The UAE capital’s premier art event is returning this week.
Hosting 90 galleries from 31 countries, the 15th iteration of the annual event promises to be the largest since it launched in 2007. While several countries are returning, some galleries come from countries that have never been represented at the fair before, including Georgia, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore and Chile.
From site-specific installations to talks, performances and exhibitions, here are seven things to look forward to at Abu Dhabi Art.
The Gateway exhibition is an annual component of Abu Dhabi Art, extending weeks after the fair concludes.
This year, the exhibition will present Maqam, a survey show for Hashel Al Lamki, an Emirati multidisciplinary artist. 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.
Al Lamki will discuss his practice with Porter during a talk that is scheduled to take place at 4pm on Wednesday.
Frozen Forest is an exhibition that highlights the overlap between the culinary and visual arts. Held at the Auditorium at Manarat Al Saadiyat, the exhibition is a collaboration between curator Radicants, Michelin restaurant Nouri and chef Ivan Brehm. It will explore how the two disciplines influence each other while drawing from elements found in nature. The exhibition features work by a dozen artists, including Georgian figurative artist Mariam Akhobadze and Saudi artist Mohammad Alfaraj.
A public dining experience is the centrepiece of the exhibition. According to organisers, the experience will also explore the tension between society and the natural world. The dining component will run at select times throughout the duration of the festival, with advanced booking required by email.
Beyond Emerging Artists
The initiative, more commonly known as Bea, was launched in 2017 as a way to support up-and-coming artists from the UAE. This year, the initiative is spotlighting 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.
Montazami will join the participating artists in a conversation at 2.30pm on Wednesday at the Theatre.
Samia Halaby and kinetic painting
Palestinian artist Samia Halaby will be presenting her kinetic paintings, a unique digital art form that she began developing in the mid-1980s, in a performance alongside US multi-percussionist Kevin Nathaniel, who is known to use traditional African instruments.
Halaby has often collaborated with musicians as part of her kinetic paintings. Between Halaby’s vibrant geometries and Nathaniel’s rhythmic shifts, the performance at Abu Dhabi Art promises to be a memorable experience.
The event will be held on Wednesday at 6pm at The Rage Stage.
Korean folk musicians So Ra Kim and Jihye Lim will be performing music that aims to be comforting and healing. Using traditional percussions and melodies on the gayageum (a Korean stringed instrument), the duo’s performance has been devised with nature as a main theme.
The concert is being presented by Berklee Abu Dhabi as part of a cultural exchange initiative with the South Korean Jeonju International Sori Festival. Duobud will be performing at The Rage Stage on Wednesday at 7.30pm.
Abdullah Al Saadi and Tarek Abou El Fetouh
Last month, Emirati conceptual artist Abdullah Al Saadi was revealed as the artist representing the UAE at Venice Biennale 2024. His solo exhibition at National Pavilion UAE will be curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh.
Al Saadi will join El Fetouh in a talk at Abu Dhabi Art to discuss his practice, perhaps touching upon the work he will be presenting at the 60th Venice Art Biennale, which opens in April.
The talk will be held at the Theatre on Wednesday at 6.30pm.
Artist Commissions in Cultural Sites
A recurring segment of Abu Dhabi Art invites established artists to create site-specific works in historic locations, spanning the wider Abu Dhabi emirate. This year, organisers commissioned Nujoom Al Ghanem and Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, both of whom are key figures in the UAE’s creative scene.
Al Ghanem, who is known for her efforts in film and poetry, has developed a series of works using clay as a primary medium. She began the series, named Artifacts of the Current Moments, during the pandemic.
Ibrahim, meanwhile, is celebrated for his abstract and organic sculptural forms that often draw from the landscape of his birthplace of Khor Fakkan. For Abu Dhabi Art, he will use his idiosyncratic approach to pay homage to the vibrancy of Al Ain’s oases.
Al Ghanem and Ibrahim’s works will be revealed during the fair and will remain on display until January.
Abu Dhabi Art will run from Wednesday to Sunday at Manarat Al Saadiyat. More information is available at abudhabiart.ae