Back for the tenth year, Abu Dhabi Art is looking to inspire the community to take an interest in the arts and be part of the conversation
It’s with this sentiment in mind that Abu Dhabi Art has been actively engaging the public year after year to take an interest in the arts.
Returning for its tenth edition, the annual event will bring a selection of international galleries, artists, collectors and the wider community together from 14th to 17th November at Manarat Al Saadiyat.
The unique event involves an art fair alongside a community-focussed educational programme, with exhibitions, performances, panel discussions and talks from local and international artists and curators that aim to inspire everyone to take an interest in the arts. This is alongside a year-long schedule of programming that includes solo gallery shows and public art commissions at venues across the city.
Growing year-on-year, the event continues to widen its scope, this year providing more public programming for the non-art buying public.
At the same time, Abu Dhabi Art is a dynamic platform that allows local talent to showcase their work to a global audience and promote the UAE as a leading cultural destination across the world.
Putting the pieces together
“Abu Dhabi Art is an interesting platform that is hybridising a largely commercial structure – an art fair – to support the overall regional art ecosystem, with a focus on artist commissions, mentoring younger artists, continuing conversations with curators and growing a regional audience,” says Hammad Nasar, one of three new curators for Abu Dhabi Art.
“Abu Dhabi, and indeed the UAE, is developing the building blocks to nurture a dynamic and substantial artistic community.
“There are a growing number of initiatives to support practice, and more and more institutions seeking to play a role in collection and display.”
Helping to contribute to the growing artistic community here, Hammad is curating the Structures of Meaning, Architectures of Perception exhibition at the event, bringing together a mix of artwork from 14 international artists, including three from the UAE.
The aim of the exhibition, which will remain at Manarat Al Saadiyat until 26th January, is to inspire the public and bring them back to re-interpret the diverse work on display.
“The exhibition explores two questions: How do we process what we see and experience? How do we reconcile what we think with what we feel?” Hammad explains.
“The works engage with ideas of constructing meaning through language, or through our navigation of space – our physical acts of moving, seeing and saying.
“I was keen to ensure that [the exhibition] has sufficient depth to encourage visitors to return, to find new things of interest, new readings that they did not experience the first time round.
“And as there are a number of new commissions, the experience is not yet over: I am looking forward to seeing it take shape as Abu Dhabi Art opens.”
The changing face of Abu Dhabi
Living in a busy city, it’s easy to not take stock of what surrounds us: the people, communities and buildings that make Abu Dhabi what it is.
Looking to document the essence of the city, the environment that we live in and the way the city is changing, Emirati graphic designer and photographer Hussain Al Moosawi is presenting his photographic collection, Growth, as part of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF) pavilion at this
Focussing on the facades of old and new buildings scattered across Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the project examines how changes to the landscape in the UAE mirror the development of the country overall while also provoking an emotional response among people who identify with the locations.
“I studied overseas and was away when a lot of the UAE’s development took place between 2003 and 2013; when I came back I felt a bit like I wasn’t a part of it because it all took place when I was gone,” explains Hussain.
“I think it’s important to document exactly what exists now because in another ten or 20 years it will all be changed again, and what exists now will be part of the architectural heritage of the country.
“[My exhibition] focuses mainly on architectural style and symmetry, which is an aspect of my theme, and it features a collection of buildings a lot of people will recognise and others might notice for the first time.
“From the feedback I’ve received, a lot of people have connections to these buildings – they maybe worked there, lived there or their dentist was there; these buildings have stories and mean different things to different people.
“When I started this project I didn’t anticipate this emotional connection and response, but now I see that it’s a powerful part of this exhibition.”
Encouraging engagement and helping to grow an appreciation of art in the community, Hussain will lead a photography workshop at Abu Dhabi Art to help people capture images of the event, improve their skills and use photography as a means of storytelling.
Helping to bridge the gap and encourage everyone to share their experiences of the event, the workshop is one way that those who don’t often identify with art can immerse themselves in the event and share their experiences.
“Making art accessible doesn’t mean that it’s a lower form of art or diminished in value,” adds Hussain.
“I want to help take people through the technicalities of documenting artwork.
“It’s easy to go snap, snap, snap and take pictures, but I want to share a little insight into techniques of how to take good pictures in an exhibition setting and where to share them – because this dictates the way you take them in the first place.”
Best of the fest
Bahraini artist and musician Hasan Hujairi will perform a concert of musical fusion, bringing together the sound of traditional tambura players from the Gulf region with beats from Bahraini percussionists and electronic music. 14th Nov. Free with ticket to opening reception. The Garden, Manarat Al Saadiyat. 7pm-7.30pm.
Hear contemporary artist Sarah Morris in conversation with Philip Tinari as she discusses her film Abu Dhabi, a commissioned work for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi created as
part of the future museum’s collection. 15th Nov. Free with Abu Dhabi Art ticket. Auditorium, Manarat Al Saadiyat. 6.30pm-7.30pm.
Experience Bird Watching by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, an audio essay created in collaboration with Amnesty International that investigates Saydnaya prison in Syria. Listen as former inmates reconstruct their experiences in the prison, where they are kept in darkness and blindfolded, through sound. 15th Nov. Free with Abu Dhabi Art ticket. Manarat Al Saadiyat. 8.30pm-9.30pm.
Join artist in residence Jeanne Blissett for a hands-on masterclass where you can use 2D and 3D methods to create abstract works based around the shapes and forms of Abu Dhabi’s architecture. 16th Nov. AED 100. The Art Studio, Manarat Al Saadiyat. 6pm-8pm.
Watch the premiere of The Price of Everything, a film that explores the world of contemporary art and artistic passion in the midst of a money-driven and consumer-based society. 17th Nov. Free with Abu Dhabi Art ticket, but registration required. Manarat Al Saadiyat. 5pm-6.30pm. Visit: bit.ly/2zfG5F2
Keep children busy while you explore Abu Dhabi Art with a range of activities that will inspire them to create their own works of art to take home after the event. 15th-17th November. AED 30 per child. The Art Studio, Manarat Al Saadiyat. 2pm-9pm.
Need to know
What: Abu Dhabi Art
When: 14th-17th November, 2pm-9pm
Where: Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island
Cost: From AED 55 for adults, free for children under seven and students, AED 100 for opening reception. Supplement required for some activities.