Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Monday issued directives to transform the emirate’s metro stations into art museums. Sheikh Mohammed said metro stations should display artworks and creations from different themes and cultures in an effort to make art accessible to as many people as possible in Dubai. He said the project should be completed within 12 months and will be launched to coincide with the start of Art Dubai 2015. Phase one of the project will include transforming four vital metro stations into art museums.
If the Museum of Islamic Art and Jean Nouvel’s Burj Doha look like Qatar’s most permanent investments in architecture, the real art business in the country is growing somewhere else. Art collectors in Doha are gearing up for action, and renowned auction houses are sensing this phenomenon. Altogether, 55 percent of Christie’s international buyers come from the Middle East and since 2004 the London-based auction house saw new buyers in the Middle East growing by a startling 400 percent.
Read More: A New Capital for Art
Politically, it is an edgy time in the Gulf. The emirs fear subversion from outside, and there are signs on Facebook and in private conversation that even some loyal Emirati citizens would like public debate to be less self-censoring. The relentless onwards-and-upwards tone of public statements is as tedious as Soviet propaganda and as self-defeating. There is, however, one small emirate where, at least in the art world, things are different, and that is Sharjah, home of a biennial that has just opened its 11th edition (until May 13th, 2013).
Read More: Sharjah Looks East, and West
See also: Sharjah Biennial 2013
In an age of confusing, sprawling art exhibitions, the current Sharjah Biennial stands out as an intelligent, tightly curated show featuring some hard-edged works that ever so slightly unsettle the delicate political and cultural ecosystems in the Gulf. The biennial has, since its launch in 1993, quietly provided a crucial platform for contemporary artists in the conservative enclaves of the Middle East.
Read More: Sharjah Biennial 2013
The question of censorship looms large this month in the United Arab Emirates, a time when art and cultural events fill the calendar. In Dubai, early March was marked by a five-day literary festival, which will be followed mid-month by the annual art fair, Art Dubai. Next door, the Sharjah Biennial started on Wednesday, March 13th.
Although Sikka Art Fair is only in its third year, it is quickly establishing its niche in what could be seen as a saturated art fair market. This year Sikka opens only 10 days before Art Dubai and one day after Sharjah’s Biennial starts but organisers are confident the fair will be on a par with its neighbouring events. Sikka this year features 72 commissioned works from 14 disciplines including visual and performing art, film, animation, spoken word, music and literature.
Read More: Sikka Art Fair
Over two years after its foundation, Mathaf, an institution located in Doha and dedicated to promoting Arab culture, has put modern Arab arts on the world map with its contributes to the cultural landscape of the Gulf region, the Middle East and the Arab diaspora. With its recent exhibition, Tea with Nefertiti, Mathaf aimed to create a dialogue across time and geography in the context of art.
Read More: Mathaf Puts Arab Art on the World Map
It would be prudent to say that there has been a resurgence in interest and the promotion of Art in the Middle East in the past decade. Multitude of Art Museums and Galleries have come up in countries like Dubai and Qatar, who have invested heavily in works of art as well as setting up of new Art Galleries and Exhibitions. Dubai Art Museum, “Rain of Light” Louvre Museum, Abu Dhabi Gugghanheim Museum are some of the mega projects that are in the pipe line. Qatar’s Royal family has plans to make Doha, into an International Art Capital.
Read More: Global Art Forum