Dubai art fair upbeat despite city's debt woes

Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:17am EDT
 
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By Tamara Walid

DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai's annual art fair hit new highs in both sales and volumes despite concerns in the Gulf's trading and tourism hub over a debt crisis.

The four-day contemporary art show drew more than 18,000 visitors, up 28 percent from last year, and featured more varied galleries and artwork.

"Everybody's talking about doom and gloom in Dubai ... but we've sold almost everything," said Raman Frey, of New York-based gallery Frey Norris .

Dubai World, the government-owned conglomerate behind the emirate's iconic palm shaped man-made islands, is expected to present soon a plan to creditors to refinance $26 billion in debt.

The fair, which ended late on Saturday, featured pieces by world-famous contemporary artists and a wider geographical mix than earlier years, with 31 countries represented.

Some galleries, such as Saudi Arabia's Athr Gallery and Berlin's Galerie Christian Hosp, said they sold 90 percent of their works.

"Generally less people are buying globally, but here you still have a lot of interest from royal families and collectors," said Joan Lee, head of Seoul-based SUN gallery. "It's much better than expected."

Tessa De Caters of Dubai-based gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde, said interest in Middle Eastern art from international buyers has increased, while the local community of collectors is growing rapidly.   Continued...

 
<p>An artwork (R) entitled "Connected" by contemporary artist Jowhara AlSaud of Saudi Arabia is displayed before the unveiling for Art Dubai in Madinat Jumeirah March 16, 2010. REUTERS/Jumana ElHeloueh</p>