Outdoor art is booming and creating communities in Dubai

One of the great benefits of outdoor art is that it engages with people who may never have otherwise had the opportunity to do so

By Arif Amiri

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Published: Mon 25 Apr 2022, 11:20 PM

Art brings people together. At a time when people have been restricted indoors and isolated due to the global pandemic, art displayed out in the open is the perfect antidote.

Aspects of the art world are sometimes deemed too exclusive; however, outdoor art is open and accessible to all. Whether statues in parks or murals in cities, art displayed in the open has a way of drawing people in, creating communities and shaping its environment.

Art in open public spaces becomes integrated into people’s daily environment and embeds itself into their lives, even for those who did not actively seek it out. It is the mural that people walk past on their daily commute, it is the sculpture that families picnic next to. One of the great benefits of outdoor art is that it engages with people who may never have otherwise had the opportunity to do so.

Outdoor art also creates communities. Art can evoke debate and discussion between strangers whose paths may never have otherwise crossed. It can become synonymous with its environment, cultivating a cultural identity that communities become proud of.

The outdoor environment also elevates the art itself. It creates an organic work of art that is never static but is constantly interacting with and reflecting its environment. The appearance and meaning of one art piece can change depending on whether it is day or night, whether it is in the sun or rain, or whether it is being admired by a single person or a crowd.

Some of the most famous examples of outdoor art are those displayed on the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square. Since 1998, every few years a piece of art has been commissioned for display in London’s most historic square. From Yinka Shonibare’s ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’, referencing the legacy of British colonialism, to Katharina Fritsch’s ‘Hahn/Cock’, a blue sculpture of a cockerel symbolising ‘regeneration, awaking and strength’, millions of people have seen these outdoor works of art and have found meaning in them.

Closer to home, many will have stood in front of Jorge Marin’s ‘Wings of Mexico’ in Burj Plaza to have their photo taken with the Burj Khalifa soaring in the background. The association between flying and the Burj Khalifa’s soaring heights is surely not lost on the public.

The vision of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, is encouraging public art and open-air art galleries across Dubai. At DIFC, bringing a sculpture park to life for residents and visitors as part of this year’s Dubai Art Season has been monumental.

Under the theme ‘The Harmony of Different Voices – a tribute to 50 years of the UAE’, the open-air art gallery showcases 65 carefully curated sculptures and paintings from local and international artists who have contributed to the past, present, and future of the Emirates. The DIFC Sculpture Park offers an enriching cultural experience, inspiration to reflect on the Emirate’s history and progress, and enrich Dubai’s thriving art scene.

The much anticipated bi-annual event, DIFC Art Nights, also returned on 24 and 25 March, under the theme ‘The Future is Here’, featuring non-fungible tokens (NFTs), digital artworks and artists’ depiction of what the ‘future’ means to them.

Arif Amiri is CEO of DIFC Authority and Chairman of the Board of Art Dubai

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