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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 19 August 2018

Abu Dhabi Art offers artists an international crossroads

As the capital warms up for the sixth edition of the art fair, we take a look at the best bits.
Ai Weiwei's Forever. Courtesy Ai Weiwei and Lisson Gallery
Ai Weiwei's Forever. Courtesy Ai Weiwei and Lisson Gallery

Galleries, artists and collectors will converge on the capital from Wednesday, November 5, 2014 for the sixth edition of Abu Dhabi Art.

Before you even set foot inside Manarat Al Saadiyat, the venue for Abu Dhabi Art, your senses will be awakened by some of the works on display.

On the outside wall of the complex, the first thing you see as you approach are 38 blue argon neon tubes and a wooden pier, which have been installed as part of the fair’s Beyond programme.

The piece, Pier and Ocean, is by French artist Francois Morellet, who worked in collaboration with Tadashi Kawamata, an artist from Japan, to produce the installation.

Around Saadiyat Island, visitors will find other monumental works from acclaimed artists.

Indian artist Subodh Gupta will show Et tu, Duchamp, a reimagining of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in statue form. It was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s infamous 1919 work, L.H.O.O.Q.

Ai Wei Wei, the Chinese contemporary artist who was locked up for 81 days without charge after producing politically charged artworks, will be displaying Forever, an installation of 1,200 bicycles, his comment on the lack of freedom in China.

He is considered one of the world’s most important contemporary artists, and versions of this piece have been exhibited around the world, including in Venice during this year’s Architecture Biennale and in Toronto at the Nuit Blanche festival.

“With Abu Dhabi fast developing into an important geographic and artistic crossroads, we hope Ai Weiwei’s Forever, with its underlying concepts of congregation and movement, will take on a local context and will intrigue the public audience,” says Nayrouz Tatanaki, the associate director of Lisson Gallery for the Middle East.

It is pieces such as this that are expected to draw the crowds to the four-day event, which is the sixth edition of the fair.

The Beyond strand of the festival falls under the umbrella of the public art-and-design programmes that make up one key section of the overall event.

The others, explains Rita Aoun-Abdo, the executive director of the culture sector at the Tourism and Cultural Authority Abu Dhabi (TCA Abu Dhabi), are a daily public forum examining the importance of the new museums coming to the capital, and a performing-arts programme exploring concepts of universality.

“The link between the fair and the programme is very important,” says Alanood Al Hammadi, the senior exhibitor-relations co-ordinator. “We try to sync the programme with the galleries, who have an amazing list of artists from around the world, so as to maximise the experience for all visitors.”

Of the 50 galleries participating, there are several from the UAE including XVA, Salwa Zeidan, The Third Line and Lawrie Shabibi, who were in last year’s Bidaya section for galleries under three years old.

Ayyam, which has six branches in five countries, including the UAE, will have a group show that includes Safwan Dahoul, Samia Halaby and Tammam Azzam.

Meem, from Dubai will be showing “a thorough selection of exemplary art from the Middle East and North Africa region”, says Meagan Kelly Horsman, the gallery’s business development director. With works by Dia Azzawi, Mohammed Melehi, Mounir Al Shaarani and Parviz Tanavoli on show, visitors to the fair will see work on paper, canvas, textiles and sculpture.

“Meem Gallery strives to bring a carefully curated grouping of rare and unique works to the fair and it’s global audience,” says Horsman.

Kashya Hildebrand, from London, will bring new work from Ahmed Moustafa, an Egyptian master calligrapher and artist, which comes with a mandate to be placed within an institution.

Coinciding with the launch of his book, The Cosmic Script, Moustafa has created five incredibly intricate tapestries, which he describes as “an important signpost on one of many horizons in my creative career”. Hand woven in France as part of a long-term collaboration with Ateliers Pinton, tapestry as a medium allows Moustafa to realise his artistic vision on a scale never-before achievable.

The gallery halls filled with art will be complemented by an interactive programme called Hours and Colours in the communal areas. every hour throughout the evening, the lights in the foyer will change colour between blue, orange and violet, punctuated by performance art.

Durub Al Tawaya is another performance programme that takes visitors on a journey, expanding outward from the Abu Dhabi Art venue into the tawaya, or spaces of the city.

“Through our diverse programme, we don’t only cover art from modern and contemporary artists, we cover design, performing arts and architecture,” says Al Hammadi. “We also blend heritage with culture and there really is no limit to what to expect from Abu Dhabi Art. Everyone is welcome, from art enthusiasts and collectors to children, families, students and tourists.”

Come Rain or Shine

After last year’s event was disrupted by rain – the fair was closed for a few hours due to flooding of the Norman Foster-designed UAE Pavilion, and 22 galleries had to relocate their booths – this year, all of the galleries will be on site inside the main Manarat building

Bidaya

Bidaya means “beginning” in Arabic, and this year’s Bidaya gallery – a title awarded to an emergent gallery setting out on the international art scene – is Taymour Grahne from New York. Grahne is a prominent collector of Middle Eastern and North African art, and founder of popular Art of the Middle East blog. He opened his Tribeca gallery last year with Iranian artist Nicky Nodjoumi’s Chasing the Butterfly and Other Recent Paintings as his inaugural show. At Abu Dhabi Art he will be exhibiting works by Nodjoumi, the Kuwaiti-Palestinian Tarek Al Ghoussein and Algerian Fayçal Baghriche.

Talks

Abu Dhabi Art features a daily public forum that aims to introduce audiences to the ever-expanding community of art-world figures who are working together to enhance the country’s art scene. This year the programme falls under the title The Life of the Modern Museums, and includes discussions about the museums coming to Saadiyat Island – Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim and Zayed Nationl Museum – and their roles as spaces for education, performance and experience.

Abu Dhabi Art runs from November 5 to 8 at Manarat Al Saadiyat. It will be open from 3 to 10pm on weekdays and 2 to 10pm at the weekend. For more information visit abudhabiartfair.ae

aseaman@thenational.ae

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