|Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, and Dr Omar Bin Sulaiman, DIFC Governor, with artist Yuri Gevorgian at Cuadro. (MUSTAFA QASMI)|
|By Bindu Rai on Friday, November 07, 2008|
It may seem strange to witness an art revolution in the heart of Dubai's financial hub, but in retrospect, is it really that surprising? Art breeds investment, and what better way to endorse this growing trend than by setting up base where the heart of the district beats money.
This week, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) hosted the launches of three art galleries, with a fourth opening soon. Art Space, Cuadro Fine Art Gallery and Opera Gallery aim to cater to the city's eclectic taste in all things creative. If the turnout at the openings were any indicator, then DIFC is rapidly changing into the city's cultural hotspot.
"Aside from DIFC being a prime location, it seems fitting to set up base in this neighbourhood, which highlights a sound investment opportunity in these troubled financial times," Opera Gallery Director Bernard Epaud told Emirates Business. "Stocks, shares and property prices are all on the downslide. But where they fail, art comes in as a logical financial asset."
Across the courtyard from Opera sits the 13,000 sq ft Cuadro, spanning two floors and seven distinct gallery units. Aside from selling art by international powerhouses, the gallery also describes itself as a museum and a teaching base for young enterprising minds entering the art industry today.
"We represent everything that DIFC encompasses - financial security for your investment and the birth of a new vision for this country by facilitating growth," says Cuadro Managing Partner Bashar Al Shroogi. "Our growth, of course, provides stability to the cultural landscape and the surge towards an art revolution of sorts."
A former architect who nurtured this ambition with the help of his mother, Al Shroogi moved from Barcelona to Dubai to set up Cuadro, and eventually, facilitate a dialogue in art.
And ask him about the competition in the form of Art Space to his left, and the Opera Gallery dead ahead, Al Shroogi simply shrugs it off, saying: "How can it be termed competition when all three of us are united in our goal to make the region a thriving art hub for Middle Eastern artists and international ones?"
Speaking at the opening of Art Space, Dr Omar Bin Sulaiman, DIFC Governor and Managing Director of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, echoed these sentiments, saying: "As part of developing itself into a global cultural hub, Dubai has undertaken several initiatives to nurture art in the Middle East. Contemporary art in the region has recently gained a high international profile by virtue of the exceptional creative work here.
"The Middle East has been identified as one of the world's most exciting emerging art markets. By promoting art galleries, DIFC seeks to support such initiatives to harness this artistic energy."
As art avenues continue to spring up in the region, promising a whole new potential market for buyers, interestingly last week's Dubai auction by Christie's International sold $ 16.9 million (Dh62m) of paintings and jewels in a two-day sale - far below estimates as falling oil prices hit buyer appetite.
The auction house had estimated the sale to be between $ 32m and $ 43m.
However, French-born Epaud stands firm in his belief, emphasising that only a safe investment will certainly bear returns.
"If you opt to purchase a masterpiece that bears the name of an internationally recognised artist, the value of your piece can only increase - credit crunch or not," he says.
"Although, that would require a considerable start-up investment. For those looking to put their money and faith in an upcoming artist, the investment required is considerably smaller - anywhere between $ 10,000 and $ 30,000. You can almost guarantee that the prices will go up and you could even gain returns crossing $ 1m."