Art Dubai has announced a new director, Chloe Vaitsou, formerly of Frieze Fairs in London.
The UAE fair is entering its 12th year and has been transformational for the art market in the Emirates, but it has experienced personnel change recently. Director Myrna Ayad left in July after only two years at the helm.
Vaitsou’s role, of international director, will be somewhat different from Ayad’s, and will likely concentrate more on VIP development from within the region and overseas. She will work alongside Pablo del Val, the fair’s longtime artistic director.
Vaitsou takes up her post in December. Greek-American, she was educated in the US and has worked in London for the past 10 years. Previously she was Head of Audience Development for Frieze Fairs, where she organised the VIP strategy for the group's three art fairs, Frieze London, Frieze Masters and Frieze New York.
“This is an exciting time for Art Dubai,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to working alongside Pablo and the team to further build Art Dubai’s position as one of the world’s leading and most innovative art fairs.”
What about sponsorship?
What will happen now that Abraaj is no longer the main sponsor for the fair is still unclear. In March, the capital group's 10-year sponsorship deal came to an end, just as the company was unravelling due to charges of fraud. Abraaj's liquidators, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers, are beginning to sell off the group's sizable collections at much less than they were bought in auctions later this month in London at Bonhams. The former chairman, Arif Naqvi, also appears to be selling work from his private collection at Christie's.
The fair retains a number of smaller sponsors and partnerships outside of Abraaj, and this year introduces new curatorial initiatives that underline its traditional strength in representing art of the region, Africa, and Asia.
Last year, visitors to the fair remarked upon an increased Saudi presence, with the inaugural Ithra Art Prize, sponsored by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, and the Misk Art Institute, which underwrote the Art Dubai Modern events.
These ventures will return, along with the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy (OPCD), run by HE Zaki Nusseibeh, an Abu Dhabi minister of state and steadfast ally of culture in the Emirates. Nusseibeh’s new programme uses the Emirates’ investment in culture as a means of soft power abroad.
For the fair, they will be working with the Residents programme, which was revamped last year, and the Global Art Forum, the fair’s non-profit discursive programming strand. The Global Art Forum has been travelling of late: in London in July it played host to an unexpectedly large crowd of hundreds, and last month it went to Singapore. The next iteration will be in Tokyo in November.
In March, Art Dubai also installs three guest curators. The Residents section will be co-organised by Fernanda Brenner, who runs a well-regarded alternative space, Pivo, in Sao Paulo, and Munira Al Sayegh, a talented young Emirati curator. A new section will be titled Bawwaba, meaning Gateway in Arabic – a moniker similar to the curated section of its regional rival Abu Dhabi Art, also titled Gateway. Bawwaba is organised this year by the French-Cameroonian Elise Atangana and will focus on artists from the developing world.
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