Dubai needs more museums, art experts say at luxury forum

Art industry experts sit down to discuss the challenges facing the industry at Arab Luxury World in Dubai.
Updated 24 May 2017
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Dubai needs more museums, art experts say at luxury forum

DUBAI: Middle Eastern art should be more accessible to children and enthusiasts at non-profit museums if the region’s art scene is to progress, panelists at the Arab Luxury World forum agreed Tuesday.
Industry experts, including Tunisian-French graffiti artists eL Seed, took to the stage during a breakout session at the two-day forum which saw more than 70 speakers from the premium goods and services market discuss and debate the latest trends in the industry.
Some of the panelists praised the UAE for its role in propping up the regional art scene.
“Given that the region has been fluctuating and tense for various political reasons, the UAE has turned into a great platform for getting regional art out into the market and it took off in a way that was huge,” art critic Mahnaz Fancy told the crowd.
However, moderator Ruth Bradley, who has her own regional consulting firm, was quick to share her opinion that the local art scene still has a long way to go.
“In other parts of the world as a child one of the first things you do at school is go out to museums and public spaces… I asked an art teacher in the UAE ‘are you taking the children anywhere in town?’ and he looked surprised,” she said to laughter from the other panelists.
But how do we move forward and entrench art and culture as a pillar of the community?
Deborah Najar Murat, director of the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation museum in Dubai, thinks private collectors and governments must get involved.
In Dubai “there is a lack of non-profit educational institutions that are commonly known as museums,” she said before praising the neighboring emirate of Sharjah for its 26 museums, the first of which was opened in the 1980s.
“The issue is that these non-profit organizations need support and in Europe and the US, this support comes in the form of tax breaks and incentives,” Murat continued.
“Here you need a different sort of incentive and I would say that the Chinese model could work to encourage private collectors to open museums – this saves the community and government hundreds of millions and billions of dollars in art acquisitions.
“What China has done is they have gone the entrepreneurial route and so if you open a museum, they incentivize it by giving you land and enabling you to open a shopping mall or hotel around your museum and that is how China has in excess of 3,000 museums.”
Artist and founder of the Bil Arabi jewelry line Nadine Kanso agrees.
“Governments need to get involved and collectors should showcase their collections and open their houses and museums and give this to the world,” she said.
According to Bradley, it is especially important that the UAE champions the regional art scene as it is home to a “fresh and new, growing movement” which encourages regional artists to base themselves in the country.
Turning to eL Seed, whose collaborative work with Louis Vuitton famously sold at a Christie’s auction in Dubai last year, she said: “It’s a growing movement and you couldn’t see yourself getting this opportunity anywhere else because how often anywhere else in the established world would you have the chance to be part of something that’s fresh and new?
“You are part of the very foundation of art that is being built in this region.”
For his part, the young artist noted that “as an Arab artist, it’s important for me to be based here.”
While the UAE continues to attract critically-acclaimed young artists such as eL Seed, it seems that ensuring art is accessible to the community at large is still a work in progress.


Where We Are Going Today: Shatllah

Updated 22 March 2019
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Where We Are Going Today: Shatllah

  • Shatllah’s prices are reasonable, while the assistants are very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful

Do you need to add a little life and color to your surroundings? Houseplants are often said to be a source of positivity, and Shatllah has taken this concept to the next level.

Forget the idea of a lonely looking plant in a boring beige pot; this shop adds beautifully designed containers and creative touches that turn them into delightful decorations that are almost works of art. One in particular that caught my eye was designed to look like a tiny garden, complete with a miniature table and chair.

Shatllah’s creations make for perfect gifts, which is how I discovered the shop, in Jeddah’s Al-Zahra’a district, while looking for a present for a friend who loves houseplants. I was so impressed with its wares that I ended up buying some for myself as well. After all, who would not rather have a living plant decorating their home rather than artificial flowers or other fake items?

Shatllah’s prices are reasonable, while the assistants are very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. They are more than happy to offer advice on picking the perfect plant and how to take care of it when you get it home.