Manal Ataya highlights museums’ role in promoting Arab artists: Cultural Summit

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How can institutions, both long established and newly founded, rewrite the story of modern art in the Arab region by charting its influence on global art from the mid-21st century to contemporary times.

This was the topic of a panel discussion at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Summit , with Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA), moderat-ed by Fiammetta Rocco, senior editor and culture editor of The Economist at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Tuesday.

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Other panelists in the discussion included Rafal Niemojewski Executive Director, Biennial Foundation, Maya Allison, Executive Director Chief Curator The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Founder, Barjeel Art Foundation.

Manal Ataya’s participation highlighted museums’ significant role in promoting Arab artists in their permanent art collections to be accessible to all their audiences. (Supplied)
Manal Ataya’s participation highlighted museums’ significant role in promoting Arab artists in their permanent art collections to be accessible to all their audiences. (Supplied)


Topics deliberated also included the importance of cultural institutions expanding their publics’ knowledge on the art history narrative which focuses on connections between the Arab region and Asia and the role of these institutions in providing broader exposure of cultural production by artists of the MENA region.

Ataya’s participation highlighted museums’ significant role in promoting Arab artists in their permanent art collections to be accessible to all their audiences, but more so in their intensified efforts over the past 25 years, to provide a platform and necessary support for Arab artists in particular to showcase their work and receive the international exposure they deserve.

She explained that SMA’s various exhibitions, educational programming from seminars to children’s workshops and the integral publication of artist catalogs alongside exhibitions help document the artists’ careers and make them available to universities and public libraries to ensure dissemination of this knowledge to students, scholars, and art enthusiasts.

“SMA focuses on education, especially for young children to ensure they have access and exposure to artists and culture producers from the MENA region,” she said.

“This is integral to help them understand the region’s history, be more aware of artists’ contributions to global art history, develop an appreciation of art and culture from various parts of the world and to have greater pride in the art produced in this region, about this region, particularly that from the UAE.”

She noted that the Sharjah Art Museum, which this year celebrated its 25th anniversary, offers extensive educational programming which accompanies all of its exhibitions that are often the first retrospectives for the featured artists.

“With our educational programs and publications, we ensure all our demographics from young people to students, academics and families have access to the knowledge they need to learn more about art and about how exhibited artists link and connect to a wider global community and to also feel proud of the art from the region that they are part of.”

She said among numerous Arab artists celebrated at Sharjah Art Museum which has long been a key venue for major artistic events such as Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial and Sharjah Islamic Arts festival as well as the annual exhibition of Emirates Fine Arts Society, were Baya Maheddine, Abdulqader Al Rais, Najat Mekky, George Bahgoury, Adam Henein, Noor Ali Rashid, Thuraya Al Baqsami, Ismail Shammout, Tamam El Akhal, Aref El Rayess and many others.

Read more: Creating communal spaces for people to come together: Frank Gehry at Culture Summit

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