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Sun 8 Apr 2007 01:19 PM

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What the gallery owners say…

As the spotlight falls on Dubai's art scene through the recent Gulf Art Fair and the upcoming Sharjah Biennial, CID has collated a panel of regional gallery owners to discuss their views on the local art scene and to ask their advice for interior designers specifying original art for commercial projects.

As the spotlight falls on Dubai's art scene through the recent Gulf Art Fair and the upcoming Sharjah Biennial,

has collated a panel of regional gallery owners to discuss their views on the local art scene and to ask their advice for interior designers specifying original art for commercial projects.

Most gallery owners in the region will agree they opened their galleries to exhibit local talent as well as to educate artists and buyers alike. Charles Pocock, managing partner of the Meem Gallery, says: "Meem highlights the greatest aspects of Arabic art and culture and generates a new level of understanding." Alia Fattouh of The Third Line agrees: "The Third Line was created out of a need for more exposure for artists and their work. There is now a dialogue between the artists and the audience which is essential for any art scene to develop. The gallery is a platform for contemporary Middle Eastern art and culture."

Shahi Hamad of Five Green, which also only exhibits local artists, says: "We opened the gallery as we felt there wasn't anywhere in Dubai catering to amateur artists and urban designers." Jam Jar promotes artists by encouraging them to pick up their paintbrushes. Hetal Pawani says: "Our gallery is combined with the only DIY studio in Dubai where novices and artists come to express themselves on canvas. The gallery perfectly complements the existing art space as an avenue to promote local and international artists."

Is art produced in this area influenced by Middle Eastern techniques and surroundings or does the art scene represent the cultural melting pot Dubai has become? Pocock says: "I see an explosion in great art in the area from artists influenced by great masters and forming a style of their own to Islamic and Arab art. Islam will have a strong influence on the development of the movement. This is common through many of the great works from the Middle East and is a thread that has continued through to today and will continue to do so." Pawani agrees: "Middle Eastern, Indian and Far Eastern art also seems to be gaining in popularity. There is a growing awareness in the region of up and coming artists and value of art as investment. In addition social trends are increasingly influencing investment in art and photography. A lot of concept and war photography has become prominent due to the growing number of photography exhibitions."

Fattouh takes a different approach and predicts modern artworks are increasing in popularity, she says: "Contemporary works are becoming popular with more emphasis on conceptual work rather than just decorative works. I think we can already see a trend towards buying photography." Hamad agrees: "I predict a rise in more urban street inspired graffiti art and kitsch pieces influenced by pop culture and a move away from the traditional desert pictures."

Choosing the right artwork for the project is paramount and the experts all agree that consultation is key. Pocock says: "In many cases art is left to the end of the project which usually leaves little budget left for quality work. My advice is to plan in advance - sit down with an art dealer or consultant and tell them what you are looking for, listen to suggestions and be completely open about the budget and work together".

Fattouh adds: "Each project is different and every client has different needs. Choose the best work within the budget and buy original works. It is important to choose good artworks for commercial spaces as people always notice the details and it reflects positively on the project if the artwork has been well selected."

Alia Ferris of Kenza Art Gallery thinks it important to remain loyal to the region, she says: "My advice to interior designers would be to choose modern artworks but do not ignore the culture of the Middle East. It is needed for the perfect mix of the past and future."

Most agree that education and criticism of the growing market is imperative but Pocock warns of overpricing. He says: "The local art scene is growing but it needs constructive criticism. It is still in its infancy and people are taking advantage of this by selling work at ridiculous prices which only has a negative effect." Education not only helps the public understand art but also opens it up to new techniques. Ferris says: "Local residents are becoming more and more educated, cultured and travelled and so are more accepting of European styles and traditions." Fattouh agrees: "Dubai is most definitely catching up with other markets but money needs to be spent for it to happen on a large scale. Education is also important."

Nadine Hammam, Curator of Total Arts Gallery perfectly sums up the art scene in the region: "This city has transformed itself in merely 25 years by attracting an influx of both aspiring residents and tourists and embracing modernity whilst preserving tradition and demonstrating to its neighbours that modernity and tradition can co-exist."

Whether it is contemporary Arabic, traditional Islamic or modern European, buying art in Dubai has never been easier, however interior designers should be aware that the market is still in its infancy. Seeking consultation as well as being clear about the budget from the beginning is just as important as choosing the correct piece for the project.

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