Manal Ataya highlights flourishing art scene in Arab world at Entrepreneurship Fest

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The flourishing art scene in the Arab world presenting a wealth of opportunities for regional artists was highlighted by Manal Ataya, director general of Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA), at the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival 2022.

In a panel discussion titled “What Art Institutions Look for in the Next Great Arab Artists,” Ataya spoke of art institutions’ key role in increasing exposure for talents from the Middle East, providing a more positive outlook on the future of the cultural sphere.

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While acknowledging the existing challenges in the Arab art scene, Ataya pointed to the growing support and guidance that young, emerging artists in the UAE are receiving through diverse grants, exhibitions, and publications.

Institutions, such as the Sharjah Art Museum and Sharjah Art Foundation, have achieved great strides in increasing cultural production and providing platforms for regional artists to showcase their talents.

“Sharjah Museums Authority is exerting significant efforts into shedding light on Arab artistic talents, who were previously underrepresented. Today, the work of these artists is taught in school and university curricula,” said Ataya.

She added that the authority recorded an increase in research requests on collections displayed across Sharjah’s museums, which demonstrates the major impact of institutional efforts in sparking interest in Arab and Islamic art and reaching a wider audience.

During her discussion, she also highlighted how a surge in the number of artistic grants and university degrees in the UAE also contributes to supporting artistic production and enriching the wider regional art scene.

“The University of Sharjah, for example, houses the UAE’s first College of Fine Arts and Design, which was established in 2002 and has since been offering an array of specialized art degrees that continue to nurture a generation of creatives,” she said.

“Other major educational institutions in the UAE like Sorbonne University, New York Abu Dhabi and Zayed University have unique undergraduate and postgraduate degrees ranging from archeology, cultural heritage, to art history and museum studies.”

Ataya added, “The growth of such programmes signals an intense focus dedicated to growing and exporting a base of artists to the rest of the region and provides great opportunities for talents to explore specialized areas of art.”

The session, which offered deep insights into the present and future of the art sector, was moderated by Emirati artist and curator Sumayyah Al Suwaidi.

In its fifth year, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival is bringing together a community of creators, innovators, and change-makers from around the world for two days of discussions that aim to lead impactful change. The event this year focuses on sustainability, culture, creativity, and wellness.

As a community partner in this year’s edition, SMA has designed a number of activities and workshops to engage community members and also provided its unique initiative “Museums Express” for participants and visitors of the major event.

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