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Rendezvous with Art

By Antonia Carver

The art scene in Dubai is burgeoning and the art fairs across the city are transforming the societal fabric

words Antonia Carver As I sat down on my desk to pen this article, I went back in time. It was in 2001 that I had taken a life changing decision to shift to the Middle East. I had thought initially that I would live in this region for a few years and then move to another destination. But as luck would have it, I got hooked on to Dubai and I grew with the city. The art scene in Dubai was growing with the city successfully developing its own artistic culture. It was at that point in time that I decided to stay in this city and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - a place that enjoyed growing regional connectivity and cross cultural ties with the cities of South and Central Asia and of course the Arab world looking to East Africa.

As a connoisseur of art, I have always believed that artistic expression is a human need and a human right. Art has the power to emancipate you. It is thriving entity that lives on and on. When I arrived in Dubai, I had my own premonitions about life in the Middle East but my love for art and my work has given me much to appreciate about life in Dubai. Art has an interface with society and I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to engage with such beautiful creative minds throughout my journey. When I look back today, I have only fond memories and pleasant exchanges to recall with several artists I have engaged with over the years. Dubai has grown and so have I. The art scene here feels vital with artists documenting changes in their societies. I conscientiously feel that artists across the world are now engaging in debates and deliberations and are playing a pivotal role in transforming the inherent nature of society. Moreover, I can proudly say that the exhibitions at Jameel Arts Centre have created an impact on the society. Places like Jameel Arts Centre not only showcase artistic talent, but also bring together audiences and communities. On any one evening, and all day on weekends, there are reading groups, debates, workshops, children’s and family events going on, as well as exhibitions: you can really see the community coming together through cultural endeavour – and over time, this can have a huge impact on a broader society.

Artists play a subtle role in making the society more inclusive. There is a perception outside the Middle East that patriarchy continues to pose a challenge to the women. This perception prevails and lingers on till date, but in my opinion, this could not be further from reality. Women have been able to express themselves through art. Most of the leading arts organisations in the Gulf are led by women, as are the commercial galleries. Women artists also play a leading role. Take the Artist’s Rooms series of solo exhibitions at Jameel Arts Centre, for instance: all seven exhibitions have featured women artists, of all generations and backgrounds, from Asia and the Middle East.

I believe greater public engagement with art will further develop the artistic culture in the region. It is therefore truly exciting to see UAE grow and prosper as a major cultural destination. We now have tourists opting to extend their transit through the airport in order to stay a day or two in Dubai, to come and visit various art centres and explore the city’s cultural offerings! Attracting cultural tourists is absolutely vital to a city becoming a mature, multifaceted and dynamic in its worldview. With events like Art Dubai becoming popular worldwide, the city is able to express itself to the world.

Art is a living entity and I am happy to be a small facilitator of art in the Middle East. It resonates with the mind, body and soul and I will continue to promote it throughout my life. Art and culture within the Middle East will continue to grow and we will see a growing confluence of art and artists from across the world. It is hard for me to conclude this piece at this juncture because like most other connoisseurs, art is an emotionally immersive activity. But I would like to conclude by saying that I will contribute to the world of art and culture till the last day of my life and I have a long way to go!


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