International art world gathers to celebrate inauguration of Abu Dhabi Art

Published November 18th, 2009 - 01:59 GMT

This week Abu Dhabi will host an audience of international artists, designers, art dealers, collectors, curators, critics and art lovers who have gathered to celebrate the launch of Abu Dhabi Art, a new annual platform for modern and contemporary art in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Taking place from 19 to 22 November 2009, Abu Dhabi Art features an extraordinarily rich roster of special exhibitions, public programmes and cultural events with displays by leading art dealers and emerging galleries.

Abu Dhabi Art is presented under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and is organised exclusively by the government of Abu Dhabi through Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) and Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH). Abu Dhabi Art’s Principal Sponsor is HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd.

“Abu Dhabi Art is an integral part of the Emirate’s long-term cultural vision of becoming an international hub for arts and culture,” stated His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of TDIC and ADACH.  “By bringing together a wealth of modern and contemporary art exhibitions, design events, engaging live programmes and more, drawn from our own region and from around the world, Abu Dhabi Art creates a modern-day equivalent of the cultural and intellectual exchanges of the ancient Silk Road.”

At the core of Abu Dhabi Art is a new-model boutique-style art fair held in the Emirates Palace, featuring an exclusive selection of 50 art galleries from 19 countries representing the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the United States, many of which have never before exhibited in the region. Paintings, sculpture, photography, works on paper and video installations by more than

300 artists are showcased at Abu Dhabi Art with fair prices ranging from thousands of US dollars to tens of millions of US dollars for museum-quality masterworks. 

Underscoring Abu Dhabi’s emergence as a new global hub for culture, three special exhibitions are being shown in conjunction with Abu Dhabi Art. Presented by Abu Dhabi in collaboration with some of the Emirate’s most important partner institutions, they are: The Guggenheim: The Making of a Museum (presented in collaboration with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation); The Funerals of Monna Lisa, a series of monumental paintings by the Chinese-born artist Yan Pei-Ming (presented in collaboration with the Louvre); and Disorientation II: The Rise and Fall of Arab Cities (presented in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation).

As part of the art fair, Abu Dhabi Art is presenting a dual selection of works by emerging artists from the Middle East and around the world shown under the title Signature. The Emirati Expressions Booth, curated by Anne Baldassari, Director of the Musée National Picasso, Paris, features works by artists included in the landmark 2009 exhibition Emirati Expressions. Artists selected for this display are Jalal Luqman, Sumayyah Al-Suwaidi, Abeer Tahlak, Reem Al-Ghaith, Sheikh Salem Al-Qassimi, Fatema Al-Mazrouie, Lamya Gargash, Abdul Rahim Salem, Faiza Mubarak and Alya Al-Sanad.  Signature exhibitions of artists represented by galleries participating in Abu Dhabi Art include solo shows by Jason Bereswill (Tony Shafrazi Gallery), Douglas White (Paradise Row), Wu Shanzhuan (Hanart TZ Gallery) and Musab al Rais (Hunar Gallery).

The Beyond section of the art fair creates a sculpture garden on the grounds of Emirates Palace, where the public may see large-scale contemporary artworks. Among the highlights: 1x1 Gallery is showing Ravinder Reddy’s 7-foot, painted polyester resin fiberglass head with a brightly painted woman’s face (Untitled, 2008). Art Sawa Gallery is exhibiting a series of 21 bronze sculptures by Rachide Khimoune, Children of the World. Hauser & Wirth is presenting a monumental skull made from stainless steel and utensils (Mind Shut Down, 2008) by Subodh Gupta, and two granite benches in the shape of eyes (Eye Benches II, 1996-97) by Louise Bourgeois. PaceWildenstein is showing Alexander Calder’s 1969 mobile, Ordinary, and Ayyam Gallery is presenting Nadim Karam’s sculpture Desert Wind (2009), made from super mirror stainless steel sheets and plexiglass cylinders. Bait Muzna Gallery is presenting Corinna Rosteck’s monumental mixed-media work Blend, and Galerie Gmurzynska is showing Robert Indiana’s series of giant, colorful numbers, 1 – 0 (1978 – 2003).

In another special feature, designed to present contemporary Middle Eastern art in dialogue with works from Europe and America, Abu Dhabi Art is providing a showcase for three important and influential not-for-profit cultural foundations from the Arab world:  Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art (Jerusalem), Townhouse Gallery (Cairo) and Darat al Funun – Khalid Shoman Foundation (Amman).

In addition, the non-profit organisation Bidoun Projects is launching its Bidoun Library and Project Space as part of the Middle Eastern Platform. Installed in a pop-up space created by the UAE design firm Traffic, this innovative new resource is a place for relaxing, socialising and browsing through an interactive, multimedia archive on Middle Eastern contemporary art, including rare books, exhibition catalogues, films, videos, sound artworks and documentation.

Envisioning Abu Dhabi as a crossroads on a modern-day Silk Road, curator and editor of Beaux Arts magazine Fabrice Bousteau has conceived Abu Dhabi Art, Talks and Sensations: The Wings Party, an evening-long event on 19 November where artists, musicians, designers, actors, poets and thinkers from around the world meet and interact in an experimental mixture of performances, discussions, slide shows, film screenings, dining and dancing. (For online registration for The Wings Party,

In a special series of live programmes, outstanding designers from the Middle East and Europe give audiences a personal glimpse into their ideas and processes, and an opportunity to participate. Design Moment, the first public atelier for emerging Middle Eastern designers, features product designer Ahmad Angawi (Saudi Arabia), partners Huda Baroudi and Maria Hibri of the interior design studio Bokja (Lebanon), furniture and product designer Younes Duret (Morocco), product designer Nedda El Asmar (Palestine, based in Belgium), and graphic designer Reem Al Ghaith (UAE).  Design Workshop, organised by Abu Dhabi Art in collaboration with Germany’s Vitra Design Museum, presents three day-long participatory workshops exploring techniques in contemporary design, with Sevil Peach (UK), Max Lamb (UK) and Maarten Baas (The Netherlands). (To register for the Design events, visit

From lectures on modern masters to panel discussions on art collecting, museum patronage, art in the Middle East and design, leading figures from the international art world are sharing their insights and ideas with audiences at Abu Dhabi Art. For example, Reindert Falkenburg, Dean of Arts & Humanities at New York University Abu Dhabi, will discuss the modern masters, drawing on works displayed in the Abu Dhabi Art Special Exhibition in a lecture entitled Looking Twice: The Art of the Double Image on 21 November, and Arnauld Pierre, Professor of Contemporary Art History at Paris-Sorbonne University will examine the work of American sculptor Alexander Calder in a lecture entitled Alexander Calder: Movement, Abstraction and Reality on 19 November.  Caprice Horn, founder of Galerie Caprice Horn, will moderate a panel of art experts and commentators in an appraisal and semantic evaluation of art in the Middle East, including editor-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist.  Other participants in Abu Dhabi Art’s rich array of panel discussions include: Richard Armstrong (Director of the Guggenheim Foundation and Museum), Anthony d’Offay (art patron) Bruce Altshuler (Director, Program in Museum Studies, New York University), Larry Gagosian (owner and CEO of Gagosian Gallery), Dr. Roger Mandle (Executive Director of the Qatar Museums Authority), Deyan Sudjic (Director of the Design Museum, London) and Mariët Westermann (Provost of New York University Abu Dhabi).  Additionally, faculty and guests from New York University Abu Dhabi and Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi are providing expert guides for tours of Abu Dhabi Art and offering a daily roster of talks and lectures about the meanings and techniques of modern and contemporary art.

A number of book launches and signings are taking place at the Abu Dhabi Art signature shop Artyfact and the Majlis Theatre, including the launch of the Arabic edition of In Absentia: Photographs by Tarek Al-Ghoussein (Works on Paper by The Third Line) and the launch of Pars Pro Toto II (published by Kehrer Design, Heidelberg) by artist Susan Hefuna and editor-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Exhibitors, collectors and special guests are invited to enjoy the Abu Dhabi Art Majlis: a unique lounge opening onto the beach, featuring views of the Arabian Gulf and a menu developed by three-star Michelin chef Alain Passard.

Visitors wanting to learn more about the host city may participate in an Abu Dhabi Tour, offered in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.

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