The importance of learning, cultural awareness and artistic appreciation was placed centre stage in Dubai when the UAE declared 2016 to be the Year of Reading. The nation’s rulers re-emphasised the role of the written word in helping to foster creativity and innovation among Emiratis and other residents. The new Opera House opening in Dubai is shaped liked a dhow (traditional sailing vessel), making it quite literally a flagship development on the city’s skyline.
Local Art Scene
In addition to its concert space for opera and classical music, the building is also home to Dubai Modern Art Museum, further bolstering the emirate’s reputation as a cultural, as well as commercial, centre. In addition to the 50 galleries already open in the city, artists, curators and buyers from around the world were drawn to the annual Art Dubai show, which featured 94 international galleries in its 10th anniversary edition in 2016.
Initiatives such as Art Dubai are attracting collectors to the emirate giving a boost to the broader tourism sector. The leading auction house in the region, Christie’s celebrated its 10th anniversary in Dubai in March 2016 with special auctions including sales of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art, watches, jewellery and handbags. Since its first auction of international modern and contemporary Art in the Middle East in May 2006 in the emirate, Christie’s Dubai branch has sold more than $235m worth of art and has also helped to raise more than $20m for Middle Eastern charities through its charitable activities.
A permanent contribution to Dubai’s art scene is Alserkal Avenue, an arts and culture district established in 2007 supporting a community of contemporary art galleries and alternative art spaces, together with design, media and industrial studios. In 2015 an expansion of the Avenue took the number of units from 37 to 91. “The growth of the Avenue was a response to the organic demand for alternative spaces that could support independent, creative businesses,” Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal, founder of Alserkal Avenue, told OBG. “In keeping with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision for Dubai, our commitment has always been to support the arts and culture within the region, and build an arts community in Dubai.”
Dubai Design District (d3), developed by TECOM Group, is a dedicated home for design, fashion and architecture. The development will unfold across three phases resulting in a centre for the creative industry and a fully functioning community. A Creative Community is being built on a 1m-sq-foot area at d3 and will act as an incubator for emerging artists and designers. “We have a wealth of design talent in the UAE and the wider region, and it is therefore critical that we harness this potential and provide the right platform for both our emerging and established talent to grow and thrive, not just in the Arab world but on the international stage,” Mohammed Saeed Al Shehhi, COO at d3, told OBG.
An educational facility is also being constructed that aims to attract international visitors. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is designed to resemble an open book and will open its doors in 2017 as the largest cultural centre in the region, costing approximately Dh1bn ($272.2m). The library will have areas for educational and cultural festivals, with venues for arts and literary exhibitions, heritage preservation initiatives and a 500-seat theatre for lectures. The library is also poised to serve as a platform for hosting and launching intellectual and cultural initiatives, with 9m visitors expected annually.
By enhancing artistic and cultural attractions, the emirate is hoping to offer a more varied choice of leisure activities. “An important focus of Dubai’s tourism sector is on diversifying its portfolio, from beach and retail to what we call leisure, including entertainment such as theme parks, sports events and culture,” Lennard Otto, CEO of IMG Worlds of Adventure, told OBG.