Think global, act local: the ‘Oscars of the art world’ come to Dubai

The world’s first ever Global Art Awards are being held in Dubai in November. Apparently they will “honour outstanding works of artists from across the globe” in 18 visual arts categories from photography to street art via video, installation, “smart phone art” and “bespoke jewellery”.

The Awards will be presented at the Armani Hotel on 17 November 2017, an event that will be attended by “internationally acclaimed artists, critics, art fair directors, and more …” (that’s the press release’s ellipsis, not magpie’s).

According to the blurb, the Global Art Awards “were created to honour and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of artists, galleries, and art professionals worldwide … Recognising excellence and innovation in art and design”. The goal apparently is to establish these awards as the Oscars of the art world, primarily it seems in terms of the razzmatazz and hype they might generate.

That would certainly account for the choice of the Armani for the awards night, rather than somewhere with a bit more art-world credibility. The judges are an interesting collection, too – “art moguls, business leaders and industry experts” as the bumf says.

The list certainly includes a lot of folk who bring detailed knowledge of the commercial side of art – like José Ignació Ruiz Caparrós, who has a gallery and presides over ANACART, the Spanish National Art Association, which promotes European artists in China; and Cristoph Noe, who runs both LarrysList, an “art market knowledge company” with a database of 3,500 of art collectors, and The Ministry of Art, an art marketing business in Hong Kong.

Then there’s Jean Minguet, head economist at Artprice, which with some justification calls itself “the world leader of art market information”; and Sophie Neuendorf, Director of Gallery Network & Partnerships for artnet, one of the most successful art market hubs – majoring on auctions, running online auctions itself, linking buyers to galleries (Ms Neueundorf also happens to be the daughter of artnet’s founder). Both Artprice and artnet are sponsors of the Global Art Awards.

Another sponsor on the jury is Joobin Bekhrad. He’s the founder and editor of REORIENT, a rather good print magazine that celebrates contemporary Middle Eastern arts and culture with a determinedly non-political non-partisan stance and an impressive roster of lifestyle advertisers.

For art-world credibility there Satoshi Maruhashi, director of the Tokyo International Art Fair; and Daryl Goh, manager of the University of Singapore’s Centre For the Arts, Singapore and founding curator at the NPE Art Residency there (as an art studio and gallery it nurtures and promotes individual artists alongside more strictly commercial activities).

Of course the jury has a couple of local luminaries too. Mahmood Bin Karam Al Fars brings his experience as Sales & Campaign Manager for Abu Dhabi Media and Commercial Director/Media Advisor to the Arab Fashion Council; Ghada Kunash is the interior designer who runs a clutch of decorative art businesses – the Vindemia antiques gallery, Fann À Porter, The Workshop.

You may gather from this list that a penchant for indepth art criticism is not a major prerequisite – not that these individuals aren’t capable of being critical, just that there’s nobody on the jury whose main business is assessing the quality of art rather than say its market appeal.

In a somewhat spurious nod to regional sensibilities and to encourage local enthusiasm, no fewer than five of the 18 available categories are specifically for Middle Eastern candidates (one of them fine-targeted further as “Best Emirati Award”). That calls into question just how global the Global Art Awards are; there’s no other geographical differentiation in there.

The nomination process isn’t exactly geared to artistic merit either. The jury doesn’t have any role in proposing art or artists for consideration; it seems that artists themselves (or their galleries, or PR people, or other representatives) complete the form and pay the fee of $125 per category.

Mind you, you don’t have to stop there; the registration form also includes a menu of optional extra services “to enhance your nomination” – social media posts, a “press release feature”, and so on. Your single entry, enhanced to the max, could cost you $950.

Nominated artists will be shown in a gallery on the website (not sure how this works for categories like Street Art, Video or Installations) and is open to a public vote. Given the lack of publicity so far, the public aren’t exactly engaged at the moment; but somehow the jury will find 100 top-voted artists to find their award finalists. We’re told that there will be around 180 nominees, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to discard 80 of them.

Award winners get a trophy but there’s no mention of a monetary prize – apart from a line in a press release about a ‘best of the best’ award: “the Global Art Awards will also honour one artist with the coveted title The Ultimate Best Global Artist of 2017, with this winner taking a cash prize fund”. No word on the size of the cash prize.

Neither nominees nor finalists are automatically invited to attend the Gala Awards Ceremony, of course. That’s another $500 per seat (but it does include a welcome cocktail, a three-course Armani dinner, and the after party till 2:30am).

Information and application details here.

What do you think?

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