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Abu Dhabi in the UAE art scene – Middle East Monitor

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Starting this year, Abu Dhabi is building a contemporary art scene geared toward the local community, positioning itself as a major tastemaker in the Middle East’s Global South discourse.

in one of the rooms Louvre Abu DhabiScenes similar to the collection of European tapestries from the 1600s attracted me. That’s Queen Hecuba in the Iliad carving out a human eye with a knife.

Aside from the roughness of the scene, what caught my eye were some decorative clouds that I had seen before on fabrics from China and Southeast Asia. As I got closer, I noticed that one of the women involved in the revenge operation had slightly Asian features and clothing. The description of the work shows that the work was created in the Macao Portuguese style in 1920.

This is one of many examples of Louvre Abu Dhabi examining art history with the goal of rewriting it. In doing so, it takes an approach that approaches quantum physics, looking at the relationships between objects rather than individual artworks. So it’s not about showing the Mona Lisa, it’s about how the Mona Lisa interacts with other cultures and little stories in Florence at the time.

This is how the permanent collection of the Louvre Abu Dhabi is composed. In the first few rooms, you’ll see a lot of triptychs: Athena from ancient Greece, Goddesses from Africa and Guanyin from China. Visitors immediately witness an attempt to connect the so-called Global South, offering parallel perspectives on different traditions from Mesopotamia to Egypt, India and the European Renaissance.

As you progress through the museum, the conversation and interaction continues to modernism, the avant-garde, and finally contemporary art. It’s a huge range, with minimal and sparse selection, more like a curation than a museum display, in line with contemporary museum display trends.

Thanks to a design by Jean Nouvel, these fresh curatorial visions of traditional narratives take place in an aesthetically wonderful building that is equally notorious for the poor treatment of the workers who built it.

With its beachfront location on Saadiyat Island, Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to be a cultural district, not to operate in a vacuum. It will join a range of projects, some of which are locally initiated, as well as branded export businesses.

global south discourse

This year, we have witnessed Abu Dhabi’s slow but sustained commitment to creating an arts ecosystem that has a real impact on the international art scene. The emirate is interested in positioning itself as a third way compared to super-mature Sharjah and market-oriented Dubai.

Thanks to its museums and initiatives, Abu Dhabi is really pushing the community component and setting new key standards.

An example of this is the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. Located in the heart of Abu Dhabi, next to the historic White Fort (Qasr Al-Hosn) and the Artisan House (Craftsman Museum), it reflects the emirate’s efforts to position itself as a community space, offering a library, children’s center and workshops site.

The main performance at the scene is by Cameroonian visual artist Pascal Martina Tayoupresenting installations, sculptures and mixed media works that examine scarcity and excess in the contemporary landscape.

It’s another sign of a willingness to present the artist’s work at the forefront of global South dialogue, as an indictment of the discourse initiated by Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Interestingly, the show also has a subsection dedicated to kids, featuring Tayou’s own work repurposed for kid-friendly interactions in a way that’s neither mediocre nor condescending.

WATCH: This artist explores light and perception between French Impressionism and Emirati culture

Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation led by Palestinian curator Rim Fadaa key figure in the development of the arts in Abu Dhabi.

A curator with an international background, Fadda also directs the Abu Dhabi Cultural Program and has been building bridges in the MENA region with the international art scene over the years, curating a number of independent projects and biennials.

From 2010 to 2016, Fadda also served as Associate Curator of Middle Eastern Art for the upcoming Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Program, shaping key narratives of West Asian and North African art within its collection and curatorial vision.

In this sense, the concept of the museum of the future is similar to that of the Louvre in that Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jackson Pollock collaborated with artists from Peru, the Philippines and Nigerian artists together, asking who was the first to influence each other.

Abu Dhabi Public Art: Focusing on the Community

Fadda sees the community as the cornerstone of the emirate’s future development: “We will insist that the work commissioned for these major projects will change places in a meaningful way and resonate with people. These art projects will be the gateway to our creative community and Abu Dhabi The way Zabi showed the world.”

The idea of ​​this public art project is to combine creativity and infrastructure to integrate residents into their daily lives, making the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) a more livable place while inspiring civic pride. Its objectives are to promote, preserve and develop the emirate and transform Abu Dhabi into a global cultural hub.

Upcoming public art projects in Abu Dhabi include several initiatives: Manar Abu Dhabi, a platform showcasing light art pieces celebrating the city’s mangroves and archipelago, will launch in November 2023, Public Art Abu Dhabi The annual exhibition will open in November 2024.

It all started in March with the unveiling of a public digital media artwork titled the waves Designed by art collective D’strict and located on top of the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, the Wave Shot, realized using Anamorphic Illusion technology, reproduces a constantly surging three-dimensional wave.

Another element of the emirate’s development is the Abu Dhabi Biennial of Public Art, which will open in November 2024, and Fadda will be working with Israeli curators angry eilat After working together on a community project liminal space in Palestine, Israel and Germany.

“The Biennale will commission and showcase a vibrant, inclusive and diverse range of artists rooted in the UAE and the region, while also fulfilling its mission to include artists from around the world,” shared Eilat.

It is clear that in its vision, Abu Dhabi must contribute to shaping the narrative in the Middle East and beyond.

As I walked through the permanent exhibition at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, I ended up in a room that combined human marker-making from Saudi Arabia over 4,000 years ago with Cy Twombly’s Untitled i-ix。 These blue canvases contemplate the calligraphy of an artist inspired by children’s languages ​​and tribal cultures.

The end of an era is also the beginning.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Watch.

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