The Best of Art Dubai 2024

Abul Hisham, Untitled (2023), SECCI Gallery. Image courtesy of SECCI Gallery

Frieze Art Fair was founded in 2003, a more-than-hopeful project from the young London staple- Frieze Magazine. In the twenty-one years since the fair’s conception, Frieze is the undisputed titan in world art showings and maintains control over the art fair operations within its founding city, London, along with Frieze LA and, more recently, New York after the purchase of the The Armory Show. It would be more than safe to call Frieze’s ascension in the art universe meteoric, and it tells us how quickly control of territory can be seized within the commercial art landscape.

In 2003, the population of the UAE stood at 3.8 million. Today, it has grown more than 250% to 9.55 million. In 2003, the tallest building in Dubai was the 21st Century Tower, half the size of the tallest building in the world at the time, the Taipei Tower. Today, the 21st Century Tower is the 50th tallest building in Dubai, and it now has the tallest skyline in the world.

And, after visiting Art Dubai at the five-star Jumeirah Mina A’Salaam Hotel on the coast of the Persian Gulf for this year’s fair, I am beginning to wonder how quickly Dubai can center itself in the art universe after building a country in the same time it took Frieze to build a fair.

It’s safe to say that Art Dubai has the potential to be a serious contender with the fairs of the West. The focus on and draw of galleries throughout the Global South, most notably with a huge showing from India, will likely spell trouble for Western art fairs as there is untapped excitement and potential within this lesser-known market. And, the few showings from Western galleries from New York, Paris, Lisbon, London, and so on, will soon grow.

Nour Malas, Two Faced (2024), Carbon 12. Image courtesy of Carbon 12.

If this is any indication of its potential impact, many other members of the Western art universe and I opted to attend Art Dubai, along with the Sharjah Art Foundation’s March Meeting as well as Abu Dhabi’s Culture Summit, all of which turned out to be incredible showings of what the UAE—and the pristine talent they draw from the Global South and from tuned-in Westerners—has to offer. While these conventions normally run at different times of the year, the effort to combine them before Ramadan starts this year in March may spell future trouble for foreign fairs as there is an incredible amount of cultural prowess to see in the UAE. Hopefully, though, they continue this model and follow Ramadan’s shifting start each year to spare those who would like to dedicate time to see how much the UAE’s reach has grown year to year.

I feel very early on what the UAE has to offer in their art fairs, and I’m excited to return next year, hopefully with others who have heard stories of what the Near East has to offer.

Below are writer Saam Niami’s favourite booths from this year’s Art Dubai.

  1. Stems Gallery
Hilary Balu, From Fantasies to Escape Five (2023), Stems Gallery. Image courtesy of Stems Gallery
  1. SECCI Gallery
Abul Hisham, Untitled (2023), SECCI Gallery. Image courtesy of SECCI Gallery
  1. Sarai Gallery
Moslem Khezeri, We Keep Reviewing 65 (2021), SARAI Gallery. Image courtesy of SARAI Gallery
  1. Project 88
Mahesh Baliga, A Lake in Oxford (2023), Project 88. Image courtesy of Project 88.
  1. Dastan Gallery
Morteza Pourhosseini, Untitled from “in-between series (2024), Dastan Gallery. Image courtesy of Dastan Gallery.
  1. Jhaveri Contemporary
Matthew Krishanu, Communion (Kneeling) (2022), Jhaveri Contemporary. Image courtesy of Jhaveri Contemporary
  1. Gallery One
Samira Badran, Jerusalem Barricade 1 (1995), Gallery One. Image courtesy of Gallery One.
  1. Galerie Krinzinger
Alfred Tarazi, The Song of Ruins (2024), Galerie Krinzinger. Image courtesy of Galerie Krinzinger

Written by Saam Niami