Private equity firm sponsored the Abraaj Group Art Prize, as well, before allegations this year
Art Dubai confirms end of Abraaj’s 10-year sponsorship deal
Art Dubai, the emirate’s annual art fair, said it has ended its decade-long sponsorship agreement with Abraaj Group, as the private equity firm continues to unravel following allegations of funds mismanagement earlier this year.
“The sponsorship agreement with Abraaj Group expired earlier this year and due to reasons that have been very well documented, the sponsorship will not be renewed,” a spokeswoman for Art Dubai said in an emailed statement to The National on Sunday.
“We will be announcing our new partners, who will join our existing partners, in the coming months.” Art Dubai’s existing sponsors include BMW and Ruinart, according to its website.
Abraaj sponsored the most recent edition of the fair in March and the agreement terminated soon afterwards, the spokeswoman explained. However, she said the collapse of Abraaj had no impact on Dubai’s lively art scene, or Art Dubai’s ongoing schedule, and that the 2019 programme “continues to grow”.
Under its own initiative, Abraaj created the Abraaj Group Art Prize, which was unveiled and exhibited at Art Dubai from 2009-2018. This year the winner was Jordan and Lebanon-based artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan.
Abraaj is facing a financial and reputational crisis after several investors in its $1 billion Growth Markets Health Fund, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, accused it of mismanaging their investments and hired investigators to find out what had happened to the money. Abraaj has denied any wrongdoing.
The company, once the Middle East’s biggest buyout firm with almost $14bn of assets under management, is now undergoing a court-supervised restructuring in the Cayman Islands. Liquidators are hoping to sell parts of Abraaj including its funds management business to pay down an estimated $1bn of debt.
Ben Floyd, Art Dubai’s chief executive and founder, told The Art Newspaper publication in March that as the fair’s principal sponsor since the first event, the Abraaj brand had become synonymous with Art Dubai.
“Abraaj have been longstanding supporters of the arts and laid the foundation for corporate patronage in the region. They remain one of our most committed patrons,” Mr Floyd was quoted as saying.