Qatar, for Culture’s Sake

As I read through the Middle East Online article “Qatar’s culture drive is not just for culture’s sake” (it’s also to diversify the economy) my interest was piqued by the final line:

Building a complex and beautiful building is nothing compared to connecting to the local population and building a vibrant arts community. That’s infinitely more challenging.

It’s a quote from Antonia Carver, who has apparently been working in the UAE art world for near-on a decade and will take over the Dubai annual art fair next month.

It got me to wondering: Does she mean building a local, organic, Gulf arts community? Exploring local art forms? Building on traditions? Or does she mean an international arts community/arts tourism with “some connection” to the local population? Frankly, I understand the point of the “Louvre Abu Dhabi” and a UAE “Guggenheim,” but of course I would rather a ground-up arts and literary movement that had local names, sounds, colors.

Certainly, though, I am cheered by the idea of a Qatari children’s literature festival and other initiatives that have been spawned by Bloomsbury-Qatar. (Perhaps there could also be a Qatari children’s art festival….)


  1. hi, antonia here. i am taking up the post of Art Dubai (not Art Abu Dhabi) and yes, of course, I meant the former — a locally-driven, organically-grown arts scene — hence the need to connect with a UAE-based arts community first… And hence the need to work together: Sharjah has museums that are decades old; Dubai has a thriving, discursive cultural community that has grown up organically, from the bottom up. Along with many others, I’ve debated and written about this a fair bit in recent years.

  2. Well, as you might imagine, I know very little—not much more than your average couch potato—about visual arts.

    Thanks for the correction on Art Dubai vs. Abu Dhabi.

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