The United Arab Emirates stand proudly at the forefront of the world’s oil exporters with its 97,800 billion barrels of oil reserves. Being a federal absolute monarchy consisting of seven states: Abu Dabi, Dubaj, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwaim, Ras Al-Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman, the United Arab Emirates thrive on their precious Upper (and Lower) Zakum field, the third largest oil bed in the Middle East that yields in a total of 500,000 barrels per day. Ever since the fields discovery in 1963 and the inevitable development by Abu Dhabi Marine Areas Ltd., a joint venture between British Petroleum and Compagnie Française des Pétroles, the country has darted out of technological backwardness into a full-fledged, developed state.
However, good times won’t last forever and the seemingly infinite reserves of UAE’s black gold will one day dwindle to a trickle. This is by far the most urging concern of HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in terms of state economy. The clock is ticking and, according to some less reliable data on the UEA oilfields’ lifespan, the oil reserves will be depleted by around 2104. As for more fact-based information, one that explicitly marks the end of UAE’s oil prosperity is, not surprisingly, nowhere to be found (at least in the Open Source). Be that as it may, the state is adopting variegated pre-emptive initiatives that are to secure its future before the oil drought befalls it.
Space for Investment
The UAE have been enjoying a very positive reputation of a cooperative state open to investors from many differing sectors. Capitalizing on this favorable image has allowed the state to buttress its supplementary actions aimed at supporting its economic oil-based system with additional ventures.
One of the most noticeable dimension for spurring economic activity is the modern arts market. With a number of art galleries scattered over Dubai, the Emirates are surely developing a closed circuit of non-monetary wealth exchange.
Established by an Iranian-born economist turned philanthropist Ramin Salsali, the Salsali Private Museum operates since 2011 providing space for manifold manifestations of art both Arabic and European. The permanent collection consists of over 900 pieces of painting, photography, video art, sculpture and installation. Moreover, SPM hosts the collections of guest collectors and travelling exhibitions from around the world. The gallery’s existence is crucial to the longevity of the Dubai arts market, which is proven by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s token of recognition and praise of Salsali’s undertaking expressed in proclaiming Ramin Salasi as the Patron of the Arts for the consecutive years, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. By the by, Polish readers might draw a slight analogy between Salasi’s ascent to Maecenatism and Wojciech Fibak – the succesful Polish tenis player’s avalanche-like interest in modern art in the wake of his sports career.
But let us recur to the vibrant art scene of Dubai, especially to the hotbed of art that Al-Qouze is. There you can find Carbon 12 Dubai, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde hosting the late Hassan Sharif’s Cotton Rope, Green.Art.Gallery exhibiting not only an intriguing array of contemporary sculptures but also paintings of modern female Egyptian artists, FN Designs and last but not least the Mine – a space of art so obscure and offbeat that “will exhibit and retail design and art works of a new generation of emerging creative talent from local and across the world and at the same time, create a space of stimulation and urban fun” according to the gallery’s founder Sanaz Askari. Sikka Gallery is just another place to behold the modern Arab art both figurative and non-figurative.
All of the above-mentioned and many other galleries are open throughout the whole year, yet it is in the month of March when the artful condensation reaches its heights at the Dubai Arts Festival.
Think whatever you like, but Dubai is not the sole arts market galvanizer in the Emirates, for Sharjah is right on its heels with the Sharjah Arts Foundation (SAF) running since 2009. The Foundation is a robust hub of art focused on advancing “an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art” as well as it emphasizes the “transformative role of art”. With SAF’s flagships – the Sharjah Biennial and the March Meeting – artists from the region and beyond are brought together in the name of giving the society the best of art. On the Foundation’s official site one may find a confession of leadership provision in the production of art – quite a self-explanatory statement with regard to the organization’s purpose.
The general feeling emanating from the art sphere of Dubai (and Sharjah) is that of careful, at times sterile, minimalism. One would err, however, if he pigeonholed the Emirati art marked as lacking identity, for the truth is just the opposite. Programs such as the Triple E or E3 (East/East-East) “seek to initiate an experimental East-arts narrative” free from the constraining influence of the Western curators, unlimited by the Western institutions. The East/East-East nurtures geopolitically shaped idiosyncrasies of the Eastern art and promises to “thrive off self-reflexive regional dialogues, using such insularity and rapprochement to find alternative approaches to art from the geographical East.”
Amusing as it is, every single herein listed gallery deems itself “unique”, “trailblazing” and “shaking up the local scene with a vast, ever changing collection” just to deal a fatal blow to the competing art venues’ mainstream bore-galore. Well, perhaps the profuseness of alt-artish (not rightish) jargon bespeaks the overall goal of Emirati businessmen, which is to make the Emirates a space for unrestrained investments.
Talking of space, without a doubt, it IS the next big thing. And yes, Poland actually features in all of this. But first things first, as the Emirates were stargazing for quite some time and, sure, they mean business. On September 2017, the word about the Mars Scientific City broke out. The purpose of this enterprise – to build a habitat, an analogue city that will simulate living conditions on the Red Planet. The end goal – to send human, seasoned colonizers to Mars by the year 2117 as part of the Mohammed Bin Rashi Space Centre’s Emirates Mars Mission. The Emirates have easily earmarked around US$ 136 million to the construction of the City. As Mrs. Sawsan Abbas Alalawi – the Second Secretary of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Warsaw – has revealed, money and resources are not even a minute concern to the oil-rich federation. What they need is brainpower, beautiful young minds that will infuse the project with innovative solutions, breaking methods and lively energy. Now, doesn’t that sound familiar?
Silicon Valley became America’s intellectual, innovative backbone ablaze with brainwaves of the world’s most potent minds. However, an idea that once shone with a twilight of the new brave world now becomes unobligated by commercialism, extremely high accommodation costs and living prices, all of which turn the Silicon Valley into a trite slogan, a concept that has drifted away from its primarily enlightened course. The Emirates are well aware of this, hence their endeavors of rebranding the idea. The Mars Scientific City will not only have all that Silicon Valley has to offer, but at a more reasonable price. Moreover, it will offer the thing that SV already depleted, that is the magnetic entrepreneurial atmosphere – a sheer magnet for young pioneers of science and investment.
No wonder Poles are interested in partaking in the UAE opus magnum. Moreover, the interest is mutual, as the Emirates are well aware of the Polish brainpower and its capacity of adding value to the whole enterprise. A dedicated group of physicists, human-robot relations specialists, paramedics and linguists rallied up under a bold name of “[EXORiON] Foundation” was heard by His Excellency dr. Youssif Issa Al-Sabri, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Republic of Poland in November 2017. During the meeting words of genuine interest were exchanged and the intent to establish a firm ground for collaboration has been expressed. [EXORiON] Foundation is no bunch of newbies, having a record of proven experience including an analogue mission carried out in Utah, U.S.A. In 2017, and it should come as no surprise, the ever-striving forward group has set its eyes on Iceland, where it will be realizing yet another analogue mission in 2019. The main objective of its mission is to test the brand new and unprecedented invention that is a fully moveable space base. Stay tuned for more details by following their website. Iceland will be another boundary to be crossed, another threshold to be over mounted and yet another step towards mission EXO 2021 – its realization planned for nowhere else, but the United Arab Emirates which are the home of the Earth’s most extreme climatic and weather conditions – a model test ground for the future colonization of Mars.
SpaceArt… the Art of Space?
The years 2016-2017 should be remembered as an important time for Polish-Emirati relations. This comes up on the ground of the following achievements: on September 15-21, 2016, the Polish Investment Service Center (Centrum Obsługi Inwestycji) delegated a mission to the Gitex Technology Week, where the Polish technological potential (i.e.: solutions within the sphere of augmented reality, IT services, progressive housing and architecture, nourishment and medicine, renewable energy, agriculture and animal production, security, transportation, logistics and education) was presented. It is worth a mention that the Polish stand was the largest, European start-ups dedicated stand of all GITEX. Plus, it has garnered quite an attention amongst the visitors.
Last but not least, His Excellency dr. Youssif Issa Al-Sabri, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Republic of Poland announced during his speech at the Celebration of the 46th UAE National Day that took place in Sheraton Warsaw on the 3rd of December, that the talks between His Excellency President of the Republic of Poland Mr. Andrzej Duda and himself on the establishment of a Polish Trade Bureau in Dubai are drawing to a satisfying conclusion.
All of this makes one wonder about the exciting future that is slowly unfolding before the young Polish entrepreneurs, scientists and artists. One may rest assured that the Polish-Emirati collaboration will develop faster than the streams of gas burst out of the beautiful Butterfly Nebula (6k miles/h!), propelled from one side by the inborn Arab nature of discoverers (think Ibn Battuta) and conquerors (think ‚Amr ibn al-‚As), from the other by the offspring and compatriots of grand inventors and scientists like Mikołaj Kopernik (Copernicus), Jan Szczepanik, Maria Skłodowska-Curie and the Polish astronaut Mirosław Hermaszewski.
Suffice to say that the future of Mars Scientific City is as radiant as a type 1A supernova. It will pull in investors from all over the world, filling in the gap left once oil reserves are drained and perhaps will bring the arts market to a new, astronomical dimension. Imagine works of Polish artists such as Paweł Polisiak embellishing the interiors of Mars City domes.
With that said, see you on Mars.
Maciej Maria Jastrzębski
 Kadry, Mohamad (November 18, 2013), A minefield of art; [accessed: 2017-12-03] https://www.khaleejtimes.com/article/20131118/ARTICLE/311189937/1058
 Starr, Michelle (September 28, 2017), Check Out This Incredible Mars City The UAE Is Building For Training Purposes; [accessed: 2017-12-17] https://www.sciencealert.com/to-prepare-for-mars-the-uae-is-building-a-simulated-martian-city-on-earth
 Możliwości inwestycyjne oraz współpraca gospodarcza między Zjednoczonymi Emiratami Arabskimi a Rzeczpospolitą Polską. (brochure), Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Warsaw, pp. 17-27.