As platforms for new talent, cultural institutions have an interest in nurturing and supporting up-and-coming artists. For that reason, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has launched an ongoing partnership with Swiss luxury watch brand Richard Mille to host an annual exhibition that will present the work of four to six UAE-based artists who have submitted proposals, with one winner set to be awarded $50,000. Opening on November 18, the first Art Here exhibition will lead with the theme, “Memory, Time, and Territory,” and showcase 2021’s contenders for the Richard Mille Art Prize. 

Each of this year’s shortlisted artists epitomize the new generation’s approach to art, with some, from Italian-Lebanese artist Cristiana de Marchi and Dubai’s Mohammed Kazeem to Palestinian artist Mays Albaik and Kuwait-born Tarek Al-Ghoussein, practicing across multiple disciplines such as video, photography, performance, and sculpture. The exhibition will also capture the region’s diverse cultural heritage from authentic perspectives: Dubai’s Latifa Saeed, Moscow’s Taus Makhacheva, and Bahraini-American artist Nasser Alzayani all explore cultural narratives in their work.

This year’s shortlisted artists for the Richard Mille Art Prize represent an array of disciplines and cultural backgrounds. Image: Louvre Abu Dhabi

As relative newcomers in their respective fields, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened just four years ago, and Richard Mille, a premium watch brand since 2001, make for a natural pairing. Their collaborative outing follows in the footsteps of art prizes such as France’s Duchamp Prize, the US’ Hugo Boss prize, and the UK’s Turner Prize in helping to elevate local talent.

And as Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Curatorial and Collections Managing Director, further points out, collaboration runs throughout the museum, which is itself the result of a cultural collaboration between the UAE and France. “Collaboration usually brings about innovation, resulting in better ideas,” she says. “It results in more impactful outcomes which benefit the cultural and creative sector and its development.”

In conversation with Jing Culture & Commerce, Noujaim shared more about the shape and scope of the collaboration.

What does Richard Mille bring to the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s brand and mission?
Through this collaboration, both brands are able to prove our commitment to the communities in the region. The launch of the Art Here exhibition and the Richard Mille Art Prize allows Louvre Abu Dhabi to not only introduce fresh contemporary artworks to its visitors, but also to reaffirm its desire to engage with contemporary artists in the region. I believe that this engagement is an essential and important chapter in the universal story of cultural connections and human creativity our museum promotes.

Why did you decide that this would work best as a collaborative project?
Art is internationally recognized to be a well-established domain for partnerships, especially when it comes to collaborations with exceptional brands. This particular project was a pioneering opportunity in this region since such partnerships offer the potential for growing your audience. There is the added advantage that the dialogue through private-public sector partnerships is immense, and thinking laterally on a basis of shared values can have lasting impact on the strength and development of the cultural and creative sector regionally. 

Another important point to note is that the museum is highly keen on supporting artists and the monetary award of $50,000 — a significant sum to any artist’s career and practice — was only possible through the forged partnership.

Works at the inaugural Art Here exhibition will explore how history, place, and memory intersect. Image: Louvre Abu Dhabi

How has the Richard Mille brand help shape the direction of Art Here?
Richard Mille allowed Louvre Abu Dhabi to have autonomy over choosing the theme for this year’s exhibition and thus, we chose the topic of “Time.” We felt that this was an appropriate choice since the core concept of time is what acts as a common bridge between the institution and the brand, thereby providing further emphasis on the partnership.

Watches show the progress of time, artists record moments in time, and museums take people through a journey through time. This idea gave birth to this year’s theme, “Memory, Time, and Territory,” to which every artist’s submission responded to. What makes this exhibition even more interesting is the fact that it is not curated but rather the seven shortlisted artists were selected by this year’s jury — all of whom bring industry, local, and curatorial expertise.

What have been the main highlights of collaborating with Richard Mille?
The collaboration between Louvre Abu Dhabi and Richard Mille helps artists benefit from the visibility both brands have to offer and provides them with a global platform to showcase their art, allowing them to reach wider audiences. This is in line with the vision of both the museum and the brand to support artists in a direct manner.

The passion Richard Mille has demonstrated for this project has to be one of the biggest benefits of entering this partnership. Richard Mille has gone above and beyond in its participation in this project and the brand’s enthusiasm has facilitated in the smooth running of this operation. Another benefit is that both Richard Mille and Louvre Abu Dhabi are aligned on their dedication to support the arts, as well as sharing and instilling a passion and appreciation for art — something that is amplified through this collaboration.


Jing Culture & Commerce