Global Art Forum edition in London focuses on art, cultural scene in UAE

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Last week, the special summer edition of the Global Art Forum was presented to a full house of art enthusiasts at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The Global Art Forum, launched in 2007, is a transdisciplinary summit, which combines original thinking and contemporary themes in an intimate, live environment.

Held on Monday (July 23) evening, the event titled ‘UAE PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE’, was organized in partnership between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Art Dubai.

The speakers included Zaki Nusseibeh, the UAE Minister of State, Butheina Kazim, Founder of Cinema Akil, and Dr. Noah Raford of the Dubai Future Foundation.

The event, which was attended by the Minister of Culture & Knowledge Development in the UAE, Noura Al Kaabi, as well as the UAE Ambassador to the United Kingdom Sulaiman Almazroui, gathered some of the most notable protagonists from the fields of art, architecture, cinema and futurism in the UAE and responded to an increasing international interest in the growing artistic and cultural scene of the UAE, and each of the panels was followed by a series of questions from the audience.

Sulaiman Almazroui commented: “UAE PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE was an ideal stage to present current ideas on the UAE’s cultural scene to a wide, international audience, as well as to introduce some of our key players in this field. The event was a success and a great platform for conversations and exchange, which we look forward to building upon.”

Shumon Basar, Commissioner, Global Art Forum, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. (Courtesy: Art Dubai)
Shumon Basar, Commissioner, Global Art Forum, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. (Courtesy: Art Dubai)

Al Arabiya English caught up with Shumon Basar, Commissioner, Global Art Forum, about the initiative: “It’s not the first time,” he said. “We held an event at the ICA a couple of years ago for the edition entitled ‘The Future Was.’ We have also staged satellite editions in other countries and hope to develop this further. In September, we are collaborating with the Art Science Museum in Singapore where we will present another chapter of ‘I Am Not a Robot’, on the perils of automation. Each chapter exploits and frames the context in which it takes place. The Royal Academy of Arts event was conceived against the general backdrop of The Year of Zayed, where there’s an interest in exploring the cultural history of the UAE to a wider audience.”

What was the nature of the audience, and how was the event received? “It was a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar faces. The familiar faces are those involved in the MENA art scene, both within the region, but also, diasporically. The new faces were, I presume, from the Royal Academy’s audience and Londoners in general. It’s always hard for me to measure audience reception. But I felt a sense of engagement and attentiveness to the broad series of issues we presented over the evening,” Basar said.


Zaki Nusseibeh, UAE Minister of State and Cultural Advisor at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, participated in this session.

Obrist led a conversation with Nusseibeh, who started out as Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s personal interpreter, and whose life of culture, education and diplomacy has grown in parallel with the making of a new nation.


Ahmed and Rashid bin Shabib, Cultural Advisors at the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation did a presentation.

The cultural entrepreneur duo explored the theme of cities, which are populated as much by unrealized architectural projects as realized ones.

Case studies included Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where seminal architects such as Oscar Niemeyer and Walter Gropius were responsible for ambitious plans which never materialized, but whose drawings outline fascinating alternative histories and futures.

The Present

There was broadranging discussion between two of the most significant voices in today’s thriving UAE art scene - Butheina Kazim, Founder of Cinema Akil, and Munira Al Sayegh, Curator .

They covered Cinema Akil’s fiercely independent ethos, the expansion and diversification of the art ecology as well as cultural highlights such as the opening of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi and the growth of the Sharjah Art Foundation.

The Future

Dr. Noah Raford, Chief Operating Officer and Futurist-in-Chief of the Dubai Future Foundation, introduced the audience to The Dubai Future Foundation, which is pursuing a dynamic, design-led approach to systemic transformation in the UAE.

From the Museum of the Future (opening end of 2019) to city-scale prototypes of 3D printed buildings, self-driving cars, and urban farms, this talk explored a new approach to creating the future, together.

Key role

Since its launch in 2007, the Forum has been a key part of Art Dubai’s extensive year-round cultural programming.

It has brought together over 450 global minds from pop culture to renowned academia: artists, curators, museum directors, filmmakers, novelists, historians, philosophers, technologists, entrepreneurs, musicians and performers, dialogue with one another across disciplines, reporting from every part of the world, painting a truly 21st century portrait of how the globalized world thinks.

A section of the audience at the Global art Forum session at the Royal Academy, London. (Courtesy: Art Dubai)
A section of the audience at the Global art Forum session at the Royal Academy, London. (Courtesy: Art Dubai)
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