The Art World at Home: Art Dubai Artistic Director Pablo del Val Is Juggling Two Art Fairs, and Dancing With His Partner on FaceTime

On the occasion of Art Dubai, we caught up with the fair's artistic director about what he's been up to.

Pablo del Val. Courtesy Art Dubai.

Just before the close of Art Dubai last week, which had its first in-person edition since its 2020 show was scuttled, we caught up with Pablo del Val to hear about what he was doing for the show, and what he’s been doing in the past year.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the current [in-person] edition of the Art Dubai 2021 art fair. It will be the first major art fair to take place after the first lockdown, almost one year ago. We’re simultaneously preparing for the 2022 edition of the fair.

Walk us through the when, where, and how of your approach to this project on a regular day.

I’m based between London and Dubai. My day has no set hours. In London it starts with an early walk with Pía, my white mini schnauzer. When I’m in Dubai, when weather permits, I always walk to the office, a three-mile walk.

My mornings set my state of mind and allow me to decide priorities and bring light to the pending answers I have from the previous day. I tend to be in limbo thinking and rethinking, so I need to activate different systems to get back to reality.

What is your favorite part of your house and why?

The deck of my living room enjoying the quietness of the adjoining St George’s Gardens in Bloomsbury.

Pablo del Val's deck. Courtesy Pablo del Val.

Pablo del Val’s deck. Courtesy Pablo del Val.

What’s your favorite work of art in the house and why?

Elena del Rivero’s wedding present. My sister from another mother is a magnificent artist.

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

When I FaceTime with my partner. We were rehearsing a Tik Tok performance inspired by Anne Imhof meets Madonna.

Are there any movies, music, podcasts, publications, or works of art that have made a big impact on you recently? 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s exhibition at Tate Britain. It was fantastic to remember the importance of paintings. Michael Rakowitz’s exhibition at the Jameel Arts Center in Dubai was a great way to show how an artist can magically connect contemporary issues and pop culture with history.

I’ve been walking in London with my dog and discovering so many things that tend to be unnoticed: Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture on the facade of the John Lewis building, the Henry Moore facade on the Time Life Building on New Bond Street, and the sculptures by Sir Charles Wheeler at the Tower Hill Memorial. The pandemic has taught us that we take so many things for granted!

Are these any causes you support that you would like to share?

I’m particularly supportive of initiatives against bullying, especially shelters that provide a safe and secure environment for children that have been victims of bullying in their homes.

What’s going on in the kitchen these days? Any projects? And triumphs or tragedies?

Diet, diet, diet. No red meat, alcohol, deep-fried foods, and so on. I enjoy the luxury of fresh vegetables coming directly from a Mediterranean vegetable patch. And always fresh grilled fish. I am trying to age gracefully.

Pablo del Val is a big fan of fresh fish. Courtesy Pablo del Val.

Pablo del Val is a big fan of fresh fish. Courtesy Courtesy Pablo del Val.

Which two fellow art-world people, living or dead, would you like to convene for dinner, and why?

Tom Burr, because he is one year older than me and every time I see a work by him, I shiver. I would invite him along with my grandmother. She was an art historian, the authority on Francisco de Zurbarán, a collector and a patron of the Prado Museum. She passed away when I was 17 and I miss conversations with her.

The past and the present would be a very exciting combination and totally surreal. My grandmother was also an amazing cook. She even learned Danish to understand a recipe.

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