From paintings on the walls at home to galleries and a blossoming local art culture and new gallery openings set to come, the drive for creativity in the capital has never been stronger.
And to continue that dialogue, from 16th to 19th November the world’s artists, experts, curators and culture vultures will all converge on the capital to foster a deeper discussion that transcends cultural boundaries.
Abu Dhabi Art is back, and this year it’s all about setting the world alight with art.
At the centre of this year’s event is the concept of the exchange of ideas on a global scale, and to bring that discourse to the fore is Majlis Fann.
Curated by Reem Fadda, Majlis Fann will gather the public, the artists and the experts to galvanise global thinking with a programme of talks, panels and discussions.
“The idea of the majlis is a very important thing in the UAE’s culture and the Arab world,” Reem notes. “We’re appropriating these two ideas from the global world of art into a local perspective. Majlis Fann becomes this salon of art that is about sharing ideas.”
“[Abu Dhabi Art] produces a very unique perspective of what Abu Dhabi is in terms of its production of art.
“We want audiences to come in and inject the fair with new energy. We’re spreading the wealth of knowledge from various places and bringing it here to Abu Dhabi to think through these terms together.”
With big names on the agenda including curator Okwui Enwezor and architect David Adjaye, Majlis Fann has lined up a crew of luminaries to fire up the discussion on the ever-evolving concept of art on all levels.
“The representation of art is still about Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe and the same names, and that’s a problem when you’re talking about global narratives,” Reem comments.
“It was very important for us to highlight a global perspective, but one that also integrates the Arab world within that, and that was a way for us to show the diversity.”
But while all the world’s a stage for this year’s edition, how does the event give voice and traction to the blossoming art movement on Abu Dhabi’s shores?
“It’s very important for us to show what the Arab world can give,” says Reem. “The UAE art scene is very diverse and engaged on multiple fronts.”
With that in mind, keep an eye out for some talent right on our doorstep at the fair from artists pushing the boundaries in the UAE.
Shaikha Al Mazrou (Lawrie Al Shabibi Gallery) explores concepts of perception and reality within her pieces, while acclaimed artist Abdul Qader Al Rais (Hunar Gallery) represents architectural scenes from traditional Emirati neighbourhoods.
Ebtisam Abdul Aziz (The Third Line Gallery) rewires the workings of the human brain with mathematically inspired installations, and Najaf Makki (Hunar Gallery) is known as a pioneer of the original contemporary Emirati art scene.
“It’s about the injection of ideas into a city, the growth of the patronage, the new visitors that come in every year… This is what we’re trying to channel,” she adds.
“Abu Dhabi Art is a moment of celebration,” reflects Reem. “Everybody comes together and it’s a moment for people to enjoy that through the lens of art – it’s like aid for art.”
Majlis Fann is running daily throughout Abu Dhabi Art with a series of public panels and discussions from 2pm–7pm.
While art may traditionally be thought of as something displayed in a gallery, one exhibition for this year’s fair is taking the creativity beyond four walls.
Curated by Fabrice Bousteau, Beyond features large-scale installations to initiate a dialogue on art and its engagement with public space, using Abu Dhabi as an urban canvas.
Brooklyn-based duo Aziz+Cucher will be involved in the creative fray and their work ‘Time of the Empress’ will take the stage alongside a global line-up with a seven-channel video installation.
Featuring ghostly animations of buildings continually rising and falling into a cloud of pixels with rhythmic and mesmerising certainty, the piece explores the duo’s relationship to the Middle East – where they have family ties – and the conflicts of the region.
“We were interested in creating an image through animation using architecture that can evoke this sense of repetition, and how the historical nature of conflict is recurring,” explains Anthony Aziz, one half of Aziz+Cucher.
Sammy Cucher agrees: “The spirit behind the piece is a more distant perspective on history, it’s an acceptance that things will be there, and then they won’t be there. It’s an acceptance of the cycles of life, economy, nature and progress.”
As the sketched building lines descend into stark black and white pixels, the piece by design emulates an architectural blueprint to demonstrate the inevitable and temporary nature of the world.
“We see it as a kind of timepiece, as a framing device through a visual articulation of a society or civilisation that emerges, be withdrawn and then reappear in a new form,” Anthony comments.
“The buildings are almost schematic representations that don’t refer to anything in particular,” he adds. “They’re meant to look at a kind of modernity as we understand it today.”
But with artworks from Beyond expanding their reach to after the event itself for a six-month sojourn in Abu Dhabi, how does the pair anticipate their own work interacting with the capital?
“The ambiguity of the piece allows for interpretation to be made based on the context that it’s in,” Anthony reflects.
“Every city, in every region, has its own peculiar economic reality, and that always gives shape to understanding how you see and understand this kind of meditation on time, and how you understand development, gentrification and how money flows in and out of a society.”
Sammy adds: “We live in the present, and we always have this feeling that things will fall apart. But ultimately, it’s better if you accept it as part of the way things are. Things will always move in a circle and they will always rise and fall.”
Beyond will run daily throughout Abu Dhabi Art and until May 2017 in various locations across the capital.
Durub Al Tawaya
Curated by Tarek Abou Fetouh, Durub Al Tawaya – meaning underground water springs in Emirati dialect – aims to bring new ideas to the arts event with a series of performances across the capital.
Returning for its fourth year, this year’s programme includes live music, dance, performing arts and film screenings to reflect on and engage with Abu Dhabi’s own cosmopolitan landscape.
Abu Dhabi Art – the highlights
Here’s our pick of the best of the fest…
- Five Attempts to Speak with an Alien: Artist Anna Rispoli takes to a boat at Mina Port with a unique sea-bound performance. From 11th Zayed Port. 5.30pm–7.30pm.
- Abu Dhabi Art Workshops: Kids can explore their creativity with a series of workshops daily. 16th–19th ArtZone, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island. 2pm–9pm.
- 4: Chinese troupe TAO Dance Theatre take to the stage for a modern dance performance. 16th Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island. 8pm–8.30pm.
- Monumental Calligraphy: Two artists will perform their penmanship in different ways. 16th and 17th Garden, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island. Times vary.
- THE END on the Beach: Featuring a virtual humanoid singer, this concert presents a live version of opera The End by ATAK Dance Hall. 18th Asia de Cuba, Nation Riviera Beach Club, Corniche East. 10.30pm–midnight.
Need to know
What: Abu Dhabi Art
When: Performances start from 10th November, art fair runs from 16th to 19th November, 2pm–10pm daily
Where: Manarat Al Saadiyat and various locations across Abu Dhabi