Abu Dhabi Art event creates a picture for the world
Picture the Emirates in your head – a palm tree swaying in the breeze, or a diver returning to his dhow, pearls clutched in his hand.
With the country growing at a rapid speed over the years, these images fade in the mind, replaced by those of skyscrapers and bright lights.
At the opening day of this year’s Abu Dhabi Art event, experts spoke about the important role art played in helping people understand and explore their backgrounds – with emphasis on the growth in Abu Dhabi.
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum, among others, will bring the country’s history to the spotlight, said Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum.
The British Museum is providing curatorial advice to Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority regarding Zayed National Museum, which will document the life of Founding President Sheikh Zayed as well as the nation’s history.
“The defining characteristic of a nation is the story parents tell their children, the history that each generation brings with it to the world,” Mr MacGregor said.
“In the Zayed National Museum, the plan is to present some of the central elements that are part of the story of the Emirates then to look at how this story connects to the world.”
The four day annual Abu Dhabi Art affair runs until Saturday, in Saadiyat Cultural District at Manarat Al Saadiyat.
This year, 40 international galleries and an eclectic range of artists are taking part.
Art historians, curators and museum directors from across the world have come together to discuss arts and celebrate the cultural diversity of Abu Dhabi.
Although some of the museums opening in the capital are well-known across the globe, their identities here will be shaped by their surroundings, said Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim.
“Sometimes people talk about the Guggenheim coming to Abu Dhabi, but it’s the spirit of Abu Dhabi that came to the Guggenheim and really changed the institution.”
Well-known voices in the art world took part in the event’s panel discussion Museums and the Stories they Tell, moderated by Anna Somers Cocks – chief executive and founder of The Art Newspaper. Participants included Peter Sloterdijk, a German intellectual and philosopher, and Mr Armstrong.
One speaker, however, president of the Louvre Jean Luc Martinez, was unable to attend in light of the recent terror attacks in Paris.
In his place was Manuel Rabate, chief of Agence France-Museums.
Addressing the atrocities in Paris, Ms Cocks cited the UAE’s Founding President as the panellists discussed how art could play a part in reframing the world’s outlook so that such horrors did not unfold again.
The UAE’s founding President spoke wisely and simply about the need for people to understand they are the same, Ms Cocks said.
“Sheikh Zayed said the world is one civilisation – how can there be a clash of one civilisation?” she asked, with the panellists discussing whether or not museums could foster this type of thinking among people, thus changing the shape of the world.
Mohammed Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA), and Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, were among the thousands of art lovers who flocked to Saadiyat last night.
Emirati artists were represented at the event this year as part of Emirati Expressions.
Among them was Mohammed Al Astad, who spoke about the inspiration behind some of his pieces, the process of which saw him burying canvases in the sand. Another of the artists was Abdul Qader Al Rais, who showcased five of his works. Some of his pieces were inspired by the war in Yemen in which dozens of Emirati soldiers have been killed.
For more information on Abu Dhabi Art, organised by TCA, visit abudhabiart.ae.
Updated: November 18, 2015 04:00 AM