Abu Dhabi's Most Prestigious Art Festival Returning This November

Published June 23rd, 2017 - 12:00 GMT
Visitors at Abu Dhabi Art 2016; a floor piece by Hussain Sharif (foreground). (Gulf News)
Visitors at Abu Dhabi Art 2016; a floor piece by Hussain Sharif (foreground). (Gulf News)

Abu Dhabi's most anticipated art fair is returning with an unprecedent line-up as part of its ninth edition, running from November 8 to 11 at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island.

Organised by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), Abu Dhabi Art, the annual art fair and exhibition platform, will present a rich programme for art lovers and the wider public. Among the events are art installations and exhibitions, talks and events that take place during the fair’s run and beyond. Prior to that, a series of events will be organised in different locations throughout the year to build awareness and anticipation for the fair’s return.

“It’s my first time to be a part of Abu Dhabi Art, and I’m actually keen to see the fair, and the participating artists this year. I am also wondering how my work will be received, especially by the local audience,” said Magdi Mostafa, a Cairo-based artist who works primarily with site-specific, research-driven sound projects, multimedia installations and experimental music. He is represented by Galerie Brigitte Schenk, Cologne.

Shaikha Al Mazrou, an Emirati sculptor and lecturer at the University of Sharjah who is represented by Dubai-based gallery Lawrie Shabibi, said: “Art fairs locally and internationally have a different kind of audience compared to that of a group exhibition or even a solo show. An art fair generally has a vibrant market between the art dealer and the art collector. However, in a young country such as the Emirates, an art fair manifests a success in the growing interest in contemporary art.”

Both Mostafa and Al Mazrou, along with Nasser Al Salem, a Saudi artist, have been commissioned to create artworks as part of a new initiative entitled Beyond: Artist Commissions. Their works will be showcased in Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi city and Al Ain.

“I’m doing a site specific, new edition of my work Surface Of Spectral Scattering, an interactive multi-channel sound [and] light installation that I hope will provide an intensive imaginary space within the show to visitors,” said Mostafa.

“The work hangs between a series of tensions — between the intense pulling in and pulling out movement generated by the contrasting acoustic poles, the impersonal abstraction of a map and the deeply visceral, personal experience elicited through the motions of the piece,” he added.

Abu Dhabi Art has further expanded its Beyond section with the launch of Beyond: Emerging Artists, which is being led by leading Emirati artist Mohammad Kazem and artist, curator and writer Cristiana de Marchi. The co-curators will select three emerging UAE-based artists to undertake a tailor-made artist programme with them. They will then be tasked with creating works to be exhibited both during Abu Dhabi Art 2017 as well as for an additional two months after the fair’s conclusion.

“Beyond: Emerging Artists is a new development of the already consolidated Beyond section, with a special focus on UAE based young art practitioners. The selection process has been conducted through studio visits and portfolio reviews to identify a core of emerging artists and commission new ambitious artworks from them,” explained Kazem.

“Regretfully, at this stage we can’t reveal any details about the new commissions other than they are significantly different in their artistic approach and media and we trust will have a strong impact on Abu Dhabi Art visitors,” added de Marchi.

Another feature visitors can look forward to is a Galleries section at Abu Dhabi Art entitled Focus: Beyond Territory. Its curator, Dr Omar Kholeif, the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, will introduce a group of inter-generational artists and major projects from both emerging and leading galleries to a Middle Eastern audience for the first time, offering them an international platform. Among the artists being featured are Iftikhar Dadi and Nalini Malani (Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai); Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (In Situ, Paris), Giuseppe Penone (Marian Goodman Gallery, London and New York and Paris), Otto Piene (Spreuth Magers, London, Berlin and Los Angeles), and Hayv Kahraman (The Third Line) among others.

“I am excited [to have] the opportunity to curate my own section, Focus: Beyond Territory, which explores the concept of landscape in the broadest sense: the formal, social, economic and political landscape,” said Dr Kholeif.

Exhibition’s theme

“This is achieved through the work of both mid-career artists, such as Joana Hadjothomas and Khalil Joriege, as well as historic pioneers such as Otto Piene, and Giuseppe Penone,” he said. “Some of these artists have never shown before in the Gulf and they will be represented by some of the most important galleries globally.”

Dr Kholeif explained that the exhibition’s theme evolved through the concept that suggests that artists extend beyond the formal limits of just one kind of landscape but into multiple ones — both literal and imagined landscapes.

“I started off by looking at some of the most urgent artistic voices that I believe would be appropriate to showcase in Abu Dhabi for the first time… I then invited the galleries who represent these artists and formed a deep conversation with them to discuss how we would reveal the most exciting solo presentations of these artists to both the Abu Dhabi and UAE artists,” he said.

Abu Dhabi Art participants and attendees can also enjoy an exhibition within the Gateway section, curated by Maya Allison, the Chief Curator at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). The exhibition will draw curatorial connections between established UAE artists and their international peers. For those who enjoy the fair’s diverse range of discussions, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Curator Munira Al Sayegh is leading the Talks Programme, with a focus on debating and documenting local and GCC wide art histories, and narratives.

Moreover, the fair will see the return of Durub Al Tawaya, the popular performing arts initiative organised by Tarek Abou Al Fetouh. The programme’s fifth edition will see site-specific performances throughout Abu Dhabi Art and in different locations throughout the city. Complementing it is the Street Art programme, curated by Fabrice Bousteau, a contemporary art writer, curator and art director. Returning for the second year, it aims to bring together local and international street artists.

As part of the fair’s resolve to highlight Abu Dhabi Art’s location in the heart of Saadiyat Cultural District, a series of images by the photographer Tarek Al Ghoussein, which document the development of the district over the past seven years, will be used in the Abu Dhabi Art advertising and branding campaigns. Seven of his works will be used on the fair website, and as part of its advertising campaign across print and digital platforms. “Abu Dhabi Art 2017 is going to introduce a rich programme of curated projects and sections. This is indeed one of the most exciting aspects of this year’s edition, which we are proud to be contributing to,” said Kazem.

De Marchi agreed, noting that: “The appointment of [Dyala Nusseibeh as the] new director [of] Abu Dhabi Art is a great addition that we trust will enormously impact the articulation of the fair and the introduction of new directions for future development.”

Artists Al Mazrou and Mostafa also reflected on their hopes and expectations for the fair’s ninth edition, which included a broader platform for artists to raise awareness while showcasing their works.

“Art institutions and key art events in the region thrive by supporting local talents through various initiatives such as workshops, commissions, talks and screenings… I believe it’s an equal and shared responsibility between the artist, the art fair and art communities to be engaged in the fertile and growing art scene and cultural development,” said Al Mazrou.

“Through focused initiatives such as the Beyond programme, artists from the region are not only offered a commission in the realisation of their concepts but are invited to a tailored platform that includes workshops and educational programmes,” she added.

Mostafa agreed and noted that: “It really provides valuable opportunities for artists to work and produce in creative conditions, and through collaborative efforts, connect with a large and diverse public and impact the way this public looks at artworks year by year. In my case, I’m happy to have the opportunity to show my work through Abu Dhabi Art and reach new audiences.

“I have [participated in] Art Dubai before, and it’s fascinating how [the] artistic movement [and] market in the UAE has developed so successfully and grown to attract people and art lovers from all over the world,” he said. “It enriches the region culturally and makes such a strong bridge [between] the east and the west.”

The full programme of events will be announced in the coming months. For further details, as well as information regarding Abu Dhabi Art’s Wings Project competition, please click here.

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