Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The artist El Anatsui worked with a team of assistants to link crushed aluminum with copper wire to create Earth's Skin. Courtesy Akron Art Museum
The artist El Anatsui worked with a team of assistants to link crushed aluminum with copper wire to create Earth's Skin. Courtesy Akron Art Museum
Conveyor Belt is a 1964 installation by James Rosenquist, a leader in America's Pot Art movement. James Rosenquist / VAGA
Conveyor Belt is a 1964 installation by James Rosenquist, a leader in America's Pot Art movement. James Rosenquist / VAGA

Artistic works blossom at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

As the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi continues to build its collection, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority brings five artists to Manarat Al Saadiyat to talk about their chosen works.

As the Louvre Abu Dhabi shows off its latest acquisitions in Birth of a Museum, currently on exhibition at Saadiyat Island, the city's emerging cultural district is also turning its attention to another big name museum due to be erected on its shores.

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is steadily revealing artworks that its curatorial teams have been acquiring ahead of the museum's opening in 2017. Early next month, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA) brings five major contemporary artists to the capital, all who have works in the new collection, in a bid to introduce the public to the artistic practices of this diverse group.

El Anatsui, Adel El-Siwi, Youssef Nabil, Feng Mengbo and James Rosenquist will be in Abu Dhabi May 6-8 as part of the museum's Talking Art Series of discussions and workshops.

"It's exciting to give these artists the opportunity to meet each other and have a coming together of curators, artists and the people of Abu Dhabi," says Tairone Bastien, head of public programmes at ADTCA. "That's essentially what this museum is going to offer, an opportunity for a contemporary art conversation to take place on Saadiyat Island."

The forthcoming museum is being developed in collaboration with the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, which has world-renowned collections in New York, Bilbao and Venice. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman of ADTCA, says that the UAE museum will offer a "transnational perspective on art history", and the 18 acquisitions revealed so far demonstrate a stridently international bent, including works by Subodh Gupta, the Jameel Prize-winner Rachid Koraïchi and the Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei Wei.

The Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui's Earth's Skin (2009) is a highlight of the latest newcomers to the collection. Anatsui works with teams of assistants who laboriously link together thousands of pieces of crushed aluminium with copper wire to create vast wall hangings. The final work's surface appears to undulate with every glance of light, and Earth's Skin is an impressive 10-metre high creation, blemished with earthen reds. In their draped form, Anatsui's sculptures evoke the sense of a loosened, uninhibited internal landscape.

Another boon for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi's curatorial team is the acquisition of a 1964 installation by James Rosenquist, one of the leading protagonists in America's pop art movement, which combines a large and keenly pop canvas with a motorised conveyor belt.

While the collected works won't be physically present at Manarat Al Saadiyat during the talks - projected images of them will be used to illustrate discussions - Bastien says that a special interactive work by Feng Mengbo will be installed on-site during the series. Long March: Restart reimagines the Chinese Red Army's Long March - an 8,000-kilometre military retreat that became a national clarion call for Mao's communist takeover - as a walk-in, interactive video game.

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi has already acquired a series of 42 paintings by Feng Mengbo, titled Game Over Long March, in which this defining era in China's modern history becomes a side-scrolling, 8-bit video game. Brought to life in Long March: Restart, the two-screen installation responds to the movements of the viewer as a pixelated Red Guard soldier treks across a nightmarish landscape where the history of video games melds with China's own history. Think Super Mario Brothers on the steps of the Forbidden City.

"It's interesting to see how artists - through painting, sculpture, photography and video games - think about their own history and come to terms with it, be that to a more objective or subjective position," says Bastien. He explains that History, Memory, Narrative is one of three curatorial thrusts that will underpin the series' conversations. "These themes are some of the guiding principles and thematics that were identified as anchors in collection building."

Artists from around the Middle East do find significant representation in this collection, such as Egyptian-Armenian artist Chant Avedissian and Youssef Nabil's distinctive hand-coloured photographs. More acquisitions will be revealed during Abu Dhabi Art in November.

"It's important for us to show that artists from the Middle East are in conversation with artists from, say, China or West Africa," says Bastien. There's a dialogue of ideas present across these works, even if they are separated by generations or geography."

Talking Art Series

All talks and workshops take place at Manarat Al Saadiyat. Registration is now open and it is advisable to book ahead. Call 02 657 5800 or visit www.saadiyatcultural­district.ae

• May 6, 6pm Conversation with James Rosenquist

• May 7, 6pm Conversations with El Anatsui and Feng Mengbo

• May 8, 6pm Conversations with Adel El-Siwi and Youssef Nabil

• May 11, 10am Workshop for children ages 5-10, looking at the technique and art making process of Chant Avedissian
12pm Workshop for children ages 11-15, based around the practice of James Rosenquist. 2.30pm Workshop for adults and teenagers ages 16 years and above, examining the styles of Avedissian and Rosenquist, with view to creating your own work

artslife@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National