The appearance of more art districts, not museums, is the result of boosting the economy in the Gulf Region. Throughout the last fifteen years, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have spent huge amounts of money building headline-worthy museums such as the Qatar National Museum and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. Plans to encourage creativity and support local artistic talent aim to reduce the region’s dependence on oil.
Antonia Carver, the director of Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, says that it is time to reinvent museums as active spaces of thinking and looking. “These sites of knowledge production and debate are even more acutely needed and possible in the Gulf, where there is everything to play for in forming and nurturing a community amid a broader geopolitical context that is so turbulent.”
Last year, Dubai launched Al Quoz Creative District in a significant push to shape the emirate’s creative sector. Sheikh Mohammed says that the district will help the emirate in its aim to become a global capital for the creative economy by 2025.
Art Jameel’s new centre in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, opened its doors in December 2021. Hayy Jameel was designed by multi-award-winning architectural studio Waiwai and conceived as a dynamic, creative community hub.
Alserkal Avenue has emerged as one of Dubai’s most influential creative places. It started as a small block of warehouse spaces housing 20 art galleries; however, now it is a 500,000sqft urban hub that fuses art, food, fashion and music with cultural events like Art Dubai and Art Nights.
Some spending on museums is continuing in Saudi Arabia, including a modern art museum and a Black Gold Museum, which is devoted to the history of oil in the kingdom (it is planned to open in Riyadh in 2022)
Reem Al-Sultan, the CEO of Misk Art Institute, states, “We are committed to expanding the creative sector in Saudi Arabia. Among our numerous strategic objectives is a focus on supporting artists in the kingdom and the region through educational programmes, exhibitions and grants as well as initiatives that engage the public.”