Much more than a traditional art fair.
Image Credit: Supplied By Nathalie FarahSpecial to Weekend Review
The UAE capital's art and culture communities are set to receive a boost with the return of Abu Dhabi's engaging art fair which is bringing something special to its 10th edition at its home in Manarat Al Saadiyat. Abu Dhabi Art, the annual three-day fair's extensive programme will once again feature Modern and Contemporary art from leading international galleries as well as an exciting series of talks, exhibitions, public performances and more. It is held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
Among this year's highlights are the continued display of artworks from the fair's various exhibitions -- Gateway; Beyond; Beyond: Emerging Artists; and commissioned works in Al Ain -- for an additional two months after the fair's conclusion on November 17.
Moreover, Dr Omar Kholeif, curator of the Focus gallery sector, will deliver an important platform for 'icons of art' to be recognised through participating galleries.
This year's Gateway exhibition, featuring works by more than 15 international artists, is curated by Hammad Nasar, a renowned London-based curator, writer and researcher. It is held under the theme of Structures of Meaning | Architectures of Perception.
"The inspiration [behind the exhibition's theme] is always the work of artists. The exhibition explores two questions: How do we process what we see and experience? How do we reconcile what we think with what we feel?" explained Nasar. "It considers artworks as structures through which artists experience and interpret the world. The works engage with ideas of constructing meaning through language, or through our navigation of space -- our physical acts of moving, seeing and saying."
According to Nasar, the exhibition will be divided into two "manifestations", the first of which is a group exhibition that features works including three specially commissioned pieces by Emirati artist Sara Al Haddad, British artist Abigail Reynolds, and Seema Nusrat from Pakistan.
"These commissions are embedded within the exhibition architecture itself, directing our movement and shaping our experience through manipulating our access. The works in the exhibition space will be arranged in a series of visual 'conversations', around; language and translation; books as structures of knowledge; and physical architectures," said Nasar.
The second "manifestation" is a commissioned iteration of Cinema Island (a collaboration with MMI Architects), by Marysia Lewandowska, a Polish-born artist based in London, which brings together silent images and resonant voices in a stand-alone structure that offers audiences an immersive experience.
"I believe in exhibitions as a way of supporting new production... [I'm] curious to see which works resonate, and in what ways, with viewers at Abu Dhabi Art," he added.
Art lovers looking to explore art in unique surroundings will be encouraged to visit this year's large-scale sculptures and installations for the Beyond: Artist Commissions programme, which will juxtapose contemporary art against the scenic backdrop of three historical sites in Al Ain: Qasr Al Muwaiji, Al Ain Oasis and Jahili Fort.
"[I think] that it's very interesting to show these historical places [this way]...it will encourage people to visit them while also helping to expose people to your work in a venue that's quite different than [typical] exhibitions," said Ammar Al Attar, who is showcasing 40 photographs at his installation "Abstract of Nature" in Qasr Al Muwaiji. An impressive structure that has watched over the oasis for around 100 years, it was built in the early years of the 20th century in the time of Shaikh Zayed Bin Khalifa the First by his son Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Bin Khalifa.
Al Attar's photographs were developed using a photography process known as Van Dyke Brown, named after Anthony van Dyck a 17th-century Flemish artist. It involves coating a canvas with ferric ammonium citrate, tartaric acid and silver nitrate, then exposing it to ultraviolet light. The resulting colour cast is a deep brown colour similar to Vandyke brown, a paint colour originally created by van Dyck.
"I chose this technique [in homage] to the history of Qasr Al Muwaiji...it was a natural choice for me and I wanted to create something that fits the location and its [surrounding nature]. That's why I also chose to take extreme close ups of things like palm trees and camel hair," said Al Attar. "I hope that [my photographs] will trigger people's senses so they feel the texture of the plants and animals... it might even change their perspectives about things they see every day," he added.
Back at Manarat Al Saadiyat, visitors will also be given the opportunity to explore specially-created pieces by three emerging UAE-based artists as part of the fair's Beyond: Emerging Artists section, which saw them undertake a tailor-made programme under the guidance of this year's curator, Emirati artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim.
There will also be an exhibition curated by ATHR, inspired by the book Letters to a Young Muslim by the UAE Ambassador to France Omar Saif Ghoash that likewise will remain open after the official closing of the fair.
"I see a focus [this year] on using the fair as a platform to support the overall regional art ecosystem -- with a focus on artist commissions; mentoring younger artists and a continuation of conversations with curators," said Nasar.
Al Attar agreed. No stranger to Abu Dhabi Art, having participated in last year's fair, he is returning as a participating artist with Dubai-based Cuadro Art Gallery. The renowned photographer said: "I like that Abu Dhabi Art offers more than typical art fairs, which only focus on selling artworks. There is a more [engaging] and educational aspect to it, such as their talks that I quite enjoy... actually, I'm hoping to catch a couple this year."
In addition to exploring the diversity of artworks and public programmes available, members of the public are also invited to join a special celebration on November 14 entitled Vernissage: Abu Dhabi Art Celebrates 10 Years!
Nathalie Farah is a writer based in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi Art will take place from November 14--17 at Manarat Al Saadiyat. To learn more, please visit www.abudhabiart.ae
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