This article examines the cultural, economic and political context of the Art Dubai art fair and its symposium the Global Art Forum, as well as the commercial, educational and curatorial role of the recent flourishing of galleries in Dubai. It unpacks the complex connections that exist in the MENA region between art as a critical practice, and art a marker of modernity and a commodity of hyper-capitalist consumption. The article evaluates the consequences of importing internationalist and activist art discourses to a conservative and absolutist monarchies in the Gulf with curtailed freedom of speech and of expression.

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