It is not a new idea that art can be an instrument of healing and a tool to process trauma. Turning towards art may not alleviate pain or provide tidy answers, but it can go some way to help people cope with loss. Most often these losses are not within our control – everyday sorrows, separations, death of loved ones, pandemics and wars. Expressions found in art can offer solace, or recognition, or simply be a pillar to turn to in our quest for meaning in the complexities of life and in the all-too-often grim realities of the world.
Often, in galleries around the globe, a visitor might sit for several minutes on a bench in front of a Fahrelnissa Zeid painting or a Rothko, tremendous works that might evoke in one feelings that are perhaps otherwise difficult to access.
The permanence of a work of art is especially valuable when juxtaposed with the pervasiveness of social media, the fleeting nature of our digital feeds and the world of “hot takes”, where something trending today can disappear tomorrow. A painting, though, follows different rules – its essentially tangible characteristic is at odds with ephemerality.
Which is why, the return in physical from of an event such as Art Dubai over the weekend is so important. Back after two years, it has given the people a chance to interact with works, or even a singular work, that can often resonate differently from a social media post, even a post or a story on art, compacted to fit our devices.
Notwithstanding the huge popularity of NFTs, the importance of such physical access to art is highly relevant in a society that values and honors the work of artists, not just locally or in the Middle East, but from across the world.
Over the course of Covid-19 lockdowns, access to art was restricted, as was much else. And despite the availability of, for instance, museum tours digitally, as well as apps and innovations that allowed people access to art on their screens, the experiences often don’t really compare – of seeing virtually a high-resolution rendition of a painting versus Seeing the actual work in front of you.
In facilitating direct access to viewers, events such as Art Dubai enable an important connection between viewer and artist. And the return of such programs in their physical form is good for not just those associated with the art world, but for regular visitors seeking insights into contradictions that exist in our worlds. Art on display can be an inroad into different ways of thinking, some of which can be difficult to fathom by absorbing mere information. That is the power of art: for something in the work of an artist to speak to something in us, and offer – if not clarity or comfort – a different perspective.
And nor are these new ideas for the UAE, which has been making more room for the arts over the years. Just last year, before the country’s Golden Jubilee, the UAE unveiled a National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries, as part of the goal to increase the economic contribution of the cultural and creative industries to at least 5 per cent of GDP in the next 10 years
The country continues to make strides in being an attractive place for creatives, through measures that include strengthening copyright laws to protect people working in the arts. Last December, Noura Al Kaabi, the Minister of Culture and Youth, said the UAE had become a “fertile ground to all those who want to innovate, create and live in an open and tolerant society”.
In helping societies to have more access to art – and more physical spaces to showcase the variety of art that exists in our world – we allow diversity and a breadth of understanding to reside among us.
Published: March 13, 2022, 11:45 AM