It is no secret that the art ecosystem in the Gulf is dominated by women. Much more than figureheads, there are female royal patrons, experienced expatriates and homegrown professionals leading cornerstone institutions including Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, 21,39 Jeddah Arts, Qatar Museums and Sharjah Art Foundation.
Western observers often delight in pondering why so many women are at the forefront of this scene, a relative newcomer to the global art world. “How is it possible that women’s voices can be heard so loudly in the Middle East?”, they ask, through thinly veiled Orientalism.
To the women themselves, gender is almost a non-issue. The Art Newspaper spoke to three female directors who are shaping the future of museums in the Gulf about their efforts to build creative communities, embrace inclusivity in the workplace and reveal the relevance—beyond the beauty—of Islamic art.