Art takes off in Artport Challenge at Abu Dhabi International Airport - GulfToday

Art takes off in Artport Challenge at Abu Dhabi International Airport

Abu Dhabi art 2

A billboard carries an artwork.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Following the call for graphic design applications in June and the response that followed, Institut Français in the UAE – the cultural department of the French Embassy — JCDecaux, the worldwide outdoor advertising company, Abu Dhabi Airports and BB Media have congratulated nine winners of the event at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Through the initiative, the partners wanted to support and underline cultural life in Abu Dhabi, by transforming the airport into a first-of-its-kind open-air museum, using JCDecaux’s outdoor advertising billboards. The public was asked to create state-of-the-art visuals by answering the question: “How will we travel in the future?” The competition inspired many applicants from across the UAE.


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The nine laureates include three children (6-12 years old), three teenagers (12-18 years old) and three adults. They are being rewarded by the exhibition of their artwork on 70 outdoor advertising billboards of Abu Dhabi International Airport, an iconic landmark in the UAE’s capital, from July 14 till August end.

The selection board was composed of Xavier Chatel, Ambassador of France to the UAE; Shareef Al Hashmi, Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi Airports; Martin Sabbagh, Chief Executive Officer of JCDecaux Middle East and Africa; and Abdun Najeeb, Managing Director of BB Media. The board included three art experts: Emirati artist Afra Al Dhaheri; Dubai-based artist eL Seed; and Olivier Peyricot, designer at La Cité du Design (The City of Design), Saint-Etienne, France. The competition also celebrates the UAE’s 50th anniversary and the nation’s long-term efforts to support creativity, by creating a major cultural event.

Abu Dhabi art 1 Art on view at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Chatel said: “I congratulate the winners, who have successfully managed to mobilise their artistic skills and use their imagination to create impressive artworks. “As we celebrate France’s Bastille today (July 14), the beautiful ceremony has been a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the friendship between the UAE and France, and the importance that our two countries attach to culture, creation and innovation.

“I look forward to welcoming the artists this autumn for a second ceremony on the France Pavilion at Expo 2020, which will highlight these major themes.” Francois Bourienne, Chief Commercial Officer of Abu Dhabi Airports, commented: “Abu Dhabi Airports has been delighted to enable this celebration of arts and culture inside the emirate’s foremost piece of aviation infrastructure: Abu Dhabi International Airport. “At Abu Dhabi Airports, we consistently seek to provide a re-imagined airport experience, transforming travel for passengers using our facilities. “We hope that the artistic installations both delight and inspire travellers using our airport facilities, continuing to demonstrate Abu Dhabi International Airport as one of the region’s leading airports.”

Sabbagh said that “JCDecaux is delighted to be part and initiator of the cultural initiative ‘Showcase your artwork at Abu Dhabi International Airport’ by making our advertising assets available for UAE artists and amateurs. “This contest is perfectly in line with our mission as mobility and sustainability are two of the major themes of our innovation strategy. We are very excited to promote this world-premiere project with our partners, which transformed Abu Dhabi International Airport into an open-air museum for the local community.”

The initiative was launched on the occasion of the French National Day, which falls on July 14, during which the 50th anniversary of the Emirati-French friendship was also celebrated. The winners will exhibit their artwork at a specific event at the France Pavilion during Expo2020. Abu Dhabi Airports is a public joint-stock company, and part of ADQ, one of the region’s largest holding companies with a diverse portfolio of major enterprises spanning key sectors of Abu Dhabi’s non-oil economy. The Institut Français in the UAE is the cultural and cooperation department of the French Embassy in the UAE, and part of a wider network of French Institutes across the world.

Its mission is to share French cultural, intellectual and academic productions and expertise, as well as promote cooperation between the UAE and France in these sectors.

BBMedia has more than two decades of experience in the field of digital printing and signage. JCDecaux is present in more than 80 countries and 3,670 cities with over 10,000 inhabitants. It has more than 55 years of working experience. Airports and their environs are being increasingly used as art museums — or terminals, if you want it that way. Their massive atriums, endless corridors, clean and sanitised spaces and — every marketer’s dream — captive travellers, make them a perfect venue for art.

Art, it has been proved, has therapy value. It is the right antidote for the stress of travelling, layovers and delays, the exhaustion of endless queues, invasive questions, jittery fellow passengers, irritating kids and jetlag. Also, if employees were once famous for gathering around the water cooler, these days they could be as well seen around an artwork. Artworks create a sense of place and belonging, and one’s workplace could be defined by the artworks it hosts. Travellers can get a glimpse of local culture by looking at the art on airport walls or billboards. They are the gateways to culture. There are quite a few airports which seek the help of local museums to curate their works. In turn, airports help museum funding and publicity. Travellers who are nowadays armed with a mobile along with their air tickets, help market local art, since they can be counted upon to click and share the artwork they see as they travel. Finally, airports are also trustees of the art collection they hold for the public. 

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