One of the several institutions that shape Abu Dhabi’s cultural life is the Sheikha Salama Foundation, named after the wife of Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Sheikha Salama is an art collector and, with her husband, is a driving force behind the plans to develop Saadiyat Island as the cultural district.
The Foundation focuses on empowering Abu Dhabi’s local art scene by finding ways to generate new audiences and to support local artists. It also has programs for preserving the cultural heritage of the UAE and making it accessible to the public, including new audiences.
One of its activities is named Art for All. In this, the Foundation organizes a set of art programs leading up to Abu Dhabi Art. For instance, the activities include a competition for elementary school children on art, with as a result that the best work gets posted on public buses in Abu Dhabi. There is an art community week with families. There are presentations of emerging artists’ work at a mall. And it financially supports the presenting of emerging artists at the Abu Dhabi Art fair itself. The Foundation also supports Abu Dhabi Art as such and Sheikha Salama is the Chair of its host committee.
In addition, the foundation sponsors the UAE national pavilion at the Venice Biennale in partnership with the Ministry of Culture. During the last Biennale, it helped support talks by featured artist Mohammed Kazem and curator Reem Fadda, and it supported an internship program for 21 Emirati university students at the Biennale.
Another remarkable activity that the Foundation launched, is the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Forum for New Ideas, named Muntada, a ‘platform for sharing new ideas to stimulate creative thinking’ through forums with innovative guest-speakers.
In various fields, the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation could be an important player for international cooperation.