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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

The Art of DC exhibition opens in Abu Dhabi featuring unseen 'Aquaman' art and more

Yas Mall will play host to the DC Comics exhibition until February

A visitor at the Art of DC exhibition at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Yas Mall
A visitor at the Art of DC exhibition at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Yas Mall

The Art of DC – The Dawn of Super Heroes is the real deal, not just a fan boy half-heartedly throwing together a few bits of memorabilia. The exhibition’s curators have clearly worked closely with DC Comics on the exhibition, which has already shown in Paris and London, and will head to Sydney when its run in Abu Dhabi ends in February.

This is a thorough collection, from original costumes from DC movies through the ages – think Christopher Reeve in the 1978 Superman movie and Michelle Pfeiffer’s figure-hugging catsuit from 1992’s Michael Keaton-led Batman Returns, right up to Harley Quinn’s Halloween-­friendly attire from 2016’s Suicide Squad – to Bat Bikes and set models of Clark Kent’s childhood farmhouse. There are also hundreds of pieces of art, including concept pieces for every movie in the Worlds of DC universe and original comic-book pages dating from Superman’s first appearance in 1938.

In a coup for the exhibition, you will also be able to check out some exclusive concept art from the forthcoming Aquaman movie, which will hit the big screen next month.

The show’s curator, Jean-Jacques Launier, founder of Paris’s Art Ludique, says there’s much more to the exhibition than cool costumes and pretty pictures, however.

A display showing Catwoman. Courtesy Yas Mall
A display showing Catwoman. Courtesy Yas Mall

“Our purpose is to explain to people that behind the superheroes they love, there are amazing artists and amazing art – we want to position it within history and the history of art because there’s lots to learn from superheroes about art, culture, philosophy, technology. It’s an inspiration for me.”

For a long time, comic books were seen as the preserve of children, but as the children that read comic books in the 1970s and 1980s grew up, the comic-book industry began to tackle more mature issues. The lines have become decidedly blurred, as demonstrated by the mixed ages and demographics of the crowds that the exhibition has already pulled in Paris and London.

“I think it helped that the press were really behind us because it’s obvious now that this is contemporary art, not just a kids’ thing. We have to give credit to artists such as Jack Kirby and the main comic artists, and it’s obvious that comics have influenced street art, pop art, television, movies, so we have to give credit and it’s important to learn about it,” Launier says.

“In France, we’re known as very intellectual, but even the most intellectual journalists were behind this exhibition because they know we can learn a lot from comics and comic art, and they know, too, that this helps bring a young audience into museums and galleries and that is very important for the future – they have fun, but they’re in a museum, and that’s really important.”

Harley Quinn at the Art of DC exhibition. Courtesy Yas Mall 
Harley Quinn at the Art of DC exhibition. Courtesy Yas Mall 

As if to push the contemporary art point home, one of the pieces in the exhibition is Andy Warhol’s take on Superman, but for Launier, the comic-­book movement has a lot in common with a much more classical school of art, too.

“We believe as a museum that it’s important to write the history of this movement in art, because we believe comic-book studios are a lot like the Renaissance, where you had lots of artists worldwide coming together to work on a big masterpiece,” he explains. “Then it was maybe the king that was bringing them all together to work on some huge project. Now it’s these studios.”

Talking of studios, I ask Launier how he managed to persuade DC and its movie partner, Warner Bros, to hand over such a treasure trove of material, even persuading the notoriously secretive studio to surrender art for an as-yet-unreleased movie. He says it actually wasn’t hard.

“They’re very happy to work with us to show the art behind the movie, because it’s so often overlooked,” he says. “They allowed us on the set of Wonder Woman and Justice League to meet the directors and designers, and here you will see for very first time art work from Aquaman, which no one has seen yet. The artists are really proud to show their work, too, because normally it would never be seen.”

A statue of Wonder Woman on display at the exhibition. Courtesy Yas Mall 
A statue of Wonder Woman on display at the exhibition. Courtesy Yas Mall 

Having toured globally with the exhibition since March, Launier must know the collection intimately by now, so I close our conversation by asking if he has developed a particular favourite piece of artwork.

“The first for me would be Christopher Reeve’s Superman costume because I was a kid when I saw that film and so it really spoke to me,” he says. “But I think every generation has its own ‘crush’, so for example we have Heath Ledger’s Joker costume, and that’s really important to a lot of people. There’s 500 or 600 masterpieces here, and I invite everyone to come to see all this wonderful art, to listen to all the interviews and to listen to the audio guide because it really is fantastic.”

The Art of DC – The Dawn of Super Heroes is at Yas Mall until February 15, Sunday to Wednesday 10am to 9.30pm, Thursday to Saturday 10am to 11.30pm. Tickets are Dh50 and can be bought at the mall’s customer service desks or online at www.eventboxtickets.com

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