Painting by UAE artist Fatma Saifan for Dubai Culture’s billboard project, 2010


The Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, ‘Dubai Culture’ in short, was established in 2008 by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed to oversee the city’s cultural development projects. It is currently chaired by Sheikh Mohammed’s son Majid (born 1987) and directed by Dr. Saeed Al Naboudah.

The first year of Dubai Culture is described with humour by one of its first senior managers, the bewildered Michael Schindhelm, in his book ‘Dubai High: A Culture Trip’. The ambitions of the city’s cultural sector, pre-financial crash of 2008, seemed practically impossible to reconcile with the government’s off-hand management style. Schindhelm spent more than a year trying to bring sense and direction into wild plans to develop Khor Dubai, the city’s creek, into a large cultural zone including an opera to be built by Zaha Hadid…

Since the financial crash the ambitions of the city have been toned down, also in the field of culture. Nevertheless Dubai Culture is involved in many projects, from the Sikka Art Fair and the Artist in Residency Program of Art Dubai, Taskheel and Delfina, to youth theatre, a yearly patron of the arts award; it also supports major cultural events such as Art Dubai, the Dubai International Film Festival, the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature and the ArtBus.

This list of project indicates Dubai Culture’s readiness to engage in partnerships with the city’s arts and culture community. At times, however, Dubai Culture seems to be directed by the desires of the city’s rulers, e.g. when it announced the creation of a Dubai Museum of Modern Art in March 2012; six months later it was still not clear to some of Dubai’s most informed arts people what kind of museum would arise, where and with which collection.

In general however, despite the occasional disconnect with the ‘bottom-up’ arts sector of Dubai, Dubai Culture is actively pursuing the development of cultural awareness among Dubai’s population, the nurturing of artistic and cultural management talent, and facilitating private initiatives in the arts.



Written by: RobertK Last modified: 21st Nov 2012