Updated: 04 Aug 2020
DUBAI—Many of the United Arab Emirates have made it part of their global brand to showcase arts and cultural institutions, from comedy clubs to highbrow museums. As in other parts of the world, the novel coronavirus pandemic shut many of these institutions down. Now each emirate is going its own way in trying to reopen and reinvigorate these institutions.
Dubai has invested millions in its cultural offerings, from the grand Dubai Opera, to the multi-purpose Coca-Cola Arena, which opened last year. Guy Ngata, the arena’s chief executive officer, says getting the arts field back on its feet is critical for many reasons.
In the United Kingdom, data have shown that for every £1 spent on ticket sales, an auxiliary £5 is spent in the economy elsewhere.
“There is no doubt that a similar parallel exists globally for the live events industry,” says Ngata. “When fans purchase tickets to live events there is a natural flow on to complementary business activity such as transport, hospitality, merchandising, accommodation. … Ticket sales are the initial touch point to further expenditure in the economy.”
Located in the heart of the City Walk area of Dubai, the arena opened to great fanfare last June and already has brought in international artists like John Legend and Maroon 5. It has also showcased a bevy of Arab acts, who will very much be part of the “new normal,” Ngata says.
“This could well be a time we look even more closely at local Arab artists as well as locally based talent,” he says, as coronavirus precautions have made bringing international talent more challenging. “As we saw in our Be Live in Dubai campaign in the height of lockdown, the city does have a huge amount of great performers, so there are definitely avenues to look at locally too.”
Dubai’s Arts District Is ‘Kind of Open’
Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s arts and culture district, was among the first areas to reopen after the emirate eased a strict lockdown imposed during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The district, which encompasses around 80 organizations and individuals from artists to musicians, coffee shops to galleries, is a pivotal part of the city’s arts scene. It recently reopened with the slogan “We are (kind of) open,” acknowledging that things aren’t quite back to normal, but almost.
Reopening fast was crucial, says Vilma Jurkute, the district’s director. “I think it was essential for the economic stability and livelihood of our businesses and our community.”