Thursday, 14 February 2013

West African art to take centre-stage at ‘Art Dubai 2013’


It is Art Dubai’s Marker programme, which explores the nature of evolving cities in West Africa through the work of upcoming and established artists, exhibiting in the Middle East for the first time

Art Dubai has announced that this year’s Marker, a set of curated concept stands located in the fair’s main gallery halls, will focus on West Africa. Lagos-based curator Bisi Silva’s curatorial concept focuses on the rapidly evolving nature of cities in West Africa and the way in which this change impacts society. She has selected five spaces to work collaboratively with their artists to produce exhibitions for Art Dubai: Centre for Contemporary Art (Lagos, Nigeria); Espace doual'art (Douala, Cameroon); Maison Carpe Diem (Segou, Mali); Nubuke Foundation (Accra, Ghana); and Raw Material Company (Dakar, Senegal). Working together with the curator and the fair, each artspace will present recent works by artists such as Soly Cisse (Senegal) Ablade Glover (Ghana), Abdoulaye Konate (Mali) Boris Nzebo (Cameroun) and Taiye Idahor (Nigeria).
Bisi Silva, Curator of Art Dubai 2013's Marker.

Marker exemplifies Art Dubai’s role as a site of discovery and cross-cultural exchange; Art Dubai 2013 sees the five artspaces from West Africa exhibiting together at an international art fair for the first time. This is the third year of Marker at the fair: following an introductory selection of galleries from across Asia and the Middle East in 2011, Marker 2012 focused on Indonesia, and resulted in the development of long-term cultural links between the Gulf and the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Art Dubai’s 2013 focus on West Africa presents a timely opportunity to reflect on the economic and cultural changes occurring in that region, and its historical and contemporary links with the UAE and the wider Gulf. According to curator Bisi Silva, the openness of the theme has encouraged the arts organisations and artists to develop dynamic booth exhibitions: “The theme allows each contributor to approach it from a local context. At the same time, visitors to the fair will discover several common threads that link the works - the vibrant dynamics of the cities as well as the tensions that arise when the modern collides with the traditional, the urban displaces the rural and the boundaries between the public and private become blurred.”

Marker 2013 will place a spotlight on art and artists from West Africa in the Middle East for the very first time. “Given the historical and rapidly growing contemporary links between the Gulf and African cities, our links with the arts communities of North Africa, plus the internationalism of the UAE arts scene, we feel that there is a great deal of mutual interest,” said Art Dubai Fair Director Antonia Carver. “By highlighting the work of organisations and artists from West Africa, we aim to not just generate more awareness but also call for increasing interaction and synergies between Africa and the Middle East in the cultural field.”

Art has been a major priority for several West African states post-independence, such as Senegal and Nigeria, both of which placed art and culture on the highest level of nation building. By the 1980s, this movement was curtailed due to increased political instability, which continued for nearly two decades. However since the beginning of the new millennium, a cultural renaissance has been kick-started mostly by private individuals and artists who are creating the platforms and programmes that foreground artistic production and presentation.

“The participation at Art Dubai opens up a number of possibilities and opportunities for artists and art organisations from West Africa, especially the opportunity to engage with their contemporaries in the Middle East and Asia, while reaching out to a wider market. Making their work known in another region and taking their artist’s work to new audiences is a strategic move for any organisation, which will hopefully result in new collaborations and partnerships,” continued Bisi Silva. “Additionally, visitors to Art Dubai will discover the diversity of artistic practice across a variety of media including painting, photography, sound art and other experimental media.”

As the leading international fair in the Middle East and South Asia, Art Dubai is committed to creating a platform whereby the world’s most influential galleries come together and engage with the booming regional art scene. Such has been its continued success that Art Dubai is expecting in excess of 22,000 visitors to the fair in March 2013.

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