Art galleries are essential to creative urban life
The cities that are home to a constellation of magnificent art galleries are imbued with a sense of prestige and enjoy regular visits from local and global art lovers. From time immemorial, civilization has always regarded works of art on an exalted pedestal, commissioning pieces from proteges or established artists and presenting them for public admiration.
Indeed, a visit to an art gallery is an engrossing and even transformative experience, ruminating on historical and contemporary works of art that impart essential meanings to us in their own unique and creative way. Not only that, but art galleries also play a pivotal role in preserving our collective cultural treasures and promoting cross-cultural dialogues over universally compelling works of art.
At the end of our visit, we feel a kind of rejuvenation of our spirits – we reflect on the beautiful messages of various works of art, we remember how our world is full of beauty and we are imbued with a sense of elegance. . Given the collective benefits of artistic immersion on our well-being, cities should consider art galleries as an essential part of urban planning.
Many vibrant creative cities boast an enviable portfolio of world-class art galleries showcasing contemporary art by local, regional and international creators. To illustrate, the National Gallery in London houses a collection of over 2,600 paintings, encompassing works created by venerable Western European painters, such as Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Paul Cézanne, Vincent Van Gogh, Pierre- Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet. .
On the other hand, the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto features Japanese-style paintings and Western art styles, with a mix of historical and modern artworks. It regularly hosts exciting exhibitions, such as the current exhibition on “Salon Culture and the Pictorial Arts of Kyoto and Osaka”, highlighting literate painters who fused their lyrical masterpieces with artistic interpretations inspired by real images.
The Arab region is also witnessing a proliferation of rising and renowned galleries reaching out to enthusiastic audiences. In recent years, for example, we have seen how many prestigious galleries have opened and grown in several Arab countries – from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Beirut to Bahrain, Doha and Kuwait. In addition to this, art lovers are attracted by spectacular and local art exhibitions and fairs.
Earlier this year, Dubai’s wonderful art season entered its 15th edition with successful events, such as the Sikka Art & Design Festival, Art Dubai and World Art Dubai. Abu Dhabi’s foray into the art scene opens up worlds of wondrous artistic expression, fusing traditional works with more contemporary works of art. In recent years we have enjoyed spectacular exhibitions at Louvre Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Etihad Modern Art Gallery and Abu Dhabi Art.
Given the extraordinary effects of the world of the arts on our communities, cities should encourage the proliferation of art galleries, artistic spaces and creative hubs. Establishing national art galleries to showcase important historical and contemporary works of art is an essential part of any city’s strategy to become a thriving artistic hub with a unique character.
This will ensure that local communities have access to world-class, premier artistic masterpieces, as evidenced by the opening of branches of leading galleries, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Additionally, financial support can be obtained in the form of government funding or grants, in addition to donations and grants from individuals, trusts, corporations, and foundations.
Part of the process of building national art collections should focus on nurturing local artistic talent and acquiring their works. Providing a proliferating menu of opportunities through professional arts college degrees or vocational training will ensure that a sufficient and creative local talent base flourishes.
In addition, the training of professionals in the field of the arts would ensure that the sector has a qualified workforce, such as art gallery managers, curators of collections, archivists, art curators or arts educators.
Art galleries should also have strong marketing campaigns in place to generate public interest and engagement. Curricula could pique the curiosity and interest of art lovers by introducing them to arts-related topics and activities from an early age. This will pave the way for children to be equipped with essential artistic talents and develop an appreciation for the world of the arts. Hand in hand, many art galleries organize special events for school-aged children in creative and themed settings around fascinating subjects.
To illustrate, the National Gallery in London organizes a number of exciting activities for children, such as tours and storytelling sessions focusing on significant paintings on display in the gallery and hands-on workshops to improve creative skills.
Additionally, individuals could enroll in one of their enlightening short courses, encompassing art history, spotlight on famous painters, and self-reflection on timeless masterpieces. . Teachers can also access many great arts-focused resources, such as art video tutorials, teacher’s notes focused on famous paintings, and professional development sessions.
Art galleries must also direct their efforts towards creative engagement with the public. Many leading art galleries around the world attract loyal and frequent visitors by organizing exhibitions with fascinating themes, by offering educational or skills-based workshops for the public, by organizing conferences and seminars on leading works or by purchasing works of art, inviting renowned artists to talk about their artistic journeys and captivating live performances in the gallery spaces.
Fostering partnerships with international art galleries will result in mutual exchanges of art collections so that universal artistic messages can travel far and wide. Establishing a strong digital presence is also key to reaching communities.
Art galleries certainly deserve a presence in our cities, given their invaluable contributions to humanity.
Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with interests in human development policy and literature