Five open calls for artists in the UAE: from Sharjah Art Foundation to Canon

Submissions are now open to visual artists and photographers from November to January

'Haweia', built by three architecture students from the American University of Sharjah, won the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award in 2020. Photo: NYU Abu Dhabi
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Throughout the year, various institutions in the UAE announce open calls that enable artists, photographers, writers and designers to participate in an exhibition or receive financial support to produce their work.

This year, Sharjah Art Foundation’s Focal Point publishing grant has returned to further the publishing practices in the region, a critical component of culture. The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award is also accepting applications for its November 2022 presentation.

New competitions have also been launched in light of Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE’s Golden Jubilee. Canon has partnered with the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Awards (Hipa) to promote visual storytelling practices focused on sustainability, while the National Bank of Fujairah has created an award for emerging and established artists who wish to celebrate UAE National Day through art.

Here are five ongoing opportunities for artists and creatives in the UAE and the region to consider.

Focal Point publishing grant

As part of Sharjah Art Foundation’s (SAF) annual art book fair, the organisation provides grants of up to $30,000 (Dh110,000) and support for the production and distribution of printed matter. Every year, SAF announces its open call for art and cultural scholars, independent publishers, collectives and public institutions to submit their proposals for a publishing project.

These can range from long-form essays of original research to small publications, including avante-garde and artistic material, as well as cookbooks, travelogues, geography books, art zines, comics, graphic novels and other types of material.

The chosen project will receive support from SAF in terms of planning, producing and distributing their work, and the titles will be shown in time for the next Focal Point in December 2022. The deadline for submission is Monday, November 15.

More information is available on

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award 2022

Established in 2012, the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award is for young artists in the UAE who are interested in producing public art. Presented by New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (Admaf), the award provides the winning artists with $10,000 (Dh36,700) to produce their work, which will be publicly exhibited in Abu Dhabi in November 2022.

Entrants can submit proposals involving various mediums, including photography, sculpture, installation, land art and video. The works can be shown indoors or outdoors.

The award was created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, an artist duo known for their environmental art and ambitious projects involving wrapping famous global landmarks. The recipient of the award will also receive a gift of $5,000 (Dh18,350) from Christo’s estate to fund future projects.

The deadline for applications is on Monday, January 31.

More information is available on

Moments that Matter photography competition

Canon, in collaboration with Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Awards (Hipa), has launched its photography competition for photographers in the UAE and around the world.

The competition Moments that Matter seeks to promote visual storytelling that has a positive impact. This year’s theme is focused on sustainability. Participants are asked to submit five images that reflect on sustainability across four issues, economic (“moments that develop us”), human (“moments that heal us”), environmental (“moments that make us”) and social (“moments that save us”).

Open to photography enthusiasts over the age of 18, the award offers prizes of $8,000 (Dh29,000) in cash, gold coins and Canon equipment. The works of shortlisted candidates will be exhibited at the Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai next year.

Judges for the competition include Fiona Shields, head of photography at Guardian News & Media; Kathy Moran, the deputy director of photography for National Geographic magazine; Aida Muluneh, Canon ambassador and founder and director of Addis Foto Fest; Brent Stirton, Canon ambassador and senior photographer at Getty Images, and Muhammed Muheisen, Canon ambassador, National Geographic photographer and founder of Everyday Refugees.

Entries are accepted until Friday, January 28.

More information is available on the Canon website.

UK-UAE Cultural Professionals Connect grant

The British Council is accepting applications for its UK-UAE Cultural Professionals Connect grant, aimed at fostering creative exchange between the UK and UAE through art and culture.

A total of eight grants of up to £5,000 (Dh25,000) will be awarded to creative practitioners, artists, art and cultural organisations and collectives who propose collaborations between the two countries via artistic and cultural activities. Ideas for knowledge exchange and building of skills are also welcome.

Submissions must come from one UK and one UAE applicant. The proposed projects must be able to be completed by March 2022. Grants are open to forms of film, literature, music, theatre, dance and visual arts.

The deadline for applications is on Monday, November 15.

More information is available on the British Council website

NBF Art Competition

The National Bank of Fujairah (NBF) has launched a nationwide art competition for emerging and established artists to submit artwork ideas to celebrate the UAE’s Golden Jubilee.

For the NBF Art Competition, artists can share ideas that express the UAE’s progress over the past 50 years and to look ahead into its future, 50 years from now. The mediums can range from drawings, paintings, digital art, poetry and sculpture.

The competition is open to all UAE residents aged 18 and above. A total of 10 winners will be chosen, with the top three winning artists to receive up to Dh12,000 in cash. The winning artwork will also be showcased in the bank’s main offices.

Judges include Dr Hamed Al Suwaidi, the founder of Abu Dhabi Arts Society; Ahmed Al Rashid, the founder of Talk Curated Creative Events company; Sultana Karim, an Emirati artist and fashion designer; Peter Gressman, curator and founder of Art Forum UAE; Slava Noor, founder of Arte & Lusso online magazine; and Anna Morrow, curator of Morrow Collective.

Applications are open until Sunday, November 14.

More information is available on the NBF website

Updated: November 07, 2021, 11:26 AM