In January, a landmark collaboration happened in the sleepy, sun-baked streets of Al Bastakiya, Dubai's heritage quarter. Six artists - three Emirati, three from the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) and Asia - worked side by side for three months and produced a body of individual projects that reflected on their experience of the city.
With the curator Ali MacGilp on hand for input, the final works were true home-grown creations and the project connected Art Dubai, the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and Tashkeel - three pillars of the art scene here - with the Delfina Foundation, one of the UK's finest independent art institutions.
Thankfully, it's all happening again. The team behind Artists in Residence (A.i.R) Dubai is on the hunt for six more artists and a curator to participate from January 7 to March 31 next year. After three months of working, all six artists will present their work during Sikka Art Fair when they open up their studios to the public, and the three international artists will also present projects concurrently within Art Dubai itself.
The team is looking for three Emirati artists from across the country, to be selected from those who send in submissions to the open call. The three international artists from MENA and Asia are nominated and selected by the jury.
The selection process for participating artists
The artists' proposals go to a selection panel composed of the key partners working on A.i.R Dubai. This year's guest juror is Sarah Rifky, who has been the curator for The Townhouse Gallery in Cairo since 2009, taught at the American University of Cairo and recently participated in Documenta 13. Rifky brings a thorough knowledge of contemporary art from the Middle East, and has been involved in the successful MASS artist residency programme in Alexandria.
I'm not a painter or a sculptor! Am I out?
Certainly not. In fact, some of the best work from last year's residency was more ephemeral, including a sound installation and a mixed-media work that its artist described as a "vagrant" wind-tower. The residency is open to artists working in any discipline -paint, sculpture, sound, mixed media or whatever: therein lies its strength.
International artists that are selected are given studio space and a room in one of the oldest houses in Dubai (featuring all mod cons). The locale is evocative and in the heart of the city, catching the breeze off Dubai Creek, and is an inspiring place to hole up for three months. All artists also have full use of the facilities at Tashkeel, the studio hub in Nad Al Sheba.
How much money do I get to work with as an artist if selected?
The residency provides between Dh70,000-Dh100,000 per artist, with the figure varying according to where they're flying in from, the material cost for producing their work and a daily allowance of expenses while in Dubai. This is a pretty robust sum for a residency scheme.
The curator's job
The curator is there to guide discussions, offer feedback and be a sounding board for the participating artists. They will also provide some exhibition structure when the final works debut during Art Dubai. The curator post for A.i.R Dubai is open-call but available only to those living outside the Emirates, as part of the strategy of the residency is to engage international curators who can use the opportunity to research the art scene here in the UAE.
Emirati artists should go to www.dubaiculture.ae or call 04 800 4003 to get hold of an application form. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications for the curator-in-residence are available at deflinafoundation.com. More information on the residency, the programme and last year's participants can be found at www.artdubai.ae.