Abu Dhabi Art's big reveal of commissions and exhibitions set to take over city

Taking place in November, it promises to be the fair's largest instalment

Abu Dhabi Art 2023 will feature 92 galleries from 31 countries. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Abu Dhabi Art has announced the exhibitions and artist commissions for its 15th iteration.

These include those participating in the Beyond Emerging Artists initiative, the artist featured in the Gateway Exhibition, as well as those commissioned to produce site-specific works across Abu Dhabi.

This year’s Abu Dhabi Art promises to be the largest instalment of the fair yet. The event will have 92 galleries from 31 countries showcasing the work of local, regional and international artists at Manarat Al Saadiyat from November 22 to 26.

While several countries are returning, some galleries hail from countries that have never participated before including Georgia, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore and Chile.

Here are the newly revealed artist commissions and exhibitions that will be presented as part of Abu Dhabi Art.

Beyond Emerging Artists

The initiative, more commonly known as Bea, will feature commissions by artists Almaha Jaralla, Latifa Saeed and Samo Shalaby. The exhibition will be curated by Morad Montazami, an art historian who has worked at Tate Modern as a curator for the Middle East and North Africa division. Montazami is also known for developing Zaman Books and Curating, a platform dedicated to the study of Arab, African and Asian modernism. He has also worked with emerging artists from the region, having been appointed as a jury member for last year's Richard Mille Art Prize.

“I am delighted to be collaborating with all three artists who have impressed me with their technical skills, interdisciplinary approach but also their mindset and vision,” Montazami said. The curator also added that though the three artists had disparate approaches and practices, they shared a fascination with exploring the contrasts between public and private spaces, as well as the subjective and collective.

“Even more importantly, each artist seems to look forward to taking a meaningful step in their career, in producing an innovative installation for Beyond Emerging Artists,” Montazami said. The showcase is supported by Friends of Abu Dhabi Art, an initiative dedicated to bolstering the capital’s art and culture.

Gateway exhibition: Maqam

The Gateway exhibition will present a survey show for Hashel Al Lamki, an Emirati multi-disciplinary artist, titled Maqam. It is named after the residential area where Al Lamki grew up in Al Ain. Curated by Venetia Porter, Maqam will encompass Al Lamki’s diverse artistic output, with the interaction between natural landscapes and human interference being a principal concern.

The exhibition will trace Al Lamki’s development as an artist, as well as the cities that informed and influenced his work, including Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, New York, Nairobi, New Mexico, Cairo, Lyon, Atami, Port Au Prince and his recent excursion to Saudi Arabia’s AlUla.

"As an important step in my artistic career, presenting this survey show will provide me with a moment to reflect on my previous work, analyse my current work in the studio, and plan key future steps working with Venetia Porter," Al Lamki said.

"I am extremely pleased and honoured by this opportunity and would like to dedicate this show to my hometown of Al Ain."

Porter, meanwhile, said she immediately thought of Al Lamki when she was invited to curate the Gateway exhibition. She first encountered the artist’s work at last year's Lyon Biennale and was particularly taken by his large-scale installation Rodinia.

“Spending time with Hashel, I have been struck by the complexity and range of the art he has been making this past decade and his ambitions for the future," she added. "This show will reflect that, while also highlighting the depth of his love for Al Ain where he grew up, and his fascination with the geology and history of the UAE.”

Artist Commissions in Cultural Sites

A recurring segment of Abu Dhabi Art is inviting established artists to create site-specific works across the capital. This year, organisers commissioned Nujoom Al Ghanem and Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim.

“I’m truly honoured to take part in this edition of the Fair and I’m looking forward to sharing the work I’ve been working on since 2020 with its audience," Al Ghanem said.

Having started her creative career in the 1980s, Al Ghanem has been a leading light in the UAE artistic scene. She has published nine books, as well as several films, including documentaries, narrative shorts and experimental works. Al Ghanem also represented the country in a solo exhibition at the UAE National Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

“I spent a lifetime working in solitude under shades of colours and materials without knowing where my work will end up," she added. "Without realising it, art has become my magnificent companion and refuge. It has given me another medium of expression which turned out to be the most significant activity of my days.”

Abu Dhabi Art will run from November 22 to 26 at Manarat Al Saadiyat. More information is available at abudhabiart.ae

Updated: November 19, 2023, 9:38 AM