Three days of frequenting the Madinat Jumeirah nearly had me setting up camp at the Art Dubai venue and volunteering myself as an installation of performance art. So it was that point of near insanity that I made the decision to venture out and explore the many other ‘fringe’ activities the festival had to offer.
One that I had picked up on through murmurs I happened to be privy to, was the Sikka Art Fair – a temporary cultural showcase located right at the other end of town, the ‘old Dubai’ district of Bastakiya.
A novel initiative by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, the Sikka Art Fair was conceived with the intention of showcasing the works of Emirati and local-based artists, alongside the annual festival of regional art that is Art Dubai. Organizers felt that in providing these artists with a platform with which to expose their talents, said artists would be encouraged to build on their skills, and open up a creative discourse with their peers as well as with others intent on pursuing the arts.
A choice location for such an initiative I felt, for the backdrop of the historic wind towers the Bastakiya is known for, served as a perfectly edgy contrast to the bright contemporary cubic installations scattered across the entryway and alleys. Individual galleries and artists’ works were showcased in the different ‘houses’ of this historic building complex, and depending on when you chose to visit, you may have been able to catch an artist workshop or tour.
For those not up to speed with their Arabic jargon (such as myself), ‘Sikka’ refers to a narrow passage or alleyway – aptly named, as exploring the confines of the Bastakiya has you doing just that: snaking your way through one Sikka after another. Entry to the Sikka Art Fair was free, and was open to the public from 10am-8pm over the course of the 12th-21st of March.
It was not all about the oils and the canvas though, for evenings at the Sikka Art Fair were reserved for a line-up of poetry, music and theatre performances. And with the weather just right this time of year, the very notion of spending a breezy evening outdoors, yet within the protective confines of such an aesthetic ambience, had me cancelling all my evening plans in deference to this.
Another very clever innovation conjured for Art Dubai 2011, was the Art Bus. Yes, it is as obvious as it sounds, and then some. With the increasingly developing art scene in the Emirates of both Dubai and Sharjah, and with the increase in frequency of the sprouting up of new galleries, locating these showrooms can turn out to be quite the chore. Enter, the Art Bus – the most culture savvy of all things 4-wheeled and running on diesel.
This innovative (and oh so pretty) mode of transport serves as a shuttle service for the culture hungry. Not only does it provide whistle-stop tours of some of UAE’s hottest art hubs, but it also hosts within (and without) itself, exclusive artworks by three Emirati artists specially commissioned for the project.
From the 17th-19th of March, the Art Bus did its rounds on two Dubai routes (Al Bastakiya/DIFC and Al Quoz), and from the 16th-19th of March would also venture out to gallery visits across Sharjah. The former routes include visits to The Empty Quarter, XVA Gallery, The Pavillion and Tashkeel (among others), and the latter paid homage to the Barjeel Art Gallery, the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civillization, and the Sharjah Biennial. For just Dhs.50 per person per route, I’d say you’re given more than just your money’s worth of the fine arts.
So as the curtains fall on the 5th edition of Art Dubai, many a culture buff is left to pack up their viewing goggles for storage until Art Dubai 2012 comes around, but not before a surprise standing ovation in the form of Art Dubai Live has everyone back in their seats again.
Yet another nouveau project by Art Dubai (though this time inaugurated on its closing), Art Dubai Live is an online platform designed to keep the spirit of the past few days alive, and the participants satiated until next year’s scheduled fill of art and culture.
This on-going initiative comes in the form of an interactive website (www.artdubai.ae/live) aimed at the digital documentation and discourse of art and culture in the MENASA region. Content can range from text, videos, audio clips and images and will be developed, added onto and tweaked, until it lives up to its purpose of functioning as an invaluable online resource for anything art-related in the region.
Well, there you have it folks. A play-by-play round up of all that was happening at the region’s most stimulating art festival. Until next year’s Art Dubai festival, this is Khaleejesque signing off.
- Shaahima Fahim