Capturing Vibrancy

The UAE has emerged as a global juncture for the arts, with its dynamic exhibits and impressive institutions

Published: Thu 6 Oct 2022, 9:00 AM

The Middle East has always been the epicentre of artistic creation, its creators drawing inspiration from both lyrical landscapes and vibrant cities alike. Perhaps the best representation of the contemporary cultural legacy of the region can be found in Dubai, where cutting-edge galleries rub shoulders with captivating displays and eye-catching installations. With a slew of fancy galleries, art fairs, and a burgeoning buyers' market, the city is a key player in the contemporary art scene, bringing Middle Eastern art to a global audience. Over the last few decades, the cultural scene in the UAE has shifted radically, with the fast emergence of art projects, institutions, auction houses, galleries, and creative centres. The rich nation has benefitted from a large number of large-scale international collaborations and art fairs.

It was reported that Dubai’s cultural and creative sector generated more than Dh37 billion ($10.7 billion) in output and employed more than 108,000 individuals in 2019 alone, across all the key industries, published by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture). The number of people engaged in the creative economy represents 3.6 percent of the total workforce in the city, according to the report. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, too announced a new strategic plan that intends to boost the creative and arts sector's contribution to GDP from 2.6 per cent to five per cent by 2025. Sheikh Mohammed's announcement concerning the creative sector's expansion over the next five years reaffirms Dubai's status as a forward-thinking and progressive metropolis, and will serve to have a greater presence and effect for the city’s creative economy and eco-system within the region and beyond.

The three biggest emirates in the country have embraced the arts in distinct ways, influenced by the ideals of their individual rulers and patrons of the artists. Dubai has evolved into a commercial art hub, Abu Dhabi has invested in large-scale international collaborations, and Sharjah has connected local artists to an international arts community. Now, the country is home to some of the striking attractions and a diversified powerhouse for the arts.

The UAE hosts a number of festivals and performances that bring people together from all over the world. The Sharjah Biennial is a large-scale contemporary art show that first took place in 1993 featuring paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and performances.

Art Dubai is one of the world's most noted international art fairs, with over 90 galleries from more than 40 nations participating. Every November, Abu Dhabi Art presents international art galleries, art and design foundations, including conferences and educational activities. The UAE's creative vitality is also mirrored in the world-class cultural institutions that have a presence there. Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island Cultural District is home to The Manarat Al Saadiyat art and cultural centre, as well as Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened its doors in November 2017. The museum, constructed by the famous architect ‘Jean Nouvel’, was named one of the ‘World's 100 Greatest Places’ by TIME Magazine in 2018. The museum’s collection features art and artifacts from all periods of human history and from a wide range of geographical places. Ancient Egyptian monuments and Chinese burial masks are among the works on display, to paintings by Monet and Picasso.

For over 10 years, Alserkal Avenue has been the boulevard of artistic expression. The Avenue is set over a low-slung zigzag of warehouses and comprises half a million square-feet of exhibition and performance space. The Avenue has attracted numerous curators, designers, performers, and artists from around the world. A walk through its warehouses is a walk through the vibrant pizzazz of contemporary Middle Eastern art and an exposition in exuberant modern-day curating.

The UAE’s art scene continues to be on the rise even now with the opening of Infinity des Lumières, the biggest immersive digital art centre in the GCC. The venue, which spans 2,700 sq. meters in The Dubai Mall, uses 130 projectors, 58 speakers, and 3,000 HD digital moving pictures to bring iconic and modern art to life.

Exhibitions related to Van Gogh, Japanese painters such as Hokusai, and a portal into the cosmos with Thomas Vanz run concurrently in the digital art gallery, enthralling senses. Another edition to Dubai’s enchanting landscape is the Theatre of Digital Art (TODA). The theatre combines three formats of digital art including multimedia exhibitions, contemporary immersive installations, and art in virtual reality. The art gallery features computerised shows of classical art complemented by music, visual elements, and surround sound, giving classic artwork a modern spin through innovative technology and immersive narrative.

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