It was one of the first to be canceled, and now it will be the first major international art fair to return to the art world calendar. Art Dubai will go ahead in 2021, the directors say, taking place from 17–20 March with participation from 86 galleries in 36 countries. The sudden cancellation of the art fair in March 2020, just two weeks before it was scheduled to open, placed significant economic stress on Emirati galleries, some of which rely on Dubai Art Week for nearly half their annual turnover.
The fair’s artistic director Pablo del Val said over email that 90% of galleries will be returning from the cancelled edition, “evidencing a shared desire to reconnect in the same location”. He also claimed to have seen strong signs that the fair’s collector base is interested in returning to Dubai for what will be the 14th edition. “While the past year has shown the market’s capacity to adapt and innovate,” he says, “we continue to believe in the importance of bringing communities together at physical events”.
The fair will adapt its layout and flow to enable social distancing and safe crowd management, Del Val says, and the organisers will follow local regulations around mask-wearing, disinfection and temperature checks, as well as implementing a mandatory pre-booking system for events inside and outside of the fair site. Those attending will have access to “health concierge services,” including advice on PCR test requirements for entry to the United Arab Emirates. The country has already vaccinated tens of thousands of its citizens with China’s Sinopharm vaccine via a voluntary vaccination program.
Peter Nagy, the director of Nature Morte gallery, says over email that as his gallery had planned to participate in 2020, it felt natural to sign on to the 2021 edition. “Hopefully vaccines will be well distributed by then and we will all be able to enjoy the fair and Dubai!”
Alongside new safety protocols, Art Dubai 2021 will be inaugurating a programme that gives fairgoers the chance to participate in artist-led experiences such as beach performances, tours at textile souks and boat trips, according to a statement released by the fair. Among the touted “happenings” is a karaoke performance, one that vulnerable fairgoers may want to avoid in light of the science showing heightened transmission of the virus in environments where people are singing in close quarters.