With all due respect

We would like to respond to The Art Newspaper’s report on Art and Antiques Dubai in the April issue (p55). We feel that the story was devoid of some basic information. The Haughton organisation worked in tandem with the DTCM (Department of Tourism Commerce Marketing) in Dubai over the past two years in preparation for the launch of Art and Antiques Dubai (21-24 February) this year.

Working closely with the DTCM and other agencies, great attention was paid to respecting both local customs and religious concerns. The decision not to have a ladies’ day was not, as your story suggests, a sign of “the Haughtons’ lack of sensitivity to local culture”. The fact was, the Madinat Arena was not available for an extra day at the start of the fair, and our Dubai advisers told us that a ladies’ day held at the end would not be appropriate. Art and Antiques Dubai broke new ground in Dubai and indeed the wider Gulf, where the art market is still in its infancy but its development is being actively encouraged by the authorities.

The exhibitors understood that it is necessary to develop a network of contacts in the UAE and cultivate a client base. Some already had clients, but for others it was a completely new project. Significantly, the fair attracted very serious interest and also buying (including sales that were closed in the weeks that followed) from among the most prominent families throughout the region. We know this, because, as is customary, they identified themselves on entering the fair by offering business cards, and some by completing fair registration forms. We were advised that it is not normal in the Gulf to charge for entrance to an event such as this, which made it difficult to keep overall attendance figures.

All the exhibitors were well aware that Art and Antiques Dubai will take time to realise its full potential. Nonetheless, many of the leading dealers have already confirmed their return in 2009.

Sarah Harcourt-Webster & Magda Grigorian

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