Art in Abu Dhabi


(Ahmed Moustafa, Divine Bedrock Human Artistry, 2013-14)

The capital’s cultural scene will once again be awash with gallery owners, collectors and art enthusiasts as Abu Dhabi Art returns to the city


Abu Dhabi is well on the way to becoming a key destination on the global art map. The big-name galleries on Saadiyat Island are close to becoming a reality – the Louvre Abu Dhabi will open next year, the Guggenheim will follow in 2016. At the other end of the scale, there’s a flourishing art scene with individual artists and galleries like the Abu Dhabi Art Hub.

Returning to the capital for the sixth year, Abu Dhabi Art – organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) – is a key part of this buzz. As ever, the core is the exhibition provided by established galleries from across the globe highlighting their artists. But running alongside the main show is a dynamic cultural programme that shows the best of what Abu Dhabi has to offer.

From 5th to 8th November, Manarat al Saadiyat will provide the focus for art, workshops, live performances and talks.


(Aisha Khalid, Unfold Your Own Myth, 2013)

Setting the stage

One of the highlights of the Performing Arts programme is the unique Hours and Colours, curated by Fabrice Bousteau. Time will dictate the performance, as each hour of the day will be related to a colour – blue, orange and violet – and correlating symbols.

Hours and Colours was inspired by the best-known Books of Hours. These richly illustrated religious works were intended to impress, and Hours and Colours pays tribute to one of the most spectacular – ‘Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry’ (c.1410). The performance emphasises the techniques of calligraphy and illumination that are shared by both Islamic and western art.

The connection between the two will also be demonstrated in other performances, including the screening of ‘Blue, a True Color in Art’, featuring ancient Egyptian and modern day art with musical accompaniment by the German composer Nils Frahm.

Hours and Colours will also feature Patti Smith’s ‘Killer Road’, a sound exploration of the idea of perpetual motion and the cycle of life and death by the well-known American artist and musician; ‘Nioun Rec’ (Only Us), an improvised dialogue between music and dance performed by Amala Dianor; and ‘Rising Carpet’, an activated art-installation by Moussa Sarr.

Another addition to the Performing Arts segment is Durub Al Tawaya, a programme that explores the tawaya (spaces) of the city. This year’s edition has been inspired by the first Arabic novel ‘Hayy Bin Yaqzan’, written by the 12th century Andalusian physician and philosopher Ibn Tufail.


(Ahmet Elhan-Old Mosque- VIII, 2014)

The novel was highly influential and is meaty in its themes – the relationship between nature and humankind, scientific enquiry and self-knowledge, how the dependence that humans have on material goods can be a distraction from the truth.

Durub Al Tawaya will present ‘Paper Music’, a cine-concert through video animation by William Kentridge and live music composed by Philip Miller; the piece explores the connection between sound and image.

Sixteen youngsters from the capital will perform ‘That Night Follows Day’, by Forced Entertainment’s Creative Director, Tim Etchells. The chorus of children will humorously address the audience, exploring and interrogating the range of advice, facts, truisms, white lies and excuses they hear from their elders.

Finally, ‘Automobile’ by Joe Namy will enthral audiences with a street performance at Manarat Al Saadiyat, exploring the sonic freedom that exists in the desert around Abu Dhabi city.


(Sherrie Levine, Alligator, 2014, Bronze, Courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery)

Organic growth

The talent of homegrown artists will be in full bloom this November, as the Abu Dhabi Art Wings Project returns for the fifth time to give Emirati artists the chance to show their work to an international audience.

“The Wings Project has become synonymous with the Abu Dhabi Art programme and provides encouragement to young artists and designers as well as supporting the local art community,” says Alanood Al Hammadi, Senior Exhibitor Relations, Abu Dhabi Art.

Every year, a selection of winners is chosen. This year the winning artists are: Amna Mohammed Alblooshi, Fatma Mohammed Obaid AlMulla, Hamad Rahma Al Falasi and Sarah Al Agroobi. Designs from all the winning contestants will be available to purchase from the merchandise store at Manarat Al Saadiyat.

“This project was devised to illustrate the talent that is plentiful throughout the UAE, and introduce young Emirati artist and designers to the art world, and the vast opportunities that are available,” added Al Hammadi.


(Mouteea Murat ‘Trial No. 92; A Date with Spring’ 2013)

What is art?

Talks at Abu Dhabi Art offers a variety of speakers. The Louvre Abu Dhabi: Talking Art Series panel is sure to be packed, featuring as it does Jean Nouvel, Ernesto Neto and Vincent Pomarède on ‘Museums as Sites for New Experiences’.

Other guaranteed draws include a lecture-performance from Martin Creed titled ‘What is Art?’. Creed won the Turner Prize in 2001 with his characteristically divisive Work No 227, an empty room in which the lights went on and off every five seconds.

How art and artists engage with wider audiences is also discussed by speakers including another Turner Prize winner, Richard Long – one of the founders of the land art movement – as well as Hassan Hajjaj and Job Smeets from Studio Job, whose work attempts to redefine the decorative arts for the modern age (typically exuberant and quirky interior design elements refashioned out of unexpected materials).

Art enthusiasts and locals alike will looking forward to ‘Seeing Through Light’, the first chance to see what the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection might include. The show, which opens in tandem with Abu Dhabi Art on 5th November, features interactive artworks from three artists – Angela Bulloch, Rachid Koraichi and Shirazeh Houshiary – that use light both as a medium and as a muse.

Jack Dignum



Interview with Fatema Al Mazrouie

We sit down with artist Fatema Al Mazrouie, who was provided a platform at Abu Dhabi Art thanks to Salwa Zeidan Gallery, to find out her thoughts on art in the UAE.


How would you describe your style of art? 

I always strive for uniqueness and development of ideas and interests that propel my work further, without losing touch with the viewer. This is reflected in my ongoing experimentation with different materials and techniques that vary from collage, acrylic and calligraphy to mixed media works.

In many of my creations I combine textile material used in the Emirates during the 1940s and 50s with traditional elements and models from the UAE cultural milieu that are no longer used. I find it suitable to express my ideas through many different mediums.


How has the capital’s art scene changed over the time you have been an artist?

I believe it has really changed a lot, especially from the times when I made my first steps as an artist. It continues to grow and change rapidly, and I find this to be very positive. Naturally, Abu Dhabi Art was, and continues to be, one of the most important pillars for facilitating these improvements.


How does it feel to be a part of Abu Dhabi Art?

I am so proud to be a part of this event every year. Last year Salwa Zeidan Gallery had an entire Signature booth dedicated to my work, which was an amazing experience. This is a very exciting time of the year for all of us.

Abu Dhabi Art is an event that offers abundant possibilities and experiences, regardless of one being an art expert or simply an admirer; it is dedicated to everyone who appreciates art. It offers us a new perspective on the international art world, worldwide trends and fresh experiences – all handsomely packed into a four-day event.


(Fatema AlMazrouie: Nostalgia series, 2014)

What is the future for art here?

I think that there will be more and more art happenings in the capital. Abu Dhabi has embarked on an ambitious but sustainable road for development of its cultural industry. Abu Dhabi Art is certainly one of the main events supporting this growth. Soon there will be an entire Cultural District here on Saadiyat Island. I really believe that this positive progress will bring many benefits, not only for the artists and the art world, but also for the entire capital. It is amazing to observe this change and I think we are all eager to see what’s yet to come.


Do you have some advice for young artists?

First, I would advise them to study art. I think the academic education in this field will give them the right skills and necessary experience that will give a push to their artistic career. Second, they should always stay updated with the latest happenings, build their art network and attend art shows. Finally, I would suggest they read about art and study artists’ achievements. As with everything else, they must work hard until they reach their best level.



Wednesday 5th November
3pm to 10pm

Thursday 6th November
3pm to 10pm

Friday 7th November
2pm to 10pm

Saturday 8th November
2pm to 10pm

Tickets to Abu Dhabi Art are complimentary. The commercial sections of Abu Dhabi Art are designed for visitors aged 13 and above. To find out more visit:

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