Breaking News

In Conversation With Chloe Vaitsou, International Director Of Art Dubai

As Art Dubai gears up for the 2021 physical edition of its art fair dedicated to art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia with dates and location shifted – it will now take place from March 29 to April 3, 2021 at the Dubai International Financial Center – and gallery participation halved, I discuss with Chloe Vaitsou, International Director of Art Dubai, about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abdoulaye Konaté, Composition en Jaune, 2018, represented by Primo Marella Gallery

Abdoulaye Konaté, Composition en Jaune, 2018, represented by Primo Marella Gallery

Photo courtesy of Art Dubai

How has the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns worldwide affected the way in which you support your artists, art galleries and visitors, instituting new online content? Is it a time for dynamic change and radical thinking?

Art Dubai was quick to react to the escalating global situation and in realizing the necessity to cancel last year’s fair early on. We worked hard to minimize losses for galleries by holding off shipments when we knew there was a risk in canceling and obtaining refunds for hotel reservations that were booked through our partner hotels. Galleries have been offered a 50 % cash refund and 50 % credit redeemable against participation in the next edition of the fair.

Alia Ali, Orange Palms (from the Flux series), 2019, archival pigment print, 124 x 88 cm

Alia Ali, Orange Palms (from the Flux series), 2019, archival pigment print, 124 x 88 cm

Photo courtesy of Art Dubai

Is it important to continue to engage collectors, art galleries, museum directors, the press and art lovers, to continue to be on the map and gain exposure at this time?

It is paramount to continue to support the entire ecosystem, from commercial to institutional and non-profit. The whole ecosystem is undergoing dynamic change, and we want to maintain leadership in how the art world is morphing. This rationale motivated Art Dubai to adapt to programming online. The Global Art Forum Newshour Special reached an audience of 160,000 through Art Dubai Group social media channels, with more than 11,000 play-throughs in the first week from its live broadcast. The 2020 online catalog received close to three times more traffic compared to 2019, with over 40,000 views in its launch week. Since last March, Art Dubai’s social media has grown through our participating gallery takeovers and cross-promotional content with our Planetary Feed section, which works to showcase the programming of various non-profits, foundations, galleries and institutions in the MENASA and wider region. We showcased a series of solo artist online exhibitions, highlighting Art Dubai’s unique identity as a portal to the discovery of art from the Global South, a focus on art produced in the UAE, and new support initiatives that provide participating galleries with connections to collecting and institutional communities throughout the year.

MORE FOR YOU

Khalil Nemmaoui, Untitled, 2018, artist proof UV print on plexiglass, laminated on dibond, 180 x 240 cm

Khalil Nemmaoui, Untitled, 2018, artist proof UV print on plexiglass, laminated on dibond, 180 x 240 … [+] cm

Photo courtesy of Courtesy Comptoir des Mines Gallery

Is a digital substitute better than not seeing the art at all, and can you reach new visitors who can’t easily travel to or are intimidated by art fairs?

Digital platforms ensure continued accessibility and a means to showcase artists and institutions. It cannot fully replace the physical encounter of attending and experiencing an art fair in person. We have done our utmost to bring together different global perspectives that the fair’s program engages, and to continue cultivating a culture of discovery and thought leadership through different online experiences. 

What’s your biggest worry professionally in the COVID-19 era?

The health and sustainability of the multilayered art ecosystem globally and the need to bring attention to the necessary conversations that artists raise.

James Clar, A New Dawn, 2019, represented by Silverlens Gallery

James Clar, A New Dawn, 2019, represented by Silverlens Gallery

Photo courtesy of Art Dubai

What have been the good sides to this crisis?

It has been humbling to see how the extended community sprang into action in support of the local art ecosystem, from governmental and private to corporate and institutional initiatives across the UAE.

Do you think that how you work will be changed in the long term by the pandemic?

The full extent of the losses caused by the coronavirus crisis will show over time, but it is evident that across the art world, the effects are already being felt. It has forced re-evaluation of the current structure and how to make the industry more financially sustainable. Art Dubai will continue its commitment to platforming new discoveries, long-term education initiatives and thought leadership. 

Chloe Vaitsou, International Director of Art Dubai

Chloe Vaitsou, International Director of Art Dubai

Photo courtesy of Art Dubai

What is the role of art in times of crisis? Is art needed now more than ever as a powerful means of connection?

Art is a powerful tool in times of crisis. Plenty of artists’ greatest works have been created in response to turmoil. Art can provide both a form of support and guidance: guidance to cope with the feelings of mass physical isolation and loss, and support to consider solutions and ideas on alternative ways of living. Now, more than ever, is a time to engage in meaningful and productive dialog. Many artists are equipped with the tools to work and think in isolation.

How has your vision of the future of the art world changed? Is COVID-19 helping to grow the importance of online initiatives and serving as an accelerator for the digital transformation of art fairs, an online shift that had already been underway pre-pandemic? Will massive art fairs be able to survive?

COVID-19 has forced the industry to reconsider and change past structures. Art Dubai is more than a traditional art fair; it is also an incubator for talent that aims to cultivate a culture of discovery, education and thought leadership. Between editions of the fair, there are auxiliary initiatives such as Art Dubai’s multiple residency and educational programs, which we will continue to grow, in addition to other digital platforms. Although today’s circumstances are quite exceptional, it could be a useful testing ground to see how well digital innovations can work. Despite technological developments, people still tend to prefer physical art consumption, but if initiatives such as online catalogs and platforms do prove popular, it may demonstrate how digital and online ventures can potentially become a growing addition to how art fair and gallery programs are transmitted in future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *