Celebrating visual arts in the GCC

The UAE is to host the fourth GCC Visual Arts Forum in Abu Dhabi this December. The aim: “to promote the creativity of GCC artists in line with the GCC Cultural Strategy 2020-2030”.

The GCC Cultural Strategy is a broad-brush approach to fostering generic cultural activities with a nod to preserving local heritage and classical Arabic, so this event is probably best seen as a mini-festival with associated workshops and networking opportunities that brings together GCC policymakers to celebrate creativity from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.

Noura Al Kaabi

Noura Al Kaabi (right), the UAE’s highly active and internationally respected Minister of Culture and Youth, characterised the Forum as “an opportunity to take a closer look at the creativity of Gulf artists” and “a promising platform for networking, learning from each other’s experiences and developing new techniques to advance art in the region”.

Presented in a different member nation every two years, the Forum stages exhibitions, events and workshops, establishes programmes to support creatives, and award prizes to artists. This year’s theme is ‘You and I, what and when?’ which sounds as though it comes from the same copywriting factory as ‘safety in safety belt’ but does carry contemporary relevance: how much have the Arab world’s economic, political, and social changes in recent years affected national identity? How should GCC nationals define themselves today?

That sounds promising, particularly if it subsequently feeds into policy (and if it can do so while avoiding a slavish obsession with the past).

The main purpose of the theme though is to direct the content of the Forum’s open-call exhibition. This has four categories – visual arts, photography, traditional Arabic calligraphy, and modern calligraphy – and applications have to fit the theme. In each category, three prizes will be awarded – AED 20,000 for first, AED 15,000 for second, AED 10,000 for third.

Eligibility for the open call is limited to GCC nationals over the age of 18, and the deadline is 27 November. More information here.

The Forum takes place at Manarat Al Saadiyat 20 to 25 December, with the exhibition running to 30 December. The non-public part of the programme for the event also includes a series of technical workshops and cultural tours, as well as miscellaneous networking activities.

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