Iranian art entrepreneur plans to fund Dubai’s first public art museum through citizens’ investment.

Tehran-born Ramin Salsali, a contemporary art collector and gallerist, plans to open Dubai’s first public museum of contemporary art in 2014. Ordinary people, rather than the UAE government, are Salsali’s target financial backers for the Dubai Museum of Contemporary Art.

DEMOCA Creative Director Alia Dawood and Founder Ramin Salsali.

DEMOCA Creative Director Alia Dawood and Founder Ramin Salsali.

The Dubai Museum of Contemporary Art (DMOCA), which will be the “first public museum for contemporary art in Dubai” according to the institution’s official press release, will be financed by small private backers. Investment bundles containing a maximum of ten shares will be sold to each individual and public or private institution wishing to support the museum, eventually making DMOCA the Gulf state’s first publicly funded art institution.

Privately owned art on public display

Located  in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa district, the initial phase of the museum’s construction will begin in 2014 and is expected to house 30,000 square feet of temporary exhibition space where, says online Iranian news site Payvand, artworks on loan from private collections will be on show. Salsali told The Art Newspaper that he will also donate part of his own sizeable private collection to the venture in a move to build up the museum’s permanent collection.

The Dubai Museum for Contemporary Art’s Creative Director Alia Dawood, interviewed by Harper’s BAZAAR Art Arabia, said,

I think (the museum) is something that Dubai needs, it’s something very different and will aim to give back to the community as well. It’s also a space where people can feel they belong, creating a sense of ownership for the people.

More investment means future expansion

In addition to exhibition halls and storage facilities for artwork, DMOCA will include a cinema and a public library with a focus on art and design texts, as well as a sculpture garden. As public investment in the project increases, Salsali plans to expand DMOCA to incorporate an art hotel and studio spaces, as well as providing residency opportunities to national and international artists.

The Dubai Museum of Contemporary Art has been designed to be able to to show video works and light art on its external facade.

The Dubai Museum of Contemporary Art has been designed to be able to to show video works and light art on its external facade.

A museum “by the people, for the people”

Dawood, who studied architecture in the UK, designed the museum structure to reflect the philosophy of collective ownership. The facade will be composed of hundreds of illuminated cubes, which can be increased as more people invest in the institution. The cubes will also be able to host art or videoworks, according to the DMOCA press release, opening up possibilities for outdoor exhibitions and screenings.

“We want the museum to be owned by everybody,” Dawood told Harper’s BAZAAR. “The idea is to start small and let it grow, and its impact will be global and great for Dubai. It’ll be a museum by the people for the people.”

Middle East art infrastructure

The UAE has seen an uptick in art infrastructure in recent years. The Gulf State hosts Art Dubai, which in 2013 saw crowds of over 25,000 in attendance. Ramin Salsali opened the Salsali Private Museum in Dubai in 2011, a contemporary art museum dedicated to showcasing the entrepreneur’s 700-piece strong collection. The Louvre and the Guggenheim Museum both plan to open second institutions in Abu Dhabi after 2014.


Related Topics: contemporary art museumsEmirati art and artistsgalleries in the UAE

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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