The arts scene in United Arab Emirates is vibrant and growing and in recent years there have been a number of exciting developments such as the establishment of several new cultural spaces. While some artists have already experimented with art interventions in public spaces, art in the public realm remains a relatively new and untested undertaking for many. In the UK, artists and arts institutions have found that this type of art practice offers new ways for people to enjoy and participate in the arts, helping cultural institutions make an impact beyond their physical locations. This research examines the current landscape and future potential for art in the public realm in the Gulf. Through this research, the British Council hopes to support organisations in the UK and the Gulf who want to develop new engaging and innovative public art for audiences living and working in the Gulf region. 

Bringing art to life in public locations often requires arts professionals to work collaboratively with municipalities, engineers and others, making it a challenging endeavor. However, as new arts institutions in the Gulf grow their skills base and expand their cultural provision – taking art out into the public could become a more frequent and accessible medium through which to engage broader and more diverse audiences, ultimately making the arts more accessible for everyone. 

The research was developed in partnership with Eckhard Thiemann, Director of Shubbak Festival, and Heba ElCheikh, from Mahatat for Contemporary Art from Cairo, Cairo-based social and cultural enterprise founded in 2011. It is intended as a snapshot of current practices of art in the public realm in the Gulf states to be shared among arts and culture professionals in the UK and the Gulf.