United Arab Emirates: competitiveness and big cultural projects

Determined to exit from a “petrol only” economy, the United Arab Emirates have been backing, since 2007, the transformation of culture into a profit-yielding product. Massive investments, grandiose museum projects… Abu Dhabi and Dubai aspire to position themselves as cultural centres of a globalised 21st century while Sharjah is investing in less onerous projects. The three main emirates of the UAE federation don’t take the same approach when it comes to diversifying their economy. Nor do they have the same financial means. Abu Dhabi remains the most ambitious of the three, with its Saadiyat Island (literally, “Felicity Island”) complex created completely from scratch in the last decade. Thanks to colossal investments estimated at 25 billion euros according to The Financial Times, this emirate has constructed a district entirely devoted to culture, with no less than four big museums and a live arts centre, whose programming is set to rival with that of London or New York. On paper, the project looks attractive, but since 2007, only one museum has emerged from the sand, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, constructed by Frenchman Jean Nouvel. Apart from this museum, the building of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (Frank Gehry), the Zayed National Museum (Norman Foster) and the Maritime Museum (Tadao Ando) have also been scheduled. The Centre for Performing Arts was meant to be constructed by Zaha Hadid. With an opening long announced for 2013, then 2016, the Guggenheim had its preliminary works stopped in 2011 when thousands of concrete piers started being formed, following the repercussions of the Arab Springs, and a controversy surrounding the conditions of workers. To date, according to the press service of the Guggenheim Foundation, construction “has not yet begun”. The reason is an absence of any agreement with a construction company despite the launching of a call...

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A new director for Art Dubai

Myrna Ayad has been appointed director of Art Dubai, a fair specialised in Middle-East, African and South Asian arts. She will take up her duties for the 11th edition of the fair in 2017. Myrna Ayad is replacing Antonia Carver, who has been appointed director of Art Jameel with the mission to develop the foundation, but remains on the management board of the fair. Myrna Ayad was born in Beyruth in 1977. She is a critic, editor and consultant based in the United Arab Emirates for more than 30 years. The CEO of Art Dubai Group, Benedict Floyd, stated: “It is with great regret that we see Antonia depart from Art Dubai, and on behalf of the shareholders and our partners, we would like to acknowledge her dedication and all that’s been achieved to date (…). We enter the next phase in the fair’s history in great anticipation with the leadership of Myrna and our highly experienced senior management...

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Opening of a new gallery in Dubai

The Custot gallery, founded by Stéphane Custot, is opening a new space in Dubai on Alserkal Avenue in the industrial zone Al Quoz, the city’s cultural district. The inaugural exhibition, “The World Meets Here”, is on from 14 March to 7 May 2016. The exhibition presents works by Chu Teh-Chun, Ian Davenport, Nicolas de Staël, Barry Flanagan, Peter Halley, Robert Indiana, Jedd Novatt, Marc Quinn, Pablo Reinoso, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella, Bernar Venet and Fabienne Verdier. Born in Paris in 1963, Stéphane Custot studied law and art history. He was director of the Hopkins-Thomas gallery in Paris in 1988, renamed the Hopkins-Custot gallery since 2001. He opened the Custot gallery in London in 2005. Cofounder of the PAD in Paris and London, he joined forces with Leslie Waddington to found Waddington Custot Galleries in 2010. On the strength of 25 years of experience in Paris and London, Stéphane Custot is opening a new 700m2 venue with ceiling height of 9 metres, to create an exceptional space for showing...

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Christie’s celebrates turning ten in the Middle East by creating its new “Elements of Style” department

On 7 February 2016 in Dubai, Christie’s celebrated its tenth year in the Middle East and set up a new department for its sales: “Elements of Style”. It was the occasion for Jussi Pylkkänen, President of Europe and the Middle East, to take stock of the last decade: “I clearly remember the moment just before our first auction in Dubai… We all knew it was a risk. At the time there were only a handful of galleries in Dubai, none of the great Museums had been envisaged, we were even unsure if the auction concept and the bidding process would be embraced by our new clients. But what we did have was great art and that is always the secret wherever we do business. It is a great tribute to Dubai, the UAE, to the government bodies, collectors, fairs, gallerists and most importantly the artists, that we have collectively built a market that back in 2006 when I stepped into the rostrum, I could only have dreamt of.” The event took place at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai. It was an opportunity to devote this evening to art in the Middle East through a selection of works presented in the context of the sale “Now and...

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Alserkal Avenue announces Galleries Night

On 16 November 2015, Alserkal Avenue will be hosting exhibitions from new galleries with Galleries Night. Held simultaneously with Abu Dhabi Art week, Avenue’s galleries will be showcasing works by regional and international artists. Several newcomers, such as Leila Heller Gallery, Dubai, The Third Line, Dubai, and the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Dubai, will be participating in the event for the first time. Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, the founder of Alserkal Avenue said that these new additions to the Avenue “is affirmation of how far Alserkal Avenue has come as a community for the promotion of arts and culture…we look forward to making a similar impact in the international context as well.” Contemporary art remains the focus of the Avenue, and several of the galleries will be featuring abstract sculpture pieces, paintings, and paper works. These exhibitions are the first wave of gallery openings at Alserkal Avenue’s expansion, which was established in March 2015. More galleries are expected to open in January and March of 2016 alongside more Galleries Nights. Alserkal Avenue was founded in 2007 and provides cultural and artistic initiatives in the community. Alserkal Avenue was founded by Abdelmone Bin Eisa Alserkal, who was born and raised in Dubai. He is also the two-time recipient of the Patron of the Arts award, presented by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashin Al...

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