How Expo 2020 Dubai Is Supporting Art In The Region And Beyond

In celebration of universal creativity, Expo 2020 Dubai has announced an exciting new Arts and Culture programme to shine a light on the UAE’s creative scene. The programme will see a variety of art and culture initiatives, namely the Visual Arts Programme, the Design and Crafts Programme and the commissioning of the first Emirati opera, Al Wasl.

The Visual Arts Programme is being led by renowned independent curator-cum-architect Tarek Abou El Fetouh, and is set to feature a range of contemporary artworks around the Expo 2020 site.

“These artworks will become integrated permanent landmarks in the fabric of the legacy of Expo 2020 – the new neighbourhood known as District 2020,” says Dr. Hayat Shamsuddin, Senior Vice President, Arts and Culture, Expo 2020 Dubai. “The multi-pronged Design and Crafts Programme will offer creative, technical and economic support to local brands and emerging talents in the UAE.”

Expo 2020
Dr. Hayat Shamsuddin, Senior Vice President, Arts and Culture, Expo 2020 Dubai

In efforts to nurture Emirati culture and heritage, the said programme will see collections specially made for Expo 2020 under the tags ‘Designed in the Emirates’, which refers to collections crafted by local designers, and ‘Designed for the Emirates’, which will include bespoke works made by international designers who have been inspired by traditional crafts in the UAE.

The Visual Arts Programme will showcase an array of local, regional and international contemporary artists, with the goal of representing artists from the wider MENASA region. The concepts and aesthetics of the programme have noted inspiration from Arab mathematician Ibn al-Haytham, who Dr. Shamsuddin says has influenced the understanding of the relationship between the imagined and the perceived realms.

“He also helps us to explore the commonality among humans, while simultaneously discerning our cultural differences. Perhaps the power of our imagination and our ability to interpret stories, however strange, provides our only way to navigate diverse cultural particulars,” she says. “I believe it is crucial to engage with the philosophical aspects of Ibn al-Haytham’s theories on visual perception, including his definitions of recognition and the impossibility of envisioning a full picture of reality without the power of imagination.”

Expo 2020
An ariel view of the Al Wasl Dome at Al Wasl Plaza, Expo 2020

In this respect, exploring the history of the arts has shaped the programme significantly, and within this context, artists have been commissioned to produce works that explore different topics and subjects related to optics, perception and the imagined world.

“These programmes will bring together leading artists from the UAE and around the world to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime event, with the aim of showcasing the great potential of the region, promoting its rich contemporary artistic creativity and providing inspiration for residents, visitors and future generations to carry forward,” expresses Dr. Shamsuddin.

The theme of Expo 2020, entitled Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, reflects the philosophy that innovation is a result of creative collaboration. “Likewise, creativity and new ideas are generated when one engages in the arts,” says Dr. Shamsuddin. “Therefore, the arts and the act of connecting minds are both hugely important and inextricably linked, with the result that they both nourish the soul and creativity.”

Expo 2020
An installation at Al Wasl

Created in collaboration with Welsh National Opera, Al Wasl, brought to life by over 100 Emirati and global artists and musicians, will mark the first ever Emirati opera. The two-hour-long opera will highlight the UAE’s rich heritage from its Bedouin roots to present times. The initiatives are aimed at, as much as inspired by, the youth of the world. “Youth is at the heart of our World Expo – our rich arts and culture initiatives reflect the young, bold spirit of the UAE,” says Dr. Shamsuddin.

“Our country is also hugely cosmopolitan, with more than 200 nationalities calling the UAE home. By bringing together talent from around the world, these programmes reflect the diverse cultural backgrounds and languages present in the UAE. Our programmes are designed to highlight the UAE as a global centre of the creative and knowledge economy in the region.”

Images courtesy of Expo 2020

From the spring 2020 issue of Harper’s Bazaar Art



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