Mohammad Al Shehhi, CEO of ARM Holding, talks about the company’s collaboration with Art Dubai and its future ambition to promote Dubai as a center of art appreciation.
Tell us about ARM Holding’s partnership with Art Dubai. What drives ARM Holding to engage in the Dubai art scene?
We are delighted to be the main partner of the leading international art fair in the Middle East. For ARM Holding and Art Dubai, the underlying goal is to empower our respective communities. Our values are closely aligned, which facilitates collaboration.
Could you give us a brief overview of this year’s workshops and their objectives?
I am delighted that we have been able to build on the success of the first-ever ARM Holding children’s programme, connecting with even more young people across the Emirates. Thousands of school children in the United Arab Emirates have had a unique opportunity to grow and develop their interest and understanding of the arts. We had the privilege of giving access to an impressive list of international artists, with one artist in particular, I must name him. We are very happy to have chosen Cyrus Kabiru to produce the programme, theme and activities – and even design the workshop. His gift for reusing everyday objects, to create art, is used to inspire young minds and shift our perspectives.
For 2022, the program will expand through in-class workshops that will take place after the fair. Schools in the UAE are urged to provide opportunities for children to grow and develop their interest and understanding of the arts. Activities will be offered to more than 5,000 children in 80 schools, more than double the number of children involved in 2021.
Can you tell us more about ARM Holding’s art collection?
The ARM Holding art collection is a unique and singular collection and we hope it will be a model in the landscape of corporate art collection in the UAE. Last year, a number of works from ARM Holding’s art collection were loaned to the Dubai collection, making ARM Holding the initiative’s first corporate sponsor.
Featuring some of the most important names in Middle Eastern and international contemporary art, the collection highlights the company’s philosophy of building communities while being a catalyst for multicultural dialogue and innovation. This is a key part of the company’s broader commitment to supporting art and culture in the UAE. It was created to document the city’s history and tell its cultural identity. We are fully committed to making Dubai an unrivaled destination for art and culture – and the dynamism of our art collection is an integral part of this constant evolution.
What kind of response did you get for this year’s art fair?
The 2022 edition of Art Dubai was captivating and engaging. Shortly after being hit hard by the global pandemic, we really felt like we were back – but even more vibrant than before. I think the last few years have made people appreciate art and creativity better. We all see things differently now, with a more conscious approach to color, texture and nuance.
Then there’s the all-new digital element of the living room. Although digital art has been around since the 1980s, the NFT component is still very nascent, and people are incredibly curious about how it will affect the so-called “mainstream” art scene. I guess only time will tell!
What new features can visitors expect in this edition?
Well, let’s start with Art Dubai Digital, which I mentioned before. This is a brand new gallery section that will spotlight a number of international platforms working in the digital space. These are somewhat contemporary galleries with projects related to new media and digital art. We have also hosted e-commerce sites and organizations that turn existing physical art into NFTs.
How important is it to support new talent from the region and elsewhere? Could you name a few rising stars in this field and their strengths?
It’s very difficult to highlight anyone when there is so much talent on display. Art, as you know, is very subjective! That said, our “Speculative Links” exhibit featured selected works from Warehouse 421 and the Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship (SEAF). Through painting, textiles, video and photography, the selection reflects a collective questioning of the memory of place, time, and a sense of rhythm and repetition.
What is your vision of the future?
Well, we don’t wish to grow for the sake of growing. We will be somewhat sensitive to trends and discoveries in the art world in the years to come, and will continue to champion Dubai as a hub for art appreciation. We are also excited to see the ARM Holding children’s program reaching even more school children across the UAE, showing them what is truly possible with art.