“United Arab Emirates”

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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Emirati artist Hassan Sharif bows out

The famous artist well known for introducing contemporary art to the United Arab Emirates, Hassan Sharif, passed away on 18 September at the age of 65 years. This pioneering conceptual artist was born in Dubai in 1951. Initially a caricaturist for local newspapers from 1973 onwards, the artist went to London to study fine arts at the Byam Shaw School of Art. His diploma in hand, Sharif returned to live in the Emirates, his ambition being to develop contemporary art in the Gulf countries. He thus founded the Emirates Fine Art Society in 1980 and founded a school in Sharjah in 1984, the Al Marijah Art Atelier, where he taught and acted as mentor for emerging artists. Sharif was three times a jury member of the Sharjah International Art Biennial in 1997, 1999 and 2003. He also cofounded, in 2005, a gallery for contemporary artists, the Flying House in Dubai, and was chosen to represent the United Arab Emirates in 2009 for its very first Venice Biennale. In 2015, he participated in the Biennale...

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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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Diana Al-Hadid at the NYUAD Art Gallery

From 6 March to 28 May 2016, the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery will host an exhibition on the works of American-Syrian artist Diana Al-Hadid, titled “Phantom Limb”. Diana Al-Hadid is known for her sculptures which take classical imagery. Her ghost-like, even cadaveric, works will fully fill the 650m2 of the gallery. Throughout her works of art, the artist applies the sense of perspective memory and physical manifestation. Concerning her collaboration with the gallery, the artist declared: “ It’s an absolute privilege to work with Maya [Allison, director and founder of the gallery] and the NYU Abu Dhabi gallery staff. They have a deep respect for artists’ needs and a tremendous depth of appreciation for the work itself.” Born in Alep, in 1981, Diana Al-Hadid emigrated when she was very young with her family to Ohio, in the United States. After studying sculpture at Kent State University and at the Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, the artist received many grants and residences and made her entry on the market where she is represented by the Marianne Boesky Gallery, in New...

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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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