I commend Antonia Carver and everyone who has helped Dubai build itself into an impressive center for the arts. In the 6 years I’ve lived here I’ve seen impressive, sustained, thoughtful building of art culture and community (in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi). Each and every year I go to Art Dubai because I can be impressed, inspired, and challenged. I go because I value our arts and this is one event that celebrates and supports artists and art culture in the UAE. This year, I actually left feeling a bit sad.
My feelings weren’t about Art Dubai, which is an impressive feat and a great addition to UAE culture. It’s about what I saw there, which is emblematic of our art world in general. Art Dubai is one of many places around the world that reflect our contemporary art culture and it makes me think: we deserve more.
Modern art history and contemporary art dialogue has brought us to this crossroads. And I believe we have become so consumed by concept we have lost all sight of skill, technique, and craftsmanship. As a former art teacher and currently IB Art examiner, I confided in a fellow art teacher, “I’m sometimes afraid to take my students to events like Art Dubai.” I’d been holding that thought inside, as if there was something wrong with me. What surprised me, but also affirmed my feelings, is my art teacher friend jumped on that and said she totally understands and even relates to those thoughts. Why would we feel discouraged to take our students to an art event? Because some of the work galleries support delegitimizes our teaching. Our exams demand a match of skill and concept, where students also articulate the merits and meaning behind their work; this is what I had to do for my bachelors’ honors’ thesis. Yet money buys and people are being encouraged, or are driving market interest, to buy art that falls short on these qualities. Here I am again at another gallery with artist statements that say nothing but try to sound important.
I reflect on art history and look at names in our history books. And I walk gallery halls and know I’m not seeing history in the making. Yet, I see people buying this art. I have to wonder, are they buying it because they are told it’s importantart and that they should like it or because they actually like it? I truly hope its the latter.
The few artists that do stand out to me seem to draw the largest crowds at these events. Why? Because they combine those qualities we celebrate in art education. There is evidence of skill, strong concept, and clear articulation of idea. They do not alienate their audience but draw people in, with all backgrounds and levels of art knowledge.
What kind of art world do you want?
I want an art world that celebrates ingenuity, encourages risk-taking (but not at the expense of concept and skill), demands intellectual insight and technique, and opens its arms to the art interested, and also the art un-knowledgeable.
Art is a reflection of our culture. What does contemporary art culture say about us?
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Take a stand and admit your opinion on the current art world practices. How do we promulgate or inadvertently support this contemporary art scene? And how do we fix it?