Sunday 26 February 2017

Nigerian Modernists Return For Art Dubai 2017

By Tajudeen Sowole
When Nigerian modernists, Ben Osawe (1931-2007) and Muraina Oyelami b.1940 are shown among works of other artists from across the world at Art Dubai from March 15 - 18, 2017, in UAE, a taste of Nigerian modernism would return to the yearly global art space.
Muraina Oyelami’s ‘One Apartment’ in 1969, Oil on hardboard, 50×60.5cm, PIC: Courtesy of the Artist and TAFETA

  In the past few years - except the last edition - Nigerian galleries and artists, across modernism and contemporary periods, have been showing at Art Dubai. Recall that in 2015, master
printmaker, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya was the face of Nigerian modern art when his works were shown by Lagos-based Mydrim Gallery. Also, one of the new generation art spaces in Lagos, Art Twenty One showed metal artist, Olu Amoda and a Camerounian at the same edition of Art Dubai under the Contemporary section. Although no Nigerian gallery showed at the event last year, a diaspora and contemporary artist, Nnenna Okore was represented by Mumbai, India-based Sakshi Gallery.

   Art Dubai 2017, according to a statement by the organisers, will feature 93 galleries from 43 countries. Sculptures and paintings by Osawe and Oyelami will be shown under London, U.K-based Tafeta Gallery.

  For the eleventh edition, the new Director of the fair, Myrna Ayad

and International Director, Pablo del Val, have the mandate to keep improving on the increasing global numerical spread of Art Dubai. Last year April, Ayad was announced as replacement for Antonia Carver who had been the fair director for six editions.   “Over the years and through its programming, Art Dubai has become one of the world’s most dynamic art fairs,” Ayad said ahead of the event’s opening. “Through its year-round activities, educational initiatives and artistic commissions, Art Dubai redefines what an art fair can be and I am delighted that this year with new initiatives such as the Modern Symposium and our largest performance art programme to date, we will be able to offer further insights into the regional art scene with an increased programme to engage our visitors outside the gallery halls.” 

  As much as the contemporary space of Nigerian art is ever growing with energy from home and the Diaspora, showing the country’s modern art, particularly at a global space like Art Dubai, is also crucial to complete the narrative. For example, when Mydrim took Onobrakpeya to Art Dubai 2015, it was refreshing, according to feelers from visitors to the gallery’s booth.

 The AD17 even promises to be more global. “The eleventh edition of Art Dubai will be the most international to date, welcoming new galleries and representative countries to the fair for the first time, alongside ambitious new elements to the programming,” the orgnisers assured.

  That assurance seems to be manifesting with 93 galleries from 43 countries, a tradition of “unrivalled access to art from across the globe.” The spread stresses the Fair’s spot “as the world’s most globally diverse art fair and the preeminent platform for the regional art scene.”

  Also an assurance of fresh experience in the exhibition halls has been made. “The exhibitions will be split between solo or two-artist exhibitions, allowing a more focused contemplation, and multi-artist shows, enabling an overview of different works,” Pablo del Val said.

 And to strengthen taste for modernity, there will be “Art Dubai’s inaugural Modern Symposium.” The symposium is being “initiated to celebrate the cultural impact of 20th century masters from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.”

  The inaugural Modern Symposium, with support from Alserkal Avenue, holds  ‪on Friday 17 March at Art Dubai Modern and ‪on Saturday 18 March at Alserkal Avenue. The features include talks and presentations focused on the life, work and impact of 20th century Modern masters from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

 Other highlights of AD17 include the lead sponsors’ project The Abraaj Group Art Prize, which has been described as the region’s most important art prize. For the 2017 prize curated by Omar Berrada, the winner, London-based Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum, will unveil her commissioned work alongside an exhibition of works by shortlisted artists Doa Aly, Sarah Abu Abdallah and Raha Raissnia.

  The event’s yearly gathering of art resource professionals tagged Global Art Forum continues, featuring about 50 speakers from around the world, under the theme Trading Places, with a focus on the trade of goods and ideas that shape – and reshape – the world. Said to have been conceived by Shumon Basar as Commissioner, with Carver and Oscar Guardiola-Rivera as Co-Directors, the Global Art Forum 2017 will take place at the on March 15-17.

  With Dubai Culture & Arts Authority as “a strategic partner,” Art Dubai is organised in partnership with The Abraaj Group and sponsored by Julius Baer,.

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