Local art events, such as Art Dubai and Sikka, may have come to a halt in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but local artists are still seeing support.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs's Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy has, in the past two weeks, acquired pieces – worth more than Dh1.5 million – created by emerging and established Emirati artists.
The next phase of the project will involve the ministry procuring artworks by long-time residents. "We want to lend our support to everyone who is part of the country's rich artistic ecosystem," Minister of State Zaki Nusseibeh tells The National.
Nusseibeh points out that, with so many galleries and museums closed, now is a good time for those who can support the arts to do so.
“With the cancellation of the many art events that were scheduled to take place this season, we wanted to send a message of solidarity to our artists,” Nusseibeh says, adding that the artworks will also play an important part in the UAE’s cultural diplomacy abroad.
The artworks will find a home at UAE embassies and missions across the world, but first they will be on display at Alserkal Avenue within the next month, in an online exhibition.
“In its initial phase, the ministry has procured artworks for 10 embassies,” Nusseibeh says. “But we will continue until the majority of UAE embassies exhibit Emirati artworks.”
The initiative, which has been given the informal title Artists in Embassies, was launched under the directive of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.
“With the recent pandemic, we wanted to realise and announce this project,” Nusseibeh, who is overseeing the initiative, explains. “It is a message that demonstrates our deep appreciation and support for the local arts, and acknowledging that they are a critical part of the national identity.”
The initiative is a help to many local artists and galleries during a time of uncertainty – but the idea of populating UAE embassies with local artworks has been in the works since 2018.
“We set up a committee with historians, curators and art experts to get a varied take on which artworks to procure,” Nusseibeh says, adding that the committee sought to amass a set of works that best represented the diverse artistic traditions of the Emirates.
“We also consulted with diplomats to get a better understanding of every country’s artistic landscape and their respective sensibilities. To know which embassy was best for each artwork.”