The New York Times Art for Tomorrow conference, which takes place from 10-13 March at the W Doha Hotel & Residences, has become one of the most interesting events on the arts calendar, with more than 200 “art and cultural influencers” arriving from more than 30 countries to debate the present status of art and its immediate potential.
It’s also conveniently adjacent to Art Dubai (15-18 March), which means both events should benefit from the influx of Art for Tomorrow attendees. Its audience includes museum directors, gallerists, curators, auction houses, collectors, entrepreneurs, investors, financial institutions, lawyers, artists, architects, designers, urban planners, corporate and civic leaders, government officials, and tourism organisations – there’s something for everything.
The format is basically individual interviews and panel discussions led by NYT journalists; the conference aims to investigate “the issues that occupy the territory between art and public life” – new boundaries, where and why art follows the rules or challenges them, and art’s role in creating and influencing personal, corporate, urban and national identities will all be explored. The event also promotes the role of art in economic growth and development, and as a mechanism for city or corporate branding.
The theme is Boundaries, Identity and the Public Realm. Despite the overlay of commercialism that this implies, Art for Tomorrow does at least offer some discussion of what art and culture are actually for – and by implication, who should pay for it.
The speakers for this third edition of the conference come from all over the world but do include some of the UAE more interesting thinkers. Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi (left at last year’s event) is always good value, and he’ll be talking about modern Arab art with Mathaf founder Sheikh Hassan al-Thani. Alserkal Avenue director Vilma Jurkute chats with Tariq al-Jaidah, founder of Katara Art Centre, about competition or collaboration between GCC institutions.
Christo is there too, being interviewed about ‘reimaging the public realm’; hopefully we will get some update on the giant Mastaba project in the Abu Dhabi desert near Liwa. (That’s a scale model on the right, not a supersize Christo.)
The side events for delegates include a private tour of the Picasso-Giacometti exhibition at the Fire Station – Artist in Residence in Doha (an interesting-looking exhibition of 120 works that opens 22 Feb). There are also visits to Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Islamic Art, and the Al Riwaq gallery where a retrospective of Dia Azzawi is about to open; Azzawi is also on one of the conference panels.
Onsite there is also START Doha, a boutique art fair (“focussed and intimate”) that represents the first overseas export of Saatchi Gallery’s START London. START Doha runs at the W in parallel with the conference.
Standard registration costs $1,800 (or $900 for NGOs, academic and government employees; students pay $300). That buys access to all three days.