I live! Generally, it’s impossible to have a “favourite artist” as comparing approaches, media, moods, context is near-impossible. With Delfina Foundation, Tashkeel, and Dubai Culture, we launched a residency programme for artists and a curator this year, in Bastakiya. Working with the three international artists - Faycal Baghriche, Magdi Mostafa and Deniz Uster - has been a joy; all three have been very open to the particular, quirky context of living and working in Dubai’s oldest neighbourhood, and their work is superb – albeit each is wildly different from the other. They are making site-specific works for Art Dubai Projects, so don’t miss their works, outside on the water terraces.

SV: How do you think Dubai is nurturing it’s art scene?
Antonia Carver: Dubai’s arts scene has grown dramatically over the past decade, and it’s largely thanks to passionate and dedicated gallerists, artists, patrons and critics. It grew organically, which resulted in a knowledgeable, confident audience – for example, our recent educational seminars have been packed, just thanks to a few tweets and word-of-mouth marketing. It would be fantastic if more corporates followed the incredible example of Abraaj Capital (which is the partner of the fair but also runs the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, the biggest and most artist-centric prize in the region) – many businesses have done well through the past decade and more in Dubai, and putting back into the city through art and cultural endeavours would be welcomed by so many.

Top Left: "A cloud passing over Cairo (from the Prestige of Terror)"
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, 2010, Ink on paper, 28x21.5 cm, Courtesy Paradise Row
Top Right: "The Lifespan of a ball point pen 13"
Ghazel, black ball point pen on printed world map, 70x100cm, Courtesy Carbon 12 Dubai
Bottom Left: "Modern Genealogy 2"
Kader Attia, 2011, Collage, 47x36cm, Courtesy Gallery Krinzinger
Bottom Right: "Bodybuilders No. 8"
Akram Zaatari, 2011, Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg, Beirut

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