Nick Hackworth, the owner of the London gallery Paradise Row, with a Quranic verse in neon calligraphy by Shezad Dawood, on display at the  Abu Dhabi Art fair at the Emirates Palace hotel.
Nick Hackworth, the owner of the London gallery Paradise Row, with a Quranic verse in neon calligraphy by Shezad Dawood, on display at the Abu Dhabi Art fair at the Emirates Palace hotel.

Abu Dhabi Art fair 'arrives' as a major player

The xylophones tinkled, the flag fluttered in the night air, and the waves lapped at the shores of the Emirates Palace hotel. Amid the lilt and purr of conversation under starlit skies, some of the world's smartest gallery owners were toasting Abu Dhabi's arrival as a major player in the international art world.

Among the rumoured sales was a 15 metre long, US$5 million (Dh18.4m) abstract work by the American artist Frank Stella, entitled Damascus Gate, believed to have been scooped up by one of the city's leading institutions.

Among the roll call of big names adorning the walls, I counted four Picassos, a Matisse priced at $4.2m, a rather exquisite Cézanne, a Fernand Léger, and several Robert Rauschenbergs, in what was probably the highest density of major modern masterpieces of any recent world art fair.

The most striking pieces in the booths of the Palace's ballroom included a green action man standing, gung-ho, outside the Traffic gallery, a series of neon-lit Quranic inscriptions adorning the walls of London's hip Paradise Row, at the Gagosian gallery a large piece of flag-draped Americana, also by Rauschenburg, a roomful of Jean-Michel Basquiat's anarchic graffiti art, and a giant convex mirror of burnished stainless steel by Anish Kapoor that seemed to eclipse viewers in its blind spot, swallowing them up before amplifying them outward, spangled and distorted.

Outside, amid the fountains and aqueducts of the courtyard, silhouettes flitted in the night air, and among the ultra-chic crowd major players from New York, London, Paris and the bigger cities of the region mingled in a meeting of the art worlds of East and West.

In only its second year in its current form, the Abu Dhabi Art Fair has come of age, with the emirate placing itself squarely on the world art map and making its presence felt. Like any art fair, this was an exuberant hotchpotch of stuff, a hit-and-miss mix-and-match; here was a meeting of old and new, masters and moderns, European, American and Middle Eastern; a meeting of the sublime and the humorous, gimmick and shock-appeal, the controversial, the sensational, the absurd and quaint, some good, some not-so-good, and here and there works of indisputable and breathtaking genius.

"The collections being built here are serious, and we brought our best material out of respect for that," said Peter Boris, the vice president of New York's Pace gallery.

"Last year there was a lot of surprise and curiosity. This time people seem to know more what they're looking at. There's more interest and appreciation. People are engaged, and that makes anything possible."

His gallery's pieces included a rather exquisite, understated Picasso, Marie Thérèse, au Beret Mauve et Blanc and an early example of Matisse's groundbreaking windows series, this one a wash of subtle, tentative pale sheets of colour from 1907, entitled La Fenêtre Ouverte. A Rauschenberg photomontage, Anagram (a Pun), featured Cyrillic script emblazoned across an edgy urban depiction of Morocco.

"The pieces we brought along would be appropriate in any museum in the West, and they show a certain standard. We wanted some variety, and to show the gallery in some depth. Part of our intention was to include some regional flavour.

"People may have seen a Matisse or Picasso in a book, and we wanted to give people a chance to encounter their work. These are great examples of each artist - not their fiercest, but rather lovely and charming to look at."

A Giacometti, an Arshile Gorky, and a piece by the Iranian artist YZ Kami were among exhibits at the Gagosian gallery. Its co-director Ken Maxwell said the gallery had tried to rise to the challenge thrown down by the Saadiyat Island projects, particularly following the continuing show of works at Manarat al Saadiyat by Rauschenberg, Ruscha, Serra, Twombly, Warhol and Wool, from the private collection of Larry Gagosian.

"The Saadiyat show has put increased attention on the gallery, and in view of that, we wanted to bring works by major and significant figures, who can speak to everyone. We're seeing a great energy this year, and a lot of people asking questions about the work. We wanted to bring important examples of work that people can learn from."

The attentive presence of committee representatives of the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi were noted by many of the galleries, ahead of the planned accumulation of a great body of work.

Meanwhile, the scale of local interest, from both casual visitors and regional collectors, had shown a marked rise, with the programme of educational and cultural events that ran alongside the exhibition credited with promoting local interest.

"In terms of visitors, people are much more appreciative," said Rami Farook, the Emirati art collector and owner of Dubai's Traffic gallery. Farook's gallery is showing a dialogue between the American artists James Clar and Abdul Nasser Gharem, a lieutenant colonel in the Saudi army, with the work presented as a dialogue between civilisations. Noting how much time people were spending viewing the pieces, Farook said this was "unusual as in the past, we've mostly been exposed to decorative art in the region."

Clar's green plastic action man figure, And They Played For Days, was set against Gharem's stone slab, Untitled IV, its façade made up entirely of embossed reliefs of official Saudi bureaucratic stamps, with the speeches of John F Kennedy picked out in ink.

Standards had risen across the board after last year's mixed performance, said Farook. "There's far less rubbish. There's strong work from the Middle East, and real quality among the emerging galleries. But I've never been to a fair with such a top-heavy presence of major international players.

"The big boys are here. We've got most of the top 10 galleries in the world here, and they are taking this very seriously. As local galleries, it's fantastic to get a chance to exhibit alongside them."

Next door to Traffic, Meem gallery, which specialises in regional masters, presented the first meeting between the two of the region's founding figures in modern art, the Iranian sculptor Parviz Tanavoli and the Iraqi cubist painter Dia Azzawi.

"We feel this is a significant moment in Middle Eastern art," said the gallery's Samar Faruqi. "The two artists have never been exhibited together before. Working in the 1960s, one in Tehran, the other in Baghdad, they weren't aware of each other. Today they are seen as modern masters of Middle Eastern art."

At the time of going to press, two Azzawis and one Tanavoli had been sold, all in the region of $35,000-$50,000. "We're seeing a lot of visitors taking an interest, and a lot of collectors expressing interest," said her colleague Noura Haggag. "There have been grand cultural plans for this city for some time, but you get the feeling that it's all starting to make sense."

Tarane Khan, of Dubai's Third Line gallery, agreed. "People are genuinely curious," she said. "People want to know more about the artist and the whole scene."

Works at the gallery included a pink and lilac-sequinned portrait of minarets by the Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri, entitled A Deluxe Apartment in the Sky.

"Someone will come in, and they'll know who the artist is. They'll say, oh, so that's a Moshiri, yes, I saw their work at an auction, or at this gallery, or that opening.

"And after the recession over the last couple of years, the art market is for once being spurred on by what's happening in this region."

Some of the smaller, edgier galleries of London and New York were a key attraction. At Paradise Row, owned by the London-based art dealer Nick Hackworth, two pieces by Shezad Dawood, who was among recent winners of next year's $1m Abraaj Capital prize, made up one of the most innovative and daring exhibits at the fair.

"We're a young gallery with a focus on showing international contemporary art and we wanted to show contemporary art that deals with issues in the region, and engages with Middle East culture," said Hackworth, whose gallery also took part last year. "The displays are more interesting this year, and the work is hung in a more considered way."

London's trendy White Cube gallery was represented by a display exclusively of early works by the British artist Damien Hirst, including the fish species walled up in transparent formaldehyde, their ethereal colours shimmering, and another with a chair suspended upside down, entitled The Acquired Inability to Escape, Inverted, which was recently shown at the Tate gallery in London.

"The emphasis is on putting down roots just as much as selling," said the White Cube's Tim Marlow. "We want to develop interest in the market, while showing in depth what we can do. This country is becoming a cultural hub, and we want to be a part of that. I've talked to children and adults, Emiratis and expats, and there's a real curiosity and engagement."

Down by the waterfront, beyond the fountains and colonnades of the hotel's courtyard, a tented labyrinthe set the scene for Fabrice Bousteau's "experimental promenade", assembling performers, musicians and photographers for a separate show in itself.

Visitors were led through a maze of corridors as ambient sounds taped from the desert were carried on the night air from the centrepiece, an open-air theatre, recreating the experiences of the English explorer Wilfred Thesiger in the Empty Quarter.

Clouds of bubble-bath foam drifted on the breeze, dispensed by one of the more bizarre installations. Visitors cooed and sighed amid the curiously recreated atmosphere of an oasis. For what is still a nascent art scene, the audience appeared genuinely rapt by the whole experience.

Profile of Tarabut Gateway

Founder: Abdulla Almoayed

Based: UAE

Founded: 2017

Number of employees: 35

Sector: FinTech

Raised: $13 million

Backers: Berlin-based venture capital company Target Global, Kingsway, CE Ventures, Entrée Capital, Zamil Investment Group, Global Ventures, Almoayed Technologies and Mad’a Investment.

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Director: Stephen Merchant 

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, Florence Pugh, Thomas Whilley, Tori Ellen Ross, Jack Lowden, Olivia Bernstone, Elroy Powell        

Four stars

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices


Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

The Continental: From the World of John Wick

Created by: Greg Coolidge, Shawn Simmons, Kirk Ward
Stars: Mel Gibson, Colin Woodell, Mishel Prada
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The five types of long-term residential visas

Obed Suhail of ServiceMarket, an online home services marketplace, outlines the five types of long-term residential visas:


A 10-year residency visa can be obtained by investors who invest Dh10 million, out of which 60 per cent should not be in real estate. It can be a public investment through a deposit or in a business. Those who invest Dh5 million or more in property are eligible for a five-year residency visa. The invested amount should be completely owned by the investors, not loaned, and retained for at least three years.


A five-year multiple entry visa is available to entrepreneurs with a previous project worth Dh0.5m or those with the approval of an accredited business incubator in the UAE.  


Expats with specialised talents, including doctors, specialists, scientists, inventors, and creative individuals working in the field of culture and art are eligible for a 10-year visa, given that they have a valid employment contract in one of these fields in the country.

Outstanding students:

A five-year visa will be granted to outstanding students who have a grade of 95 per cent or higher in a secondary school, or those who graduate with a GPA of 3.75 from a university. 


Expats who are at least 55 years old can obtain a five-year retirement visa if they invest Dh2m in property, have savings of Dh1m or more, or have a monthly income of at least Dh20,000.

How to improve Arabic reading in early years

One 45-minute class per week in Standard Arabic is not sufficient

The goal should be for grade 1 and 2 students to become fluent readers

Subjects like technology, social studies, science can be taught in later grades

Grade 1 curricula should include oral instruction in Standard Arabic

First graders must regularly practice individual letters and combinations

Time should be slotted in class to read longer passages in early grades

Improve the appearance of textbooks

Revision of curriculum should be undertaken as per research findings

Conjugations of most common verb forms should be taught

Systematic learning of Standard Arabic grammar

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 


Friday Valladolid v Osasuna (Kick-off midnight UAE)

Saturday Valencia v Athletic Bilbao (5pm), Getafe v Sevilla (7.15pm), Huesca v Alaves (9.30pm), Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid (midnight)

Sunday Real Sociedad v Eibar (5pm), Real Betis v Villarreal (7.15pm), Elche v Granada (9.30pm), Barcelona v Levante (midnight)

Monday Celta Vigo v Cadiz (midnight)

Brief scoreline:

Toss: South Africa, elected to bowl first

England (311-8): Stokes 89, Morgan 57, Roy 54, Root 51; Ngidi 3-66

South Africa (207): De Kock 68, Van der Dussen 50; Archer 3-27, Stokes 2-12

Have you been targeted?

Tuan Phan of lists five signs you have been mis-sold to:

1. Your pension fund has been placed inside an offshore insurance wrapper with a hefty upfront commission.

2. The money has been transferred into a structured note. These products have high upfront, recurring commission and should never be in a pension account.

3. You have also been sold investment funds with an upfront initial charge of around 5 per cent. ETFs, for example, have no upfront charges.

4. The adviser charges a 1 per cent charge for managing your assets. They are being paid for doing nothing. They have already claimed massive amounts in hidden upfront commission.

5. Total annual management cost for your pension account is 2 per cent or more, including platform, underlying fund and advice charges.


Solo: A Star Wars Story

Director: Ron Howard


Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.


Processor: Apple M3, 8-core CPU, up to 10-core CPU, 16-core Neural Engine

Display: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina, 2560 x 1664, 224ppi, 500 nits, True Tone, wide colour

Memory: 8/16/24GB

Storage: 256/512GB / 1/2TB

I/O: Thunderbolt 3/USB-4 (2), 3.5mm audio, Touch ID

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3

Battery: 52.6Wh lithium-polymer, up to 18 hours, MagSafe charging

Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD

Video: Support for Apple ProRes, HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10

Audio: 4-speaker system, wide stereo, support for Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio and dynamic head tracking (with AirPods)

Colours: Midnight, silver, space grey, starlight

In the box: MacBook Air, 30W/35W dual-port/70w power adapter, USB-C-to-MagSafe cable, 2 Apple stickers

Price: From Dh4,599

Our House, Louise Candlish,
Simon & Schuster


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Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

UK - UAE Trade

Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and the UAE in 2022 was £21.6 billion (Dh98 billion). 

This is an increase of 63.0 per cent or £8.3 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of 2021.


The UAE was the UK’s 19th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2022 accounting for 1.3 per cent of total UK trade.


Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Company profile

Name: Khodar
Based: Cairo and Alexandria, in Egypt
Founders: Ayman Hamza, Yasser Eidrous and Amr El Sheikh
Sector: agriculture technology
Funding: $500,000
Investors: Saudi Arabia’s Revival Lab and others
Employees: 35

The biogs

Name: Zinah Madi

Occupation: Co-founder of Dots and links

Nationality: Syrian

Family: Married, Mother of Tala, 18, Sharif, 14, Kareem, 2

Favourite Quote: “There is only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.”


Name: Razan Nabulsi

Occupation: Co-founder of Dots and Links

Nationality: Jordanian

Family: Married, Mother of Yahya, 3.5

Favourite Quote: A Chinese proverb that says: “Be not afraid of moving slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”


Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

Stars: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman

Rating: 2/5

23-man shortlist for next six Hall of Fame inductees

Tony Adams, David Beckham, Dennis Bergkamp, Sol Campbell, Eric Cantona, Andrew Cole, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba, Les Ferdinand, Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard, Roy Keane, Frank Lampard, Matt Le Tissier, Michael Owen, Peter Schmeichel, Paul Scholes, John Terry, Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic, Patrick Viera, Ian Wright.

The finalists

Player of the Century, 2001-2020: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Ronaldinho

Coach of the Century, 2001-2020: Pep Guardiola (Manchester City), Jose Mourinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid), Sir Alex Ferguson

Club of the Century, 2001-2020: Al Ahly (Egypt), Bayern Munich (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Real Madrid (Spain)

Player of the Year: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Club of the Year: Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Real Madrid

Coach of the Year: Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta), Hans-Dieter Flick (Bayern Munich), Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)

Agent of the Century, 2001-2020: Giovanni Branchini, Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola

Defending champions

World Series: South Africa
Women’s World Series: Australia
Gulf Men’s League: Dubai Exiles
Gulf Men’s Social: Mediclinic Barrelhouse Warriors
Gulf Vets: Jebel Ali Dragons Veterans
Gulf Women: Dubai Sports City Eagles
Gulf Under 19: British School Al Khubairat
Gulf Under 19 Girls: Dubai Exiles
UAE National Schools: Al Safa School
International Invitational: Speranza 22
International Vets: Joining Jack