With the Rise of the Creative (Orange) Economy in cities and countries worldwide, cultural arts has demonstrated a dramatic positive impact on the region’s economy. This has led to an increased connection between the arts and economic development in urban centres, which has resulted in the establishment of over 90 arts districts (otherwise known as cultural and educational districts) in the last 20 years. These districts are usually geographically defined areas with an agglomeration of buildings dedicated to the creation and presentation of the arts. They are often home to museums, visual and performing arts spaces, non-profit organizations, and for-profit creative businesses.
The last thirty years have seen an unparalleled rise of new museum buildings and cultural spaces all over the world and the transformational power of its contribution towards the urban realm.
Apart from their purpose of cultural education, these spaces are increasingly understood as powerful instruments and activators of urban regeneration and gentrification; and are capable of infusing new social, cultural and economic possibilities. They play a pivotal role in the constitution of our contemporary city as agents of urban change and magnets for urban growth.
The Global Cultural District Network (GCDN), an independent, international association based in New York partners with UNFOLD for its second edition. GCDN explored the transformation of urban spaces into cultural and educational districts to build a creative economy through various case studies from its members; National Museum of Singapore, East Bank Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, Kuwait National Cultural District, Poblenou Urban District as well as the Hugh Lane Gallery.
The Arab world covers 22 countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates; and Yemen, Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia.
Despite the rise of international demand for works by Arab artists where they have demonstrated steady growth, there is still a lack of knowledge about them. Freedom and art, repression and art, revolution and culture, education and propaganda, censorship and liberation expression are issues the arab world is exploring.
In the United Arab Emirates, the Sharjah Biennial is firmly on the map as a contemporary showcase, while Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art has become a major commercial art fair putting arab artists on the global map. In Bahrain, ArtBAB, Bahrain’s international art fair, has been facilitating the development of local Bahraini artists whilst powering their expansion in the global art market through their Bahrain Art Week initiative across Singapore, Paris, London and Moscow which will be shared by Kaneka Subberwal, Fairs and Program Director at ArtBAB.
Arab Fund for Arts & Culture spoke with prominent art foundations that includes; the A.M.Qattan Foundation, The Kamel Lazaar Foundation, MMAG Foundation, Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre to uncover how strategic cultural philanthropy and patronage can help empower arab artists to give them voice and shape the arab identity in the global art market.