This blog post was inspired by Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates – the first major touring exhibition of Emirati artwork abroad. The exhibition showcases core elements of life in the UAE, further informing American audiences of Emirati art, history, and tradition.
Visitors who have seen Past Forward may not be aware of the wide range of cultural events the UAE organizes during its winter season, from October to the end of April. This post highlights a number of the most popular arts and cultural events in the country – many scheduled for this spring.
Abu Dhabi Art presents museum-quality artworks from modern, contemporary, and design galleries. Abu Dhabi Art 2014 was held at the UAE Pavilion and Manarat Al Saadiyat in early November in the Saadiyat Cultural District, the growing cultural hub of the region that hosts a diverse, year-round cultural program. Saadiyat Cultural District is also the future home of the Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi Film Festival, formerly known as the Middle East International Film Festival, is held each October. Started in 2007, ADFF aims to showcase the best films from the region alongside standout productions from prominent international filmmakers. Since 2012, the festival has been part of the Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority, specifically under Media Zone Events, and powered by its partner company, twofour54.
In February, the Qasr Al Hosn Festival returns to Abu Dhabi to celebrate centuries of heritage and history, as well as Emirati culture and tradition. The festival also includes a lively hub of visual and performing arts programs, traditional workshops, and cultural and interactive learning experiences led by professional curators, artisans, and experts. This year, the festival takes place from February 11th through February 21st.
The Abu Dhabi Food Festival features a grand banquet comprising a three course affair: ‘Gourmet Festival,’ presenting food for the connoisseur; ‘The Emirati Kitchen,’ offering a taste of Emirati culture; and ‘StreetFest’ for an inviting feast on the road! The Food Festival will take place February 5th-February 21st.
From food to music, Abu Dhabi Classics returns to bring some of the most prominent musical talent and orchestras to the emirate. The Abu Dhabi Classics concert season, lasting from October through May, reflects the excellence that the emirate has achieved in the field of culture.
Transitioning from the capital, here are some events happening in Dubai:
Over the last seven years, Art Dubai, the leading international art fair in MENASA (Middle East/North Africa/South Asia), has become a cornerstone of the region’s booming contemporary art community. Recognized as one of the most globalized meeting points in the art world today, Art Dubai places an emphasis on maintaining its intimate, human scale while foregrounding quality and diversity. This year’s Art Dubai will take place March 18th through March 21st, and the Global Art Forum will be held on March 9th.
SIKKA is the first annual initiative of its kind, showcasing Emirati and Dubai-based artistic talent. An annual showcase specifically designed to feature UAE contemporary art practices and initiatives through diverse artistic talents and stances, SIKKA provides an opportunity to experience home-grown creativity at its liveliest and best, in the heart of Dubai. Over the last few years, SIKKA has come to be the ultimate platform for Emirati and UAE-based artists to work and engage with their international counterparts, all of whom are in the city to experience its rich cultural roster of events.
Design Days Dubai is the leading fair in the Middle East and South Asia dedicated to collectible and limited-edition furniture and design objects. The fair draws leading international designers and galleries alongside up and coming designers from across the world, and also presents a strong non-commercial program consisting of education, workshops, installations, and live performances. This year, Design Days Dubai is being held March 16-20th.
Spearheading the resurgence of cinema in the region, the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has been an influential platform for Arab filmmakers and talent since its inception in 2004. As the leading film festival in the Middle East, DIFF has extended its platform to present and honor excellence in cinema from Asia and Africa. The festival’s pioneering initiatives, such as the Muhr Awards and Dubai Film Market, have raised the profile of regional works internationally and have provided independent and established talents a venue to showcase their vision to the world.
The Middle East Film and Comic Convention (MEFCC) is the region’s largest pop-culture festival, bringing together celebrities, artists, musicians, and exhibitors from across the globe. The MEFCC is the only large-scale consumer event for fans of comics, film, the gaming industry, and pop culture offered in the Middle East. Among the numerous celebrities who attended 2014’s MEFCC were Sylvester McCoy of Dr. Who and The Hobbit fame, and Seth Green, who provides the voice of Chris on the TV series Family Guy. The 2015 MEFCC will be held April 9th through April 11th.
The Dubai Festival for Youth Theater is one of the largest celebrations of theatre in the region, providing upcoming talent with a platform to showcase their skills to a wider audience, with a focus on highlighting classical Arabic.
The Sharjah Biennial is organized by Sharjah Art Foundation, which brings a broad range of contemporary art and cultural programs to the communities of Sharjah, the UAE, and the region. Since 1993, the Sharjah Biennial has commissioned, produced, and presented large-scale public installations, performances, and films, offering artists from the region and beyond an internationally recognized platform for exhibition and experimentation. The next Sharjah Biennial is scheduled for March 5th through June 5th, 2015.
Music lovers take note: Sharjah once again hosted its popular World Music Festival, offering various musical genres, which blend the magnificence of international music and its recent innovations with the purity of traditional Arabic music and its contemporary trends. Held on January 16th through January 26th, the music festival just recently came to an end.
Ras Al Khaimah
The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival was established to bring the community together to celebrate art, create opportunities for cultural exchange, and support the creative and artistic sectors of the emirate. The festival is designed to showcase the talent and work of local artists, musicians, and filmmakers in a community setting. This year, the festival will take place February 19th-February 21st.
Stay tuned for The Art and Cultural Scene in the United Arab Emirates, Part II: Arts and Cultural Organizations!