Partial but a decent start: DCT-Abu Dhabi’s artists directory for the UAE

Sarah Alagroobi, Rosebud (2020)

DCT Abu Dhabi has added a directory of local artists to its CulturAll website. It currently lists 80 artists from across the UAE (not just from Abu Dhabi); each gets a page with a short profile and a mugshot, some examples of work, and in most cases at least one way of contacting them.

It’s exactly what you want if you’re an artist, and there’s currently no equivalent that we know of – not one that aims to be so comprehensive, at any rate (it’s remit is broad enough covers artists who might otherwise prefer to describe themselves as designers, artists who use just about every possible medium from calligraphy to video, and a few artists who aren’t with us any more.

Sadly there’s no point of contact for them, which rather begs the question of their inclusion in the first place if the directory intended to “identify and promote the community of artists in the UAE … The platform will also act as an important gateway for artists to connect and engage with art practitioners and institutions worldwide”. Does such a well known and important figure as Hassan Sharif really need to be abbreviated on to a single web page?

The directory works best if you know who you’re looking for, and as such it’s an excellent quick reference tool – especially if you’re trying to get in touch with a particular artist. Otherwise it’s an interesting browse through an impressive variety of styles and mediums; you could use the ‘filter by mediums’ option to narrow your focus, but there are 39 different mediums listed (some of which seem tautological – ‘Digital Art’ vs ‘Digital Media’ vs ‘Digital Painting’, for instance) and most artists would want to be associated with many of them (as well as the catch-all ‘Multidisciplinary’).

One extra we would have liked is a link to recent and especially to upcoming shows or other exposure for particular artists. Maintaining that would require a good deal of effort, of course, and you’d have to rely on the artists themselves letting the directory management know what’s happening with them.

The other issue we have is that there are currently no clues about the criteria for inclusion – if you’re living or working in the UAE, or you were born here, that seems to be enough. There’s no assurance about quality or seriousness, both of which are of course highly subjective.

And of course there are more than 80 artists at work in the country; the directory doesn’t include the three recently-announced recipients of the Warehouse421 Artistic Exhibition Development programme, all of whom are pretty well known and have exhibited locally.

We’re told “an open submission process will be available on the website, where any practicing artist or creative individual based in the UAE will be able to apply to be featured on the platform”. It’s not there yet, and our emails to the sole contact point ( have not been answered. When/if the process does go live, submissions will apparently be reviewed and selections made by a committee of experts; there’s no clue about what their criteria will be, or indeed who they are.

Let’s not carp. Anything that improves awareness of and access to the UAE’s creative communities is very welcome: you can’t have too much of this kind of thing, especially as no fees are involved. The website is pretty slick and works well, too. DCT-Abu Dhabi deserves applause for creating it.

It would be a shame if the project was backburnered or downgraded now that it has been launched with a reasonably critical mass of artists; it needs to be maintained, it could be tweaked (perhaps to include other creative folk, say game designers or interior architects alongside artists and pottery designers), maybe it needs support and input from the likes of Dubai Culture and Sharjah’s Department of Culture (or indeed spun off as a cross-Emirates project), and above all accessible to practicing artists who need some exposure.

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