ABU DHABI // International sculptors intend to leave an artistic legacy in some of the capital's more barren public spaces. Beginning this month, the Abu Dhabi International Sculpture Symposium will bring together artists from around the world to remedy the city's dearth of public art. Seventeen artists have been chosen to craft sculptures from marble, granite, steel and fibreglass. They will create their pieces between February 25 and April 7 at the Armed Forces Officers Club.
The finished products will become permanent installations. The symposium is part of the capital's bid to place itself on the global art stage. "It will be an annual event," said Dr Sulaiman al Jassim, vice president of Zayed University, one of the sponsors of the symposium. "In the coming years, there will be tens of the sculptures in public places, parks and schools that will add more beauty to Abu Dhabi."
A first of its kind for the UAE, the symposium follows in the footsteps of similar events in Russia, New Zealand and the US. Artists visiting Abu Dhabi will include Billy Lee from the UK, Hwang Seung-Woo from South Korea, Jon Barlow Hudson from the US and the Egyptian-Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos. The symposium will also feature an Emirati artist, Hassan Sharif, whose work has focused on criticising consumerism.
Salwa Zeidan, the owner of the Salwa Zeidan Gallery in Abu Dhabi and one of the judges of the event, said the symposium received more than 400 applications to participate. The selection committee was hard-pressed to narrow the participants to a manageable 17 people, and requirements were strict. "Not only did they have to be very good artists, but they had to be very good people as well," she said.
Ms Zeidan said artists had to participate in at least seven other symposiums internationally. Then, each had to submit three abstract and contemporary concepts. Islam does not allow the depiction of humans and animals, as it is forbidden to show anything believed to have a soul. Abu Dhabi Municipality said it is evaluating "highly visible locations" for the sculptures. Likely locales would include the Corniche, government buildings and parks.
"This highlights our main objective: to be a new and exciting art capital of the modern world," said Abeer al Mutawa, the adviser of community services with the municipality. The city will also be adapting the landscape and shrubbery to better display some of the pieces. The first public sculpture created for Abu Dhabi was unveiled in front of the Amiri Court of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince during the summer of 2008. In it, large bronze figures spell out the word "tolerance", with each letter representing a different religion or spirituality.