Culture Summit Abu Dhabi is back – online and free

The fourth edition of Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, scheduled for 8 to 10 March, is a virtual edition of the event that organiser DCT Abu Dhabi describes as “a leading global forum which explores creative cultural solutions to the most pressing issues affecting the world today”.

The first version was a glitzy invite-only affair that combined a lot of flown-in artsy bigwigs with businessfolk and top brass from the local cultural sector. Since then it’s become more inclusive in the sense that the public is being allowed in to observe – at no charge – and arguably that could make the Summit more effective as a forum to discuss the value of the creative economy. This in fact is the explicit theme of the 2021 Summit: ‘The Cultural Economy and the Economy of Culture’.

It’s basically the postponed 2020 version, an early victim of the pandemic, with a few more sponsors/partners. The forum will bring together what the press release summarises as “cultural leaders, practitioners and experts from the fields of art, heritage, museums, media and technology” all aiming “to generate new strategies and thinking, and identify ways in which culture can transform societies and communities worldwide”. No shortage of ambition there.

The focus is on culture and creative industries as a major driver of growth, as DCT Abu Dhabi chairman Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak put it. ‘Growth’ of course is seen as the only possible option for the development of society, and he could be right. He also stressed the importance of change, though: “the outcomes of this year’s summit will be of particular relevance as we come together to discuss the impact of innovation on the economies of culture”.

Saood Al Hosani, Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, expanded on this, emphasising the relationship between culture and economy: “Culture Summit’s annual convening of world-class experts and professionals from interrelated fields consistently puts forward innovative solutions in response to critical cultural and economic issues.

“Following a year of truly unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we look forward to the dialogue and innovations sparked by our esteemed global partners and participants at the event’s virtual fourth edition, as we discuss ways to support the continuity of the cultural sector, both locally and worldwide.”

Financial support and sustainability in a culture sector faced with rapid societal and economic change was a key issue identified by many of the 480 participants in the 2019 Culture Summit. Coincidentally UNESCO has declared 2021 as ‘International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development’. So “Culture Summit 2021 will examine opportunities to renew the cultural and creative industries in a post-COVID environment and explore how the creative economy can be a positive force for societies and economies”.

Culture Summit features a number of ‘partner organisations’ who can contribute expertise and speakers. Left over from the 2020 plans are UNESCO, Guggenheim, Economist Events, and Google (which we were a tad unhappy with when commenting on the original plans). New partners for 2021 are the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Design Museum London, and a clutch of UAE institutions – Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Berklee Abu Dhabi, Institut Français, Image Nation Abu Dhabi, twofour54, and Abu Dhabi Film Commission.

All of these feature to a greater or lesser extent among the speakers and panellists, presumably in proportion to the organisation’s contribution. The sessions themselves cover an interesting range, albeit sometimes with weirdly boilerplated titles, they appear to have some really excellent contributors.

The programme

Speaker info wasn’t available online when last we checked, and somewhat oddly you have to register for individual sessions before you know what you’re registering for. So as a service to you lucky magpie readers, we’ve outlined the schedule, filled in the names and job descriptions, and added or corrected a couple of names when we knew them (apologies to anyone we misGoogled).

Here’s the full programme – you can sign up to attend as many of these sessions online as you want.

8 March 2021

12:30-13:00 Welcome

  • HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak Chairman, DCT Abu Dhabi

13:00-13:15 Keynote

  • Audrey Azoulay Director General, UNESCO

13:15-14:15 Culture Summit opening panel

  • Becky Anderson journalist (anchor of CNN’s Connect the World)
  • Ernesto Ottone Ramirez Assistant DG for Culture at UNESCO
  • Andreas Görgen head of the Department of Culture and Communication at the German Foreign Office
  • Roger Brown president of Berklee College of Music
  • Bernardino León DG of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy

14:15-15:00 What is the post-Covid cultural economy?

  • Fiammetta Rocco journalist (Culture correspondent, The Economist)
  • Deeyah Khan documentary film director and human rights activist
  • John Newbigin arts administrator/consultant (currently partner at Counterculture and chair of Creative England)
  • Vicky Featherstone theatre director (currently artistic director of  Royal Court Theatre, London)

15:00-15:30 Creating a ‘sustainable’ ecosystem

  • Rima Mismar Executive Director of the Arab Fund for Arts & Culture (AFAC)

15:30-16:00 Google Arts & Culture Lab

  • Marylène Ricci Google Arts & Culture Lab Project Manager

15:30-16:30 How to channel funding towards culture in post-crisis situations?

  • Lazare Eloundou Assomo architect/conservator (currently Director for UNESCO Culture and Emergencies)
  • Sarah Rinaldi international development specialist (head of unit, European Commission)
  • Sanne Letschert head of Cultural Emergency Response for the Price Claus Fund
  • Peter Reuss German Ambassador to UNESCO

16:00-16:30 The “new normal” of culture in film

  • Pierre Morell film director and cinematographer (District 13, Taken, From Paris With Love)
  • Talal Al Asmani Senior Development Executive at Image Nation Abu Dhabi

16:30-17:30 Impact investment and creative industries

  • Marisa Henderson head of UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Programme
  • Laura Callanan Founding Partner, Upstart Co-Lab ( “a national collaboration connecting artists, impact investors and social entrepreneurs to create opportunities for artists to deliver social impact at scale”)
  • Fran Sanderson Director of Arts Programmes and Investments for Nesta, “the UK’s innovation agency for social good”)
  • Carolina Biquard CEO/Founder of Fundación Compromiso (supports social sector organisations)

16:30-17:00 Beirut: public and private support to post-disaster rehabilitation

  • Sarkis Khoury DG of the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities
  • Chiara Dezzi-Bardeschi conservation specialist at UNESCO

17:00-17:30 Creative conversations

  • Tim Marlow Chief Executive and Director of the Design Museum
  • Tatiana Bilbao architect
  • Asif Khan architect (work includes the Expo 2020 Entry Portals)

17:30-18:00 Performance

  • Omar El Amin

17:30-18:00 Keynote: People & things – circulation without restitution

  • Achille Mbembe philosopher and political theorist (postcolonial studies in particular)
  • Rose Demir Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

18:00-19:00 Film screening and discussion – probably Ground Zero (2019), dir Christopher Kulendran Thomas and Annika Kuhlmann

  • Christopher Kulendran Thomas artist
  • Annika Kuhlmann curator
  • X Zhu-Nowell Assistant Curator at Guggenheim New York
  • Rose Demir Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

18:30-19:00 Keynote conversation

  • David Chipperfield architect
  • Tim Marlow Chief Executive and Director of the Design Museum

19:00-20:15 Cultural infrastructure: what are the guiding principles?

  • Rhana Devenport curator (currently director of the Art Gallery of South Australia)
  • Sarah Rifky curator and writer
  • Eungie Joo curator (currently curator of contemporary art at SFMOMA: also past curator of Sharjah Biennial 12)
  • Cyra Levenson head of the Guggenheim’s Education and Public Engagement Department
  • Rose Demir Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

19:00-19:30 MIZA (Mina Zayed ‘creative district’ development)

  • Pradeep Sharma Director for Arts/Culture/Heritage at Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation

19:30-20:00 Artist talk

  • Farah Al Qasimi artist

20:30-21:30 Performance

  • Anqelique Kidjo

20:30-21:30 Artist talk

  • Nick Cave artist and musician
  • Sasha Kalter-Wasserman Associate Curator and Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
  • Rose Demir Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

9 March 2021

13:00-13:15 Introduction

13:15-14:15 Keynote

Speaker to be confirmed

14:15-15:00 Can the cultural economy advance sustainability goals?

  • Charlotte McCann journalist (South East Asia correspondent, The Economist)
  • Es Devlin artist and stage designer (responsible for The Seed, created in Abu Dhabi for National Day last year)
  • Daan Roosegaarde artist (especially large-scale place-specific installations using light)
  • Earthling Ed animal rights activist, vegan educator, public speaker, content creator,
  • 15:00-15:30 Managing production
  • Hans Fraikin Film and Television Commissioner at Abu Dhabi Film Commission

15:30-16:30 Why do we focus on artists and the digital technology for the development of a creative economy?

  • Toussaint Tiendrebeogo writer and film producer
  • Felipe Buitrago consultant
  • Juliana Akoryo commissioner for culture at the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development
  • Nguyen Phuong Hoa DG of International Cooperation Department at Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism

15:30-16:00 Artist talk

  • Azza Al Qubaisi artist

16:00-16:30 SACEM: the role of collective management organizations within creative industries ecosystems

  • Habib Achour Head of International Development for Africa & the Middle East at SACEM (Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique – a French artists’ rights association)
  • Yacine Boulares jazz musician / composer / arranger

16:30-17:30 How does mass migration impact the cultural economy?

  • Charlotte McCann The Economist
  • Wale Oyejide fashion designer and musician
  • Tomas Ayuso documentary photographer, journalist, writer
  • Danielle Villasana photojournalist

16:30-17:00 Artist talk

  • Bait15 (Afra Al Dhaheri, Hashel Al Lamki, Maitha Abdalla)

17:00-17:30 Creative Conversations

  • Eddie Opara graphic designer
  • Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFares typographer, graphic designer, design consultant (and founder/director of Khatt Foundation)
  • Sumitra Upham Senior Curator at the Design Museum

17:30-18:00 Keynote

  • András Szántó writer/researcher/consultant in art and media

17:30-18:00 Performance

  • Naseer Shamma and Bait Al Oud

18:00-19:00 Film screening and discussion

  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan artist
  • Jessica Cerasi Assistant Curator, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
  • Rose Demir Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

18:30-19:00 Keynote Conversation

  • Antony Gormley artist
  • Tim Marlow Chief Executive and Director of the Design Museum

19:00-19:30 Louvre Abu Dhabi: from challenges to opportunities

  • Manuel Rabaté Director Louvre Abu Dhabi

19:00-20:15 Reckoning with globalism: new realities and possibilities shaping global art museums and biennials

  • Alexandra Munroe Senior Curator at Guggenheim (and Interim Director, Curatorial Affairs, for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi)
  • Hoor Al Qasimi Director Sharjah Art Foundation
  • Gabi Ngcobo curator (of the 10th Berlin Biennale, among others)
  • Sunjung Kim curator (and president of Gwangju Bienniale Foundation)
  • Ade Darmawan artist, curator and director of ruangrupa (artists’ collective appointed artistic directors of documenta fifteen), executive director of Jakarta Biennale for 2013, 2015, 2017
  • Rose Demir Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

19:30-20:00 Technology’s role in preserving cultural heritage

  • Chance Coughenour Head of Preservation, Google Arts & Culture

20:30-21:30 Artist talk

  • Rayanne Tabet artist
  • Sasha Kalter-Wasserman Associate Curator and Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
  • Rose Demir Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

20:30-21:30 Performance

  • Berklee Abu Dhabi

10 March 2021

13:00-13:15 Introduction

13:15-14:15 Keynote

Speaker to be confirmed

14:15-15:00 Can the cultural economy tackle global inequality?

  • Katherine Stewart journalist and author (particularly on the separation of religion and state)
  • Myles Little photo editor and curator
  • Emma Cherniavsky CEO UK for UNHCR

15:00-16:00 What can musical minds teach us about innovation?

  • Michael Hendrix graphic designer and entrepreneur (partner and Global Design Director of IDEO)
  • Panos Panay Chief Product Officer at Microsoft
  • Achinoam Nini singer-songwriter, percussionist, poet, composer (often accompanied by Gil Dor)
  • Gil Dor guitar player (best known for his long term collaboration with Achinoam Nini)
  • Scott Page musician, technologist, entrepreneur (CEO of Think:EXP, designers of immersive live entertainment)

15:30-16:30 What role can the cultural economy and the creative industries play for urban recovery?

  • Lodovico Folin-Calabi UNESCO Representative in Palestine
  • Sameh Wahba Global Director for the World Bank’s Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice
  • Catherine Cullen president of the committee on culture at UCLG (United Cities and Local Governments, an umbrella organisation for local and regional governments around the world)
  • Hilmar Farid DG of Culture at Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture
  • Assad Zogaib Mayor of Zahle-Maalaka & Taanayel (Lebanon)

16:30-17:45 Making the local: how can arts institutions become urgent for their communities?

  • Michael Armitage artist
  • Philip Tinari director and CEO of the UCCA Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing
  • Reem Fadda Director of the Cultural Foundation (Abu Dhabi)
  • Richard Armstrong Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation
  • Storm Janse Van Rensburg senior curator at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town

17:00-17:30 Creative Conversations

  • Natsai Audrey Chieza designer and founder of Faber Futures (R&D studio that creates biologically inspired materials)
  • Tim Marlow, Chief Executive and Director of the Design Museum

17:00-17:30 Mainstreaming culture in city reconstruction and recovery

  • Ahmed Eiweida Lead Urban Specialist at the World Bank

17:30-18:00 Google Arts & Culture: crafted in India

  • Jaya Jaitly politician, author, Indian handicrafts curator
  • Jyoti Neggi film director
  • Ruchika Sachdeva fashion designer
  • Divya Thakur designer and curator

17:30-18:00 Performance

  • Oum

18:00-19:00 Artist talk

  • Ismal Muntaha (we think) of Jatiwangi Art Factory (Indonesian artists’ coop focussed on rural communities)
  • X Zhu-Nowell Assistant Curator at Guggenheim New York

19:00-20:00 Closing Panel

  • HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak Chairman, DCT Abu Dhabi
  • Ernesto Ottone Ramirez Assistant DG for Culture at UNESCO
  • Marisa Henderson head of UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Programme
  • Tim Marlow Chief Executive and Director of the Design Museum
  • Laurent Gaveau Head of the Google Arts & Culture Lab, Paris
  • Richard Armstrong Director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and Foundation
  • Hadley Gamble journalist (CNBC Abu Dhabi)

20:00-21:00 Performance

  • Ghalia Benali

If you want to attend Culture Summit Abu Dhabi 2021 you can register on the website (we don’t think you’ll be able to take part in the sense of putting questions to panellists, but we aren’t sure about that). Registration is free and open to all.

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