x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Art: in the UAE public eye

As Emaar reveals the latest in a string of art pieces within their developments, we explore the importance of having easily accessible artworks in public spaces.

Life Size Andalucian I, the newest sculpture in Downtown Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National
Life Size Andalucian I, the newest sculpture in Downtown Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

In the shadow of the world's tallest building, it is a little difficult to compete for attention. However, Emaar, the developers of the Burj Khalifa, have spent the three years since it opened filling the surrounding vicinity with a great variety of pieces of public art that are arguably taking their equal share of the limelight - at least for those of whom the enormous spike in the sky is an everyday sight.

In recent weeks, a mysterious baseball-bat-shaped sculpture has been erected on the boulevard that art enthusiasts say looks like a giant shawarma underneath its tarpaulin wrapping. Emaar is remaining tight-lipped as to what lies underneath it but say all will be revealed "very soon".

The newest piece that is, however, accessible to viewers is Life Size Andalucian I by the South African sculptor Vincent Da Silva. Located in Burj Plaza overlooking the Dubai Fountain, the sculpture is almost two metres in height, capturing the power and energy of the horse it depicts, and reflects the great passion the people of the UAE have for equestrian culture.

Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties, said the piece is "not only a marvel in figurative sculpting but is also a tribute to the Arab world's equestrian heritage and will appeal to all visitors".

Alabbar released this quote in a statement and despite being too busy with business commitments to comment further, he does, by all accounts, take a personal interest in every piece of art positioned within the Emaar developments. It is thanks to his leadership that Emaar is one of the only large organisations in the UAE that commissions public pieces on a regular basis.

"Through the display of powerful artworks, we are further contributing to Dubai's cultural identity and seeking to inspire the city's artistic community," he added in his statement.

Da Silva's statue is joined in Downtown Dubai - the name given to the area surrounding the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall - by Al Sidra, a free-shaped bronze sculpture by the Kuwaiti sculptor Sami Mohamed Al Saleh; the Syrian artist Lutfi Romhein's Together, featuring two sculptures of an Arab man and an Arab woman made from marble and granite; and the Spanish sculptor Xavier Corbero's Gathering, 10 basalt sculptures situated on Emaar Boulevard.

"The Arab world has a rich artistic and cultural heritage that is given modern interpretations by our talented artist community. Through our art showcases in Downtown Dubai, we are putting the spotlight on the region's high creative and artistic standards," Alabbar said in 2011 at the unveiling of Together.

Outside of the Downtown district, Emaar also makes an effort in its residential developments such as The Meadows, The Springs and Emirates Hills, where various roundabouts are decorated with sculptures.

So, as we wait to see the next instalment of public art that will pop up under Alabbar's watchful eye, we are only left to wonder when the government will join the foray. There has been talk of Abu Dhabi's 2030 plan to provide installations in our capital and Dubai's new design district is bound to have some surprises up its sleeve. For now, the art world is waiting with bated breath.

aseaman@thenational.ae

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