Jameel Arts Centre reopens with exhibitions extended until late 2020

Visitors are asked to book two-hour slots online beforehand to allow the centre to monitor capacity

Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai. Mohamed Somji / Courtesy Art Jameel
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After more than 10 weeks of closure due to Covid-19, Jameel Art Centre is set to reopen its doors to the public on Wednesday, June 3.

As it restarts operations, the contemporary art institution, located along Al Jaddaf Waterfront in Dubai's Bur Dubai area, has introduced new guidelines for the public to ensure social distancing. While admission remains free, visitors must book a two-hour slot online in advance so the centre can monitor capacity.

As with other public places in the UAE, visitors must undergo temperature checks at the entrance and wear face masks. Each gallery has been designated a certain capacity, and security staff will ensure that this is maintained.

Despite its physical space being shuttered on March 16 due to government regulations, the centre had been quick to move a number of its activities online, including educational resources for children and a virtual version of its Jaddaf Aloud cultural event, which featured artist workshops and experimental films.

Nevertheless, the closure has affected the centre’s programming schedule, which has now been recalibrated. “Our entire calendar has shifted through 2020 to 2023,” says Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel.

Jameel Arts Centre has extended two of its current exhibitions, which were slated to end in August. The major survey exhibition on renowned artist Michael Rakowitz, showcasing large-installations that reflect on material culture in the region, will now run until November. Lubna Chowdhary’s ceramic sculptures in the installation titled Metropolis will remain until October.

Carver notes that extending Rakowitz’s show meant holding negotiations with 30 different museums and collectors. “A museum exhibition calendar… is so complex – shows are often years in the planning and dates forensically worked out with the artist and all the various multiple partners involved. We were lucky in being the last venue for Michael Rakowitz’s major survey show and in working with an enthusiastic, dedicated artist who is so excited to share his work with the UAE and regional public,” she says.

Across the world, the pandemic has exposed grave inequalities and the fragility of support systems within industries, arts and culture being one of them. Globally, artists and art professionals, including galleries, are facing loss of income and financial uncertainty.

In April, Jameel Arts Centre stepped in to help artists, particularly those whose projects have been disrupted due to the pandemic. For its micro-funding initiative, Art Jameel Research and Practice Platform, the centre has set aside Dh550,000 worth of grants to give to artists, writers and curators in the Middle East. The platform is accepting applications for its third and final cycle until Sunday, June 7.

“Very quickly into this crisis, artists and curators came to us from the UAE and around the region, and explained their predicament. We decided we should act fast and repurpose existing budgets into [our] rapid-response programme,” explains Carver.

“This has been a moment of real reckoning for the regional arts scene, and has thrown into sharp relief the precarity of culture, in general,” she says, adding talk of reinvention within these systems may be too early – cultural institutions and practitioners are presently in “survival mode”.

The centre has not been immune to these monetary challenges either. “Like museums globally, we are dealing with a loss of income from our enterprises, including our shop and third-party events, while we’ve been closed, plus budget cuts. We are learning to cope with this, and hoping for better times ahead,” she says.

On Wednesday, June 10, Jameel Arts Centre will present new interations of their Artist’s Rooms series, with works by Larissa Sansour, Taysir Batniji and Lawrence Abu Hamdan.

The venue will be open daily except Tuesdays, from 10am to 6pm. Children aged below 12 and adults over the age of 60 are not allowed to visit as per UAE regulations.

More information can be found on jameelartscentre.org