Arts in the UAE

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It’s a global hub where artists convene and creativity flourishes. Designers, performers and craftspeople meet collectors, curators and connoisseurs. This is the UAE – a place brimming with new ideas, a fertile ground for experimentation, a global community where inventive minds meet.

In November 2017, the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened in Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island Cultural District. TIME Magazine called the museum – which was designed by renowned architect Jean Nouvel – one of the World’s 100 Greatest Places for 2018. The collection includes art and artifacts from throughout human history and a wide range of geographic regions. Pieces span from ancient Egyptian statues and Chinese funerary masks to paintings by Monet and Picasso.

Numerous dedicated spaces in the UAE provide an environment for artists to practice their crafts and showcase their work. Dubai Design District is a creative community where local talent works alongside international design, art and fashion houses. Al Serkal Avenue is a vibrant center full of galleries, studios and cinema houses, such as Cinema Akil. 

Numerous festivals and performance venues bring global audiences together in the UAE. The Sharjah Biennial – which first took place in 1993 – is the region’s leading arts festival, featuring paintings, sculptures, photography, films and performances. The biannual Dubai International Film Festival showcases premier filmmaking from around the world. The Dubai Opera House, meanwhile, has hosted top global talent such as Placido Domingo, as well as local performers like Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi.

The UAE’s creative energy is also reflected in the world-class cultural institutions that have a presence there. Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island Cultural District features the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and is the future home of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The Dubai Opera House, meanwhile, makes the UAE a premier performance stage, and has hosted top global talent such as Placido Domingo, as well as local performers like Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi.

International exchanges connect Emirati artists with their counterparts around the globe. The UAE Embassy in Washington, DC organized an exhibition of Emirati art that toured the United States for 18 months. The exhibit, Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates, told the story of the UAE’s rich history, culture, and rapid development through 50 paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs and other works by 25 notable Emirati artists.

The Past Forward exhibit travelled to seven US cities and attracted nearly 100,000 visitors – ranging from elementary schoolers to university students. The exhibit not only showcased Emirati artwork but also engaged Americans in discussions about the UAE-US bilateral relationship.