How Dubai’s art world is shining through the coronavirus gloom

How Dubai's art world is shining through the coronavirus gloom

The art world in Dubai has been bucking the trend during the coronavirus pandemic and business is booming, according to artists and gallery owners.

While it would be logical to assume that a non-essential industry like art would be suffering under the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 crisis, industry insiders say business has never been better.

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Samar Kamel, World Art Dubai curator, told Arabian Business that she has sold several pieces valued at an average of AED9,000 in a short period of time.

“I sold four pieces that had just been lying there for months. And it is not just me, several artists and gallery owners told me the same thing,” said Kamel.

Artists say they have benefited from the coronavirus-related lockdown measures because it has given them the time to unleash their creativity and the opportunity to diversify their revenue streams as well, given that thousands of people were stuck at home with nothing to do.

“When corona hit, I thought art would go out the window because who will buy art during these times? What I found out is that I got contacted by a lot of industry stakeholders that wanted me to give online art workshops,” said artist Amrita Sethi, speaking to Arabian Business at the opening of World Art Dubai, the region’s largest affordable art fair.

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“I also had a lot of time to create and then, after corona, what happened was there was a heightened interest in art and I got contacted by a lot of people I had connected with during these workshops,” added Sethi who is known for her Voice note Art.

With people getting stir-crazy at home, art sales have peaked. “Apparently when people stayed home, they thought about redecorating or renovating their houses,” added Kamel.

Del Michael, owner of Casa Du Maquinas, a collective of artists, skaters and bikers which focuses on automotive art, told Arabian Business: “Guys who are interested in the art that we do might not be able to go out and ride their bikes or go to clubs like they used to. So what they do is buy our art and they can have it in their house as a reminder of the better times,” adding that his art sales at Casa Du Maquinas are doing “very well”.

World Art Dubai is the first physical art exhibition to take place in the UAE following the lockdown measures which were put in place in March and Kamel said she expects it to be a positive experience.

“We saw people lining up and we couldn’t believe it, it was really nice to see. I expect people to buy art over the next three days,” she said.

With prices starting at AED200, art lovers can invest in their collection without breaking the bank – and be supporting the local economy as well. “Whenever we support small businesses, such as a local artist or gallery, then the local community and your local economy just strengthens,” said Batool Jafri, curator at World Art Dubai.

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“Most of the artworks we have are made by tattoo artists who were out of work because of corona and so they applied their talent onto pictures. So you are supporting their livelihoods as well,” added Michael.

At the end of the day, art has an intrinsic value which can’t be calculated by numbers and that is reason enough to invest in it, he said.

“Every time you look at a piece that you love, it kind of gives you this boost to your system. Art does something for you in an intangible manner that does not show on paper,” explained Jafri.

The sixth edition of World Art Dubai features more than 2,000 curated art works by over 120 artists from 20 countries. World Art Dubai features a digital art display and a dedicated zone for sculptures and runs until Saturday at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Six tips for spotting art with the potential to increase in value:

  • Do your research: Look at how long the artist has been in the business, where they have been exhibiting and if they are consistent in their style. Give artists that dip around in different styles time to find their path.
  • Seek advice from art consultants and gallerists
  • Try to meet the artist and get a sense of their determination and passion for their craft
  • Seek local art. There is a trend towards “back to roots” art that supports local culture and community.
  • Select an artwork that speaks to you. Art is the best investment not only financially but because you get personal joy every time you look at it.
  • Select one of a kind pieces or limited editions
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