The 15th edition of Art Dubai was the most extensive to date, 100 galleries were represented with more than 40 from the Global South, including particularly strong representation for South Asian and African galleries. In order find out more about the regional and international art scene, Fashion Trust Arabia spoke to Benedetta Ghione, executive director at Art Dubai.

Responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of the fair and with over fifteen years of experience in art business, Ghione holds a BA and MA in History of Art and Contemporary Art Theory, respectively. Ghione joined Art Dubai in 2015, and among other responsibilities, she focuses on institutional engagements, nurturing artistic practices and public and educational engagement.

What was the highlight of the 15th edition of Art Dubai?

Our partners only made this edition of the fair even more special as they added strong content and commissioned artists who brought valuable experiences to our visitors of all ages. For example, A.R.M. Holding expanded their children’s program at the fair, where they had artist Cyrus Kabiru (represented by AKKA Project)  conduct workshops for kids to teach them how to repurpose everyday materials – engaging young minds on important social and environmental issues.

And with Dubai becoming one of the world’s crypto hubs, we introduced a new gallery section dedicated to new media and digital art: Art Dubai Digital. This section had a comprehensive, 360-degree introduction to this fast-developing landscape; a beautifully-curated selection of artworks presented by international galleries and digital platforms, complemented by an extensive talks program. We wanted to provide digestible content around these topics, which we did through the 15th edition of the Global Art Forum, and a new series of Bybit Talks that explored the basics of art in the metaverse. We also expanded our Campus Art Dubai program by offering an eight-week course attended by UAE and international artists which culminated in an exhibition of new NFT works at the fair.

How has the pandemic affected this year’s edition and the artists work?

The pandemic has definitely accelerated a shift into the digital realm. We were very happy to be able to deliver a physical fair last year – and we were one of the only art fairs to take place last spring, albeit in a smaller and more focused edition than our visitors are used to. For the return of a full-scale event at Madinat Jumeirah this year, there was a clear sense of excitement from all our communities, as evident in the number of participants and visitors that we had across five days.

How do you perceive the future of art in a world ruled by digitization?

The future of art lies in how people will continue to interact with and respond to artworks. It is true that the digital art world, including NFTs, has seen huge growth over the last couple of years and it is important to stay curious and open to all possibilities. Having said that, I think nothing replaces the physical interaction and encounter with a work of art, because how we experience art is governed by the senses. We believe that in-person art events will still take precedence because they allow visitors to use their senses, whilst making the most of technology and global communication possibilities to reach those who cannot physically attend.

Can you give us a few hints about your next edition?

We have a lot of ideas for next year, and we’ll share them as they are finalized! We want to continuously improve the quality of experience for our visitors, in addition to maintaining the extensive educational content that we’re passionate about because we believe it is key in sustaining the art ecosystem here. Art Dubai is ambitious and experimental and reflects Dubai as a city, in that we are forward-facing.

What feedback have you received on Art-NFTs and the digital section of this year’s edition?

The inaugural digital section brought lots of positive energy and it was welcomed by the communities across the board. We received great feedback from the participating galleries in the digital section, such as Emergeast, who said they almost sold out the booth. PILEVNELI Gallery, which brought Refik Anadol’s work, sold four works to Dubai-based private collectors and was impressed by the level of education and interest in the work. Institut. co-founder also had a successful week at the fair and appreciated the opportunity to meet community members IRL, educate, and engage with a truly global audience. Fingerprints DAO sold very well to collectors of all ages with lots of NFTs being minted in person at the booth.