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Trade is at the heart of humankind. Trade connects people to one another in a myriad of ways, seen and unseen. Trade can fuel civilizations and empires. It can dictate time itself. The end of trade turns somewhere suddenly into nowhere.

– Shumon Basar

The eleventh edition of the Global Art Forum focused on the trade of goods and ideas that shape and reshape the world. Trading Places was conceived by Shumon Basar as Commissioner, with Antonia Carver and Oscar Guardiola-Rivera as Co-directors. The Forum kicked off in January 2017 and culminated at Art Dubai, March 15-17 2017. 

Global Art Forum 11: Trading Places explored the relationship between the economy of goods and ideas that constantly shape who and where we are. From ancient ports to the “New Silk Road” to algorithmic financial markets, the infrastructure of trade is also a geography of imagination and invention. It is also the foundation upon which Dubai and sibling Gulf cities have forged their pasts and their futures, from pearls to airports.

The Forum convened the most compelling minds from the fields of art, history, economics, philosophy, urbanism, literature and more to tell untold histories and stories of the making and remaking of the world through trade.

Art Dubai partnered with the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, and Dubai Design District (d3) to present the Global Art Forum.




Dragon Mart, located in Dubai and shaped like a dragon, is the largest trading hub for Chinese products outside mainland China. For over a decade, it has been a gateway to Middle East and North African markets. Farah Al Qasimi has produced a specially commissioned photographic study of this special cultural and economic zone, whose slogan is, ‘Where you can find one in a million or a million of one.’ Surely, today’s version of Jorge Luis Borges’ famous Chinese encyclopaedia would look like Dragon Mart.


What does trade, taste like? Art Dubai and Mirzam reflected on global trade through a limited edition chocolate recipe, with a wrapper representing historical trade routes and designed by Fikra Design Studio.
Inspired by traditional hot spiced teas, this white chocolate bar is infused with a blend of chai spices including cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves.
Head to Mirzam Chocolate makers, located in Warehouse 70 in Alserkal to taste the newly launched White Chocolate Chai bar.



Shumon Basar has overseen the creative direction of the Global Art Forum since 2011, becoming Commissioner in 2013. He is a writer, whose last book was The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present, co-authored with Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist. He holds editorial positions at Bidoun and Tank magazines; directs the FORMAT program at the Architectural Association, London; and is ­a founding member of ­Fondazione Prada’s Thought Council@shumonbasar


Based in the UAE since 2001, Antonia Carver is Director of Art Jameel and oversees the development of the foundation’s work in heritage, education and the arts. She was previously Director of Art Dubai (2010-2016), spearheading the development of both the commercial and not-for-profit sectors of the fair. Carver has written extensively—and often on Middle Eastern art and film—as a correspondent for The Art Newspaper and Screen International, among other publications, and edited books and journals. She joined Bidoun as an editor in 2004 and later became the director of the Middle Eastern arts organisation’s projects division. Before moving to Dubai in 2001, Carver was based in London and worked as an editor at Phaidon; in development and projects at the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva); and in publishing at G+B Arts International. @antcarver

Oscar Guardiola-Rivera is a London-based Colombian writer, art critic and philosopher. He is the author of the award-winning What If Latin America Ruled the World? (Bloomsbury, 2010) and the Top-Ten Guardian best-selling Story of a Death Foretold (Bloomsbury, 2013) also shortlisted for the Bread & Roses Award in 2014. Both were included on the Books of the Year list in 2010 and 2013, respectively, by the Financial Times and the Observer, having received critical acclaim by reviewers in the Washington Post, the Nation, the Observer, Kirkus, Guardian, Booklist, and star-reviews in Publisher’s Weekly. Guardiola-Rivera is a regular in the literary festival circuit, with appearances in London, Hay, Bath, Edinburgh and Jaipur Literary festivals, among others. He has widespread media presence, writing as a columnist for the Guardian and El Espectador, Monocle, Kindle Magazine India and teleSUR English. He lectures on Philosophy and Law at Birkbeck College, University of London.


Global Art Forum is an annual, transdisciplinary summit, based in Dubai, which combines original thinking and contemporary themes in an intimate, live environment. Since 2007, the Forum has been a key part of Art Dubai’s extensive cultural programming. Featuring live talks guided by a curated theme, Global Art Forum has brought together over 500 global minds from pop culture to renowned academia: artists, curators, museum directors, filmmakers, novelists, historians, philosophers, technologists, entrepreneurs, musicians and performers. Central to Global Art Forum’s continuing success is the dialogue the platform fosters across disciplines, reporting from every part of the world to paint a truly 21st century portrait of how the globalised world thinks. Recently, the Forum has been invited to present special editions at the Royal Academy of Arts, London; and the ArtScience Museum, Singapore. Global Art Forum is supported by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.