ABU DHABI // The capital welcomed experts from the western art world last night, who were told through culture "we can build bridges to the world". "As our city grows and evolves we believe that art, and the enjoyment of art, has an increasingly important role to play," said Mohammed Khalaf al Mazrouei, the director general of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. Mr Mazrouei was speaking to an audience of 100 curators, collectors and artists during an event at the Emirates Palace hotel as part of the three-day Collectors Programme of events designed to bridge the western and Middle East art worlds.
"During the early years of our nation we focused on building the infrastructure of our society - the roads, the bridges, the transport infrastructure and the buildings," he said. "But a healthy society also requires a flourishing cultural sector. Art and culture encourages creativity, inquisitive minds and personal enjoyment. "Through cultural activities we also believe we can build bridges to the world.
"We want to open up new opportunities, to develop shared understanding, and initiate dialogue. "And as we become more open and inquisitive we also intend to share and explain our own culture and ideas." Mr Mazrouei said Abu Dhabi was committed to education and to supporting the next generation of artists and the emirate wished to encourage the artists, curators, academics and audiences of the future.
"We believe art should be for everybody," he said. "Later this week we will see the unveiling of Abu Dhabi's first-ever permanent public sculpture. We have chosen a central Abu Dhabi location so that people can share in the enjoyment of this work." Earlier in the day, Mr Mazrouei spoke to journalists before the opening of the artparis-Abu Dhabi exhibition at the Emirates Palace hotel. He said Abu Dhabi has set its eyes on UAE and Arab artists "having the place they deserve at the heart of the international art movement".
"Art is a human gift, full of creativity, but its importance is magnified through the ability of artists and buyers to establish networks of relations between art exhibitions and prestigious galleries. "Art likes to move, between peoples and countries and across time," he added. "Wherever you find art having roots, is evidence that it has found an appropriate humanitarian soil. Once in Andalusia, another time in Paris, New York and London, today you find art taking root in Abu Dhabi."