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By
Reuters
Published
Jun 11, 2009
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Dubai to build arts and fashion districts

By
Reuters
Published
Jun 11, 2009

DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai Culture and Arts Authority said on Wednesday 10 June it was aiming to build a fashion and design district and change legislation to persuade foreign artists to take up residence in a new arts neighborhood.


Dubai Culture and Arts Authority Project and Events Manager Mishaal Al-Gergawi - Photo: REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh

The plans are the latest move in a major attempt by energy-rich Gulf Arab states to put themselves on the global arts map with prestigious museums, festivals and exhibits.

Mishaal al-Gergawi, projects and events department head at Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, told Reuters Global Luxury Summit in Dubai that the entity's billion-dollar budget was dedicated to "developing the culture in the city ... and infrastructures for artists."

Dubai Culture plans to create a neighborhood dedicated to fashion, high-end design and gastronomy, he said, without giving more details. The authority is also developing legislation to allow foreign artists residency rights if they have only part-time or non-profit work, which is currently not possible.

The United Arab Emirates, the world's third largest oil exporter, will set up an area of galleries and affordable housing for artists, similar to Spitalfields, an open market area in London featuring independent boutiques, selling fashion, music and jewelry.

Gergawi said Dubai will also build a Kunsthal museum with no permanent collection within the next 24 to 30 months to house temporary exhibits from around the world.

"We want to bring (works) from international museums who have universal collections of pre-historic times, contemporary, impressionist, antiquities, Islamic, and take them out of their comfortable space," said Gergawi.

Agreements have been signed with the Dresden, Munich and Berlin state museums in Germany to provide exhibits, he said.

Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, is building a branch of the Paris Louvre museum and New York's Guggenheim designed by world famous architects on Saadiyat Island, a luxury resort with marinas, shops and art centres.

Qatar, the world's leading exporter of liquefied natural gas, recently opened an Islamic art museum.

Dubai, one of seven emirates comprising the UAE, saw an economic boom spurred by high oil prices over the past six years, resulting in a large influx of tourists and expatriates arriving for year-round sunshine and modern living.

But as the emirate suffers from a property crash and liquidity squeeze, population growth has slowed.

Dubai's tourism industry saw a setback in the first quarter with hotel guest nights falling 16 percent and revenues dropping 15 percent as the global recession hit the sector.

Dubai Culture did not have to reduce its budget due to the financial downturn, said Gergawi, but had to "reschedule" it.

"I like the crisis ... it has really made you have to justify your existence," he said.

Gergawi said family pressure and cultural expectations were holding back Emirati nationals from engaging in artistic pursuits. "You have a lot of pressure from the family ... and no support for anything alternative or not in the mainstream."

By Tamara Walid and John Irish. Additional reporting by Jason Benham; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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