Comment: 20 June 2024

This week’s editorial musings

Swiss cheers Art Basel’s 2024 edition seems to have been a pretty successful event. Despite fears of a much discussed ‘market correction’, overall attendance clocked in at 91,000 and the post-show press release talks of “a week of strong sales across all sectors”.

It came with three closely-typed pages of enthusiastic reports from exhibiting gallerists: “Art Basel once again established itself as the leading art fair … our strongest Art Basel in 20 plus years doing the fair … Art Basel felt particularly rewarding this year … This edition of Art Basel managed to excite and energise collectors and brought solid sales for our artists … Art Basel keeps being the most important fair …” A good start then for its new director, Maike Cruse (right).

On the other hand, Artnet’s gossipy but knowledgable columnist Kenny Schachter had a different view: “While day one was relatively jammed [the] second VIP day was practically desolate … I was half-expecting tumbleweeds to roll down the desolate aisles”. Why so few people? Maybe “the Basels are beginning to feed off of themselves”. Too many Art Basels too close together? Or maybe Basel itself isn’t sufficiently attractive as a destination any more? 

Now read on The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, which inhabits one of the most literal buildings in Dubai, has just celebrated its second anniversary. The underlying numbers are pleasing – nearly 1.5m visits in the two years, for instance, and a stock of 1.5m printed and 2m digital books – but so is the wider reach: more than 420 workshops, events, and “specialised sessions”, ten cooperation deals with other culture/knowledge institutions, prominent participation in policy-setting and knowledge exchange events like the IFLA Congress in Rotterdam last year and the International Library and Technology Festival in Istanbul back in March. Looks like it’s doing well …

A good place to be? The UAE Central Bank’s newly published annual report says strong performance by the non-oil sector contributed to a 3.6% growth in the country’s GDP last year. The forecast is even better, 3.9% growth in 2024 and a whopping 6.2% in 2025 (though that’s on the back of “significant” increases in oil production, which probably isn’t what a warming world needs to hear). Predictably, the non-oil increases are primarily coming from tourism, banking, and real estate (more than 110,000 sales transactions in Dubai alone during 2023, up by nearly 50% in the year for apartments and 20% for villas). More good news: inflation was 1.6% in 2023, down from 4.8% the year before. 

Oddly, the bank’s annual report doesn’t say what the UAE’s GDP actually was for 2023; it’s full of percentages and comparisons, but we did find a couple of pointers that led us to work it out as something like AED 1.4 trillion.

Shop ahead The third round of DCT Abu Dhabi’s annual Urban Treasures award (for “long-running establishments that have shaped Abu Dhabi’s urban and social fabric”) has honoured 15 businesses around the emirate. It’s a quirky mix, as you might expect – it includes the likes of Al Ain Pharmacy, Nasruddin Perfumes Shop, AlFarah Restaurant, WOSTB Legal Translation, and Paris Textiles – but these apparently represent Abu Dhabi’s unique cultural identity and “hold a nostalgia for times past, while remaining anchors of the community to this day”. The qualification seems to be at least 20 years’ trading, so there’s several years’ worth of candidates still waiting to be discovered …

Design op Tashkeel is looking for a Graphic Design Team Lead – “resourceful, experienced, and inspiring” natch, capable of “high quality visuals” that will help sell Tashkeel’s products, workshops, events and rentable spaces. Min seven years’ experience including Adobe Creative Suite (understandable) and Final Cut Pro (not so much). Apply here by 28 June.

Things we didn’t know, no.94 38% of webpages that existed in 2013 are not available today (and 54% of Wikipedia pages contain at least one link in their ‘References’ that points to a page that no longer exists).

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