Comment: 4 July 2024

This week’s editorial musings

Now read on This year’s Abu Dhabi International Book Fair had more than 200,000 visitors. Some were polled as they left, and the organisers report a 97% visitor satisfaction rate – up 5% on 2023. Which kinda begs the question: what were the dissatisfied 3% expecting from their visit?

Seeing stars The NYUAD Arts Center runs a rather good Professional Development Initiative under the name Numoo, and has just announced this year’s cohort. Numoo is designed to “foster individual growth for performing artists based in the UAE’; participants get to learn from professionals already in the field and receive specific training on essential skills. This year there are ten artists, all based in the UAE but coming from diverse backgrounds and artistic practices – several musicians, theatre makers, a couple of dancer/choreographers, a couple of artists, one spoken-voice poet.

Recognition Right now there aren’t too many Emirati contemporary artists in the world’s premier art collections, but that’s changing – partly because their galleries are being more proactive, partly because some are getting more international exposure, mainly because curators and museum buyers are getting wise to the possibilities. Lawrie Shabibi says the Guggenheim in New York has acquired five works by Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, who it represents – one of the iconic Five who fired up the contemporary art scene here in the 80s and subject of the well-liked National Pavilion UAE exhibition at the 2022 Venice Biennale. The very characteristic handmade sculptures were acquired “in honour of outgoing [Guggenheim] director Richard Armstrong” (he was officially replaced by NYUAD’s former vice chancellor Mariët Westermann at the start of June).

Top job Dubai Collection – the locally-focussed art collection made up of 800+ loans from Dubai’s great and good – is looking for a curator. He/she will be responsible for “the artistic direction, care, management, and interpretation of the digital collection … The role involves a combination of research, archiving, exhibition planning, and educational outreach”. In particular, the job involves looking for and recommending appropriate works (a Curatorial Committee is responsible for approving these); much cataloguing and documenting; and actually putting on physical and digital exhibitions. All this will involve lots of networking.

This has to be one of the best art-world jobs we’ve come across in the region. No word on salary, but it won’t be insignificant. Full details are here.

Live long and propser Numbeo’s Cost of Living Index works out which of 218 of the world’s cities are the most affordable – it has rankings for cost of living, rent prices, cost of living plus rent, groceries, restaurant prices and local purchasing power (ie what your average salary gets you there). New York is the benchmark, at 100 on each index; the overall cost of living range is from Geneva at 101.7 (so not much pricier than NY) all the way to Karachi at 19.0, with Dubai indexed at 60.0 and Abu Dhabi at 54.1.

It’s more expensive to rent in Dubai (51.4) than Abu Dhabi (35.9), but of course we knew that (and both are way cheaper than New York, but we probably knew that too). And on the local purchasing power index, the UAE does pretty well (meaning your money goes further) – Dubai is at 122.7, Abu Dhabi at 160.5. 

Numbeo does lots of other indexes too, including an overall ‘quality of life’ ranking where the Netherlands seems to do best. Our cities turn in very commendable ratings – Abu Dhabi indexes at 192.4, 17th in the rankings, and Dubai comes in at 49th with 174.1. The worst places to be according to this list are Manila, Tehran, and at the foot of the table Lagos. Seems a bit harsh …

Things we didn’t know, no.94 Watermelons, tomatoes and avocados are berries (because berries are defined botanically as fleshy fruits produced by a single ovary, ie stemming from a single flower). Strawberries aren’t berries (they’re actually masses of mini-fruits in a fleshy blob).

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