Art for all in Dubai

Monira Al Qadiri's Chimera, created for Expo 2020 Dubai

On the eve of Art Dubai, Dubai Culture has invited applications for the first commission of Dubai Public Art. This is a new government-funded initiative aimed at providing the city with significant public art installations created by UAE-based artists; it looks as though there will be one such commission per year at least for the next four years, because Dubai Culture is passing over the organisation of the open calls and much of the selection process to individual partners.

The first such call is being handled by Art Dubai, and the announcement of the successful project will be made during this year’s art fair (1-5 March). Also involved are Tashkeel, Alserkal, Jameel Arts Centre and the Al Fahidi-based Emirati-owned gallery Akaas Visual Arts; they will be running their own open calls in the future.

The programme calls for site-specific installations, and for the first commission the site in question is the Al Hudaiba public garden. That’s near the Etihad Museum and Union House – we think it’s the park on the other side of Jumeirah Beach Road – and the open call this time is asking for proposals that speak to the historical significance of the area.

Applications are now open for proposals from individuals or cooperatives. The deadline is quite tight – 13 February – and the organisers won’t be taking any questions about the open call beyond the end of January. The shortlisted artists (and we’re not sure how many there can be) will receive a fee of $5,000 to create a detailed proposal and a prototype or maquette; one of them will be selected to create a work that will presumably be fully funded as a Dubai Culture commission – there’s no indication of how much cash is on offer, and the application form doesn’t ask for a budget.

There’s an increasing amount of 2D art in the public domain, and the Expo public art programme delivered some great work that is still in situ. But in general publicly-accessible sculpture and other art installations in Dubai have tended to be limited to works commissioned by developers and corporate entities to spruce up plazas and lobby areas. So the Dubai Public Art programme should fill one of the obvious gaps in the cultural ecosystem – albeit at a fairly slow pace. Given the size of the city, not to mention the amount of money in it, a faster rollout would seem possible …

All the information we have gathered is on our Opportunities page.

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