x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Abu Dhabi Festival that promises to be best yet

Organisers promise something for all ages as crowds flock to the first night of the 10th Abu Dhabi Festival.

Visitors beside the work "Depth & Speed" by Matter bin Lahed (UAE) at the expo "25 years of Arab Creativity" - part of the 10th year anniversary of the Abu Dhabi Festival at Emirates Palace. Jaime Puebla / The National
Visitors beside the work "Depth & Speed" by Matter bin Lahed (UAE) at the expo "25 years of Arab Creativity" - part of the 10th year anniversary of the Abu Dhabi Festival at Emirates Palace. Jaime Puebla / The National

Arab art was brought to the fore at the official opening of the 10th Abu Dhabi Festival in the opulent surroundings of the Emirates Palace last night.

The celebration that features a host of live music, art and theatre from across the globe was jointly launched with the inaugural exhibition "25 Years of Arab Creativity" to highlight the talent of contemporary local artists.

Art lovers, curators and a clutch of foreign dignitaries were given a tour of the gallery space, home to the paintings, sculpture and multimedia work of 34 talented Arab individuals.

The event was launched in partnership with the Institut du Monde Arab from Paris - an organisation founded in 1980 to bring Arabic culture and knowledge to the wider world, and has strong ties with the art scene.

Ihab El Labban, the curator of the exhibition claimed: "It is art, after all, that traces the contours of a country.

"For every community of peoples there are common traits of civilisation and cultural characteristics whose great number and myriad forms determine, through their very association and proximity, the shape of a particular society.

"A close observation of these characteristic traits will allow us to draw up a precise image for establishing, as nearly as we can, the specificity of its expression."

The brightest and best of Emirati talent form a key part of the showcase.

"It's a honour to exhibit with such an amazing group of artists, not only from the UAE but the entire Arab world, and to be part of the opening of Abu Dhabi Festival is great," said one local exhibitor, Jalal Luqman, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi who has pioneered digital art in the UAE since 1996.

His display includes the work "A Hint of a Smile" that has toured exhibitions since 2008, and aims to give an "Emirati spice" to what could be considered classically European.

The work is a digitally created oil painting and is framed by a classical Arabian door in just one of the more striking visual pieces on display.

"The number of Emiratis that came to the exhibition today is proof that we are starting to accept art, and that will help make Abu Dhabi an art and cultural capital on a global scale," he said.

Emirati painter and sculptor, Mattar Bin Lahej from Dubai, said:

"This exhibition is an important step for us, now in the UAE, I can be at six local exhibitions every year.

"More people understand art now, and especially the contemporary style."

Other distinguished creators present include Ebtisam Abdulaziz from Sharjah, Nadim Karam from Senegal and Kuwaiti Tamara Al-Samerraei.

Last night's showcase was not just for the veterans of the art scene however - more than 160 Emirati undergraduate students from the federal universities of Abu Dhabi also took part in the festivities by registering for the Abu Dhabi Festival 2013 Visual Arts Award.

The festival's three weeks of events also includes performances by Spanish opera supremo Placido Domingo, a new production of Romeo and Juliet from the UK, and the world renowned Mariinsky Ballet.

Organisers anticipated this would be the biggest and best Abu Dhabi Festival yet, and promised people of all ages will find something to spark their interest.

"You have to come an experience it for yourself, there's just no other way," concluded Mr Luqman.

ksinclair@thenational.ae