Lindsay Pollock gives a narrative of her trip to the Abu Dhabi art fair on ArtForum’s Scene & Herd column:
The fair’s opening last Wednesday evening was sedate—no dense throngs of “VIPs” or collector shenanigans. Visitors from Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait, and other Arab localities drifted around the fair floor, where fifty dealers had set up their wares. The most important customer came after the fair was closed. The crown prince’s wife, Sheikha Salama, toured the stands from 11 PM until 2:15 AM, greeting sleepy dealers and studying the offerings.
Abu Dhabi Art was really two fairs under one roof. On the one hand, there was a slew of young galleries from places like Bangalore, Damascus, and Dubai, showing works that ranged from calligraphic kitsch to more promising endeavors. Red dots appeared at the stands of well-known Dubai dealers Third Line and B21, where young Iranian artist Rokni Haerizadeh’s punchy assemblages caught the eye of megacollector François Pinault, who scooped up a bunch. Pinault, along with Jeff Koons, attended as special patrons, supplying the fair with a much-needed (and -touted) branding edge.
The other fair was a higher-stakes arena, featuring major New York and European dealers. Hauser & Wirth brought a large Louise Bourgeois spider and Subodh Gupta skull, while White Cube offered sparkling paintings by Hirst. Tony Shafrazi hung his ’80s-themed stand with Basquiats, Warhols, and Harings. A consortium of seven dealers, including L&M Arts, Malingue, and Louis Carre & Cie, combined forces with Picassos and Légers. “The art is major,” said Chicago collector Stefan Edlis. “The dealers are smelling money here. People wouldn’t bring thirty or forty million dollars’ worth of artworks if they didn’t.”
Rain or Shine (Scene&Herd/ArtForum)