JDEED’s guide to Abu Dhabi Art

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Welcome to Abu Dhabi Art, one of the Middle East’s premier art fairs. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, this year’s programme emphasizes diverse public engagement. With a focus on installations, exhibitions, performances, and educational opportunities, Abu Dhabi Art 2021 packs an exciting range of events from 17 – 21 November. Held at Manarat Al Saadiyat and at various participating galleries across Abu Dhabi, the events provide an important sales platform while showcasing incredible site-specific works from emerging and established artists.
JDEED Magazine takes a look into a few of this year’s programmes and will be providing exclusive coverage in the upcoming weeks.

By Ethan Dincer

Abu Dhabi Art

Beyond: Artist Commissions
Each year, Abu Dhabi Art invites established artists to create site-specific works in the wider Abu Dhabi emirate. Meant to activate these sites and draw new audiences to them, these works are revealed during the November programme and remain on show for several months afterwards. This year, the artists are Aya Hadier, Hazem Harb, Najat Makki, Rasheed Araeen, and Richard Atugonza. Keep an eye out for Aya Hadier and Najat Makki’s work: Haidar’s work is a large-scale activation that serves to demystify the intrinsic role Bedouin women had in the preservation and survival of their tribe, particularly through traditional Sadu weaving. Meanwhile, Makki’s work, represented by Hunar Gallery, portrays seven women–representing the seven Emirates–focusing on traditional craftsmanship inspired by embroidery and attire. 
Beyond: Emerging Artists
Established in 2017, this annual initiative provides three emerging artists in the UAE with a platform to develop their practice and bring ambitious art projects to fruition. This year, the three artists were chosen by guest curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, and will undertake a year-long programme of workshops and studio visits, initiated by the curators, culminating in the November fair. Similar to the Artist Commissions, these works are on exhibit for several months after the fair. This year’s artists are Maitha Abdalla, Hashel Al Lamki, and Christopher Joshua Benton. UAE-based American artist Christopher Benton works closely with communities and neighborhoods to instigate collaborations and share stories of power, labor, and hope, exploring how the working class uses culture and innovation to stage resistance to postcolonial and neoliberal forces.

Nujoom Alghanem
Passage (installation view), 2019
Courtesy National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia
Photo credit: Barbara Zanon

Visual Campaign
This year’s Visual Campaign is a site-specific installation nestled in a rocky enclave hidden behind 5000-year old tombs excavated in Jebel Hafit Desert Park. Ayesha Hadhir, Rawdha Al Ketbi, and Shaikha Al Ketbi use steel, wood, concrete, textile, and found objects to create a series of interconnected sculptures to start a dialogue with one another, focusing on themes of conjurement, cartography, and rituals. Visitors are invited to hike around the Park to get a multidimensional view of the installation.
Gateway: Passage
In partnership with Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and the National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia, present Passage. Passage is an immersive video and sound installation created by acclaimed poet, filmmaker, and artist Nujoom Alghanem and features actress Amal Hawijeh. Filmed in the UAE and Venice, Passage was developed for the National Pavilion UAE’s exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia in 2019, alongside curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath. The installation responds to the 2019 theme “May You Live in Interesting Times,” and explores themes of displacement and journeying.

Aya Haidar
Dwelling On The Past, 2021
Courtesy of the artist

Performance: The Rocks are Singing to the Sky
Curated by Rose Lejeune and featuring artists Rand Abdul Jabbar, Mays Albaik, Louise Hervé & Clovis Maillet, and Super Taus, this year’s performing arts programme creates a series of journeys through histories, memories, and fictions. Featuring live performance, sound, sculpture, and digital interfaces to create a series of abstract and poetic narratives within the fair and wider Abu Dhabi landscape, the artists transport audiences into new spaces of reflection and interactions with contrasting space-times.
Educational Programme
Featuring workshops, tours, and competitions for all ages, Abu Dhabi Art’s educational programme aims to engage young people in all aspects of the fair. A variety of masterclasses and workshops covering art and technology reflect the work seen in the fair. Two prizes, the Pavilion Prize and Digital Competition, invite students from across the UAE to submit work to design a pavilion and improve the digital workspace of the fair.

Book your tickets on Abu Dhabi Art’s website, right here!