Art galleries deserve a place of choice in the cities of the region

Art galleries deserve a place of choice in the cities of the region

When it comes to mapping the arts world, we are always drawn to those cities that value artists and their masterful efforts. Our wanderlust is only sated when our itineraries sparkle with art galleries that leave us deeply transformed long after our visits. More so, art galleries are abodes for our collective memories and experiences, instilling in our psyches the ability to commune with others on universal themes and meanings that are elemental to our existence. We leave art galleries feeling somewhat rejuvenated, being more introspective after immersing ourselves in the abundance of beauty around us and feeling imbued with a sense of elegance. Given the collective benefits of the arts, local communities can easily report higher levels of well-being by immersing themselves in artistic experiences. This is why art galleries deserve a prominent presence in our cities.

Many cities compete to be classified as “creative cities” – being essentially hubs of activity that offer a fantastic menu of arts-related offerings for the creative class and cultural tourists. Florence scores high on aesthetic ideals, with many art galleries leaving us in a solemn state of appreciation and wonder. The Uffizi Gallery, for example, houses timeless 14th-century and Renaissance paintings by several masters of the art, such as Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio. On the other hand, Tokyo boasts an enviable portfolio of art galleries and museums that showcase contemporary artworks from local, regional and international creators. The Mori Art Museum, located in the bustling hills of Roppongi, is currently presenting a “Happy Spring” exhibition by a venerable art collective, highlighting thought-provoking interpretations of cities, consumerism, media, fame and society. modern – nuanced by unique Japanese culture.

Art galleries are gaining prominence in the Arab region, with a host of up-and-coming and renowned galleries reaching out to Middle Eastern audiences. In recent years, for example, we have witnessed the opening and expansion of many prestigious galleries in several Arab countries, from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon to Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait. In addition to this, art lovers were attracted by spectacular local art exhibitions and fairs. Dubai Art Season is holding its 15th edition this month with events such as the Sikka Art & Design Festival, Art Dubai and World Art Dubai. Saudi Arabia’s foray into the art scene is opening up worlds of wondrous artistic expression, fusing traditional works with more contemporary pieces. One of the essential art projects launched in the Kingdom is the Riyadh Art project, which aims to transform the city into a living art gallery, with more than 1,000 public art installations across the city expressing its spirit and its unique cultures.

Given the powerful effects the world of the arts has on our lives, it is important that the Middle East paves the way for the emergence of more art galleries, artistic hubs and creative spaces. Governments can establish national art galleries that feature prominent historical and modern works of art as part of their collections. In fact, focusing on building coveted national collections should be an essential part of any government’s strategy when making forays into the art world. This will ensure local communities have access to world-class works of art – a practice already seen with the opening of leading galleries and museums in the Arab region, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Focusing on building coveted national collections should be an essential part of any government’s strategy as it forays into the art world.

Sara Al Mulla

Publishing standards on the management of art galleries in the context of local societies would ensure that they operate to world-class standards and achieve their inherent objectives. Financial support can be obtained in the form of public funding or grants, in addition to donations and grants from individuals, trusts, corporations and foundations. Strong marketing campaigns and a strong digital presence are also essential for art galleries as they seek to reach a wider audience and attract visitors.

For art galleries to thrive, it is imperative that policies are designed to create audiences that will be engaged in the world of the arts. Incorporating arts-related activities and subjects into school curricula will cultivate lifelong enthusiasts who will continue to produce or enjoy artistic works. Many leading art galleries run dedicated outreach programs for school-aged children in an effort to spark their interest and hone their artistic skills. For example, the National Gallery in London organizes a number of activities for children, such as tours and storytelling sessions focusing on important paintings on display in the gallery, as well as hands-on workshops to improve creative skills. Teachers can also use the Internet to access many arts-related resources, such as art tutorial videos, notes on famous paintings, and professional development sessions.

A base of local artistic talent should be cultivated through professional university degrees in the arts or vocational training. Additionally, training arts professionals can ensure that the sector has a skilled workforce. Roles include art gallery managers, collections curators, archivists, art curators and art educators.

Engagement must be at the heart of gallery programming. Many established art galleries around the world are once again attracting visitors by organizing unique exhibitions, offering educational or skill-based workshops that are stimulating for the public, organizing lectures and seminars on important works or by buying works of art, inviting renowned artists and organizing live performances. Establishing strategic partnerships with international art galleries will result in exchanges of collections so that universal artistic messages can travel far and wide, ensuring cultural understanding and shared meanings. After a memorable visit to an art gallery or museum, a detour through the treasure trove of the gift shop allows us to bring home a bit of the spirit of the day, for example in the form of thematic art books, d art prints, puzzles of famous paintings or stationery.

By putting in place ambitious policies that focus on inspiring the arts sector, we can experience its powers of social transformation, economic productivity and urban appeal.

  • Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with interests in human development policy and children’s literature. She can be reached at

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

Mildred D. Field