The Bulgari Contemporary Art Award is a new addition to the roster of opportuniites available to UAE-based artists.
It’s not an open call, however, despite the promises that it will “support and inspire talents and empower them to be globally renowned” while “strengthening Dubai’s position as a global centre for culture, an incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent”.
Instead Dubai Culture will put forward the names (no more than 15 of them) which presumably guarantees that the winners will be a good fit for Dubai Culture’s objectives.
The award, which will be annual, has some pretty vague aims – “to celebrate contemporary art and emphasise its importance to cultural development in Dubai and the UAE community in general” – but maybe that breadth of ambition provides the widest possible opportunity.
For this year it has an Expo 2020 orientation with the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. That apparently means the candidate works should “creatively express how beauty connects people, and how cities like Dubai and Rome are linked by their inspirational beauty and innovation”.
Dubai Culture says the partnership with Bulgari “stems from the shared belief in the importance of encouraging all forms of modern aesthetic expression to build bridges of communication and fruitful cultural exchange between people”. Hala Badri, Dubai Culture DG, said the intention was to go beyond this kind of predictable dialogue to find art that says something about Dubai (“inspired by the city’s beauty, culture and innovations”) while getting some professional development (“get an expert opinion of their work by prominent specialists in the creative field”).
Badri also implied that this kind of partnership is something that Dubai Culture would be looking for more of. “We are committed to nurturing creative talents and supporting cultural diversity in the emirate, and we welcome local and international partnerships that result in innovative alliances to provide valuable opportunities to support creative industries and talents”.
She listed the value of the competition as an incentive for participating artists to “pursue their passion and excel in their work and creativity, reach broader horizons, and in turn be a source of the creative scene in the emirate and contributors to its GDP”. Contributing to Dubai’s GDP is of course key to achieving the objectives of the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy.
For his part, Bulgari’s Group CEO Jean-Christophe Babin repeated the artistic and cultural value of a dialogue between Rome and Dubai but also made some sensible remarks about the value of encouraging young artists – he called it “an investment in our future” because “their creative energy allows us to observe reality from a new perspective”.
The Bulgari Contemporary Art Award has three categories – drawing and painting, photography, sculpture – and applicants must be UAE nationals or residents whose nominated works have been created specially for the award. In addition, they “must employ colour to express how ‘beauty connects people’”.
There’s another criterion too: applicants must be part of Dubai Culture’s talent pool, and Dubai Culture itself will be selecting between three and five nominees for each category from its files. Works will have to be submitted by mid-December 2021, with the winning work (one only, apparently) announced in February 2022.
That winner will be selected by a judging panel “comprising specialised experts from Dubai Culture and Bulgari as well as … other jurors selected by the two parties” and the winning work will be exhibited at the Italy Pavilion at Expo 2020 before moving on to “venues associated with Dubai Culture and Bulgari”. The winner also gets a week-long working trip to Rome.