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p 33 • FALL/WINTER 2010

Apolymon Cast Acrylic, 1968-70 108”h x 180”w x72”d

of this symposium was really nothing more than to get a collection of sculpture without paying anything to the artists that made them. Their premise seems to be that artists will be clamouring to come to Abu Dhabi to work for free to create a major work of art for the new cultural district and all the sponsors have to do is pay for a hotel and materials. And they are probably right that there are artists who will do this. But I believe it is still a blatant exploitation of the artists as well as an example of a very problematic attitude about the value of art in general.

If I would have had the opportunity to speak to the organizers of this symposium, I would have asked them what the real goal of the symposium was. If the answer was to acquire a collection of sculpture for the new cultural district and to draw attention to Abu Dhabi as a cultural destination, I would then ask: “Don’t you think that to achieve those goals you want quality works by important artists?” If the answer to that were yes, then I would explain that they would have to expect to pay serious prices. I would explain that it might be possible to acquire the sculptures for less than those artists’ normal prices. They might like to come to Abu Dhabi to oversee making the sculpture, and they might be motivated to have their works in the new cultural district if they thought the work was going to be treated importantly, and that the symposium was going to be treated as an important international event with a film and book, etc. But you are not going to get top quality works by internationally

known sculptors by offering to pay the costs of production, because basically what you are saying is that you are not paying anything for or placing any value on the design of the sculpture. I would go on to explain that all of the costs of fabrication, artists travel and lodging, and PR for the symposium are the same whether it is top quality work or mediocre work, and that by not paying appropriate fees to the artists they are unlikely to get artists of the quality they want to be consistent with the rest of what they are doing in Abu Dhabi in general, and in the cultural district in particular.

I would also go on to question them about why they would settle for having less than top quality sculpture for the cultural district. Are they not hiring the best architects in the world to design the buildings?

They might be able

to get unknown architects to offer to design buildings for no fee, but they clearly know that would not be the way to get the best buildings.

Why would they think this is the way to get top quality sculpture?

Don’t they want the

cultural district to be world scale quality and to have artists that are viewed as important internationally? Perhaps part of the goal is to provide opportunities for sculptors from the Middle East who are not as well known in the rest of the world. If this is so, then isn’t it important to those Middle Eastern artists that the other artists have important reputations so that their work is seen associated with those artists?


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