Philanthropic investment is on the rise. This new enthusiasm for philanthropy is largely a consequence of the rapid wealth-creation of recent years, but also, of increasing inequality and uneven distribution of resources on the planet. The growth in available philanthropic capital is a global phenomenon that is seen markedly in the Arab region. Studies estimate that over the next 10 years, about 14,000 HNWI worldwide will be passing on to the next generation each $28M on average every year. Translated into the Arab region, this equates to about $17B yearly. What these individuals will do with such significant sums will make a big difference to the future of the region. There is no doubt that large-scaled philanthropy, while being unregulated or unaccountable is stepping in effectively in gaps where the public sector is defaulting, in many cases in partnership with public entities. More importantly, a multitude of small, flexible and deep-rooted foundations have been active for many years in addressing the specific needs of their communities throughout the Arab region.
The opening panel, Empowering Cultural Development in the Arab World: Arts Patronage and Arts Philanthropy in Redefining the Arab Cultural Landscape and Giving Voice to Arab Artists explored the work of five such institutions/philanthropists. This took place at the recent 2nd Annual UNFOLD Art XChange Art + FinTech Summit from the 7-9 March 2019 at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Cent, as part of the talks programme for the 4th edition of ArtBAB, Bahrain’s international art fair, under the patronage of Her Royal Highness, Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty, The King of Bahrain, President of the Supreme Council of Women in collaboration with Tamkeen.
The panelists discussed the challenges seen by their initiatives in the absence of effective governmental support for the arts and reflected on ways to engage more effectively with their audiences. The variety of approaches presented was in a way a mirror of the wide range of contexts in the Arab region; a region marred by conflicts and deep social inequalities, but sharing a young demography and a strong desire to engage with a global conversation.
Omar al-Qattan is the Chairman of the A.M Qattan foundation, a very well-known institution in the Arab region which has a major footprint on the educational and cultural life in Palestine and beyond. Noura Salem is a researcher and architect based between Amman and Helsinki, and the deputy director of the newly launched Mohamed and Mahera Abou Ghazalaeh Foundation in Amman, MMAG. Dr. Pradeep Sharma is the director of Arts, Culture and Heritage at the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation in Abu Dhabi where he oversees the development of emerging cultural and creative practitioners. Yazan Khalili is the director of the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, a grass roots organization based in Ramallah, Palestine. Lina Lazaar is the vice-president and CEO of The Kamel Lazaar Foundation, a philanthropy institution based in Tunis, which owns a collection and supports Tunisian and regional artists.
The panel was moderated by Oussama Rifahi, cultural consultant and board member of the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture – AFAC, a grant making institution based in Beirut and serving artists an cultural institutions from all the Arab region and its diaspora.