Though, in the past, the infrastructure for a viable cultural life in Abu Dhabi seemed to be somewhat lacking, recently an increasing number of initiatives have seen the light for provideing helpful facilities. The twofour54 media zone met with a very warm welcome, aiming at a dynamic and often young target group of creators in large and smaller media-related enterprises. There also was a scarcity of affordable workspace for painters, sculptors and other artists, who are not necessary media-related. For this, Tini Meyer, an artist residing in Abu Dhabi, teamed up with Ahmed Saleh Al Yafei, a businessman and aspiring arts patron, and together they came up with the plan for an ‘Art Hub’ in Abu Dhabi. The idea attracted investors bringing in Dh6.5 million (US$1.8 million) to found the first art hub in the Musaffah industrial zone, but, unfortunately, Mrs. Meyer and Mr. Al Yafei turned out to have different views about the way to continue, and Mrs. Meyer backed out. Meanwhile, the plan had got the green light from the capital’s Urban Planning Council.
The first venue in Musaffah has now has taken place. As stated on its website, the Abu Dhabi Art Hub is dedicated exclusively to artists, especially young emerging artists, in principle from across the world, and it aims to serve as a platform for connecting national and international artists to the Emirate. Its aim is thus to be complementary to the huge museum projects and other activities from the developers of the Saadiyat Cultural District Abu Dhabi, provided there is going to be a fertile soil for a sustainable contemporary living art life in Abu Dhabi. Whether the Abu Dhabi Art Hub’s apparently commercial approach should be the main way remains to be seen. But Mr. Al Yafei explicitly states that the facilities will be available for an affordable rent, and he envisages more franchises of the formula in Abu Dhabi, mentioning Lulu Island, the Corniche and Saadiyat Island. Some will include adjoined exhibition spaces.
The Abu Dhabi Art Hub also wants to provide assistance in the field of business issues, such as managing and creating income from talents. It has created a business center for artists, somewhat echoing the ‘twofour54’ model, and it also aims at connecting sponsors with artists in residence.
Located in an industrial zone of Abu Dhabi, the venue does not shy away from drawing comparisons with the artistic life that germinated in Dubai’s Al Quoz area, as expressed on its website. Can the miracle of Al Quoz be repeated? One point of similarity with Al Quoz is that Abu Dhabi Art Hub is somewhat remote from the city, and, due to the layout of Abu Dhabi (see the essay on this) and Abu Dhabi’s traffic problems, this feels even more acute than is the case with Al Quoz in Dubai. But Abu Dhabi is rapidly expanding in the direction of Musaffah and surroundings; for instance, the new locations of Zayed University and the Abu Dhabi Women’s College have come closer now in Khalifa City, and the Masdar part of Abu Dhabi is on the same side as Musaffar.
Recently, the Art Hub Abu Dhabi opened a new gallery, the Genuine Gallery. If this gallery and the adjacent small-scale exhibition spaces in the Abu Dhabi Art Hub persevere, this would mean that for the first time since a long while a new medium- to small-sized gallery space would be added to Abu Dhabi’s art life, where otherwise large scale spectacular projects rather seem to dominate.