Emirati artist Abdullah Al Saadi shifts focus to nature at Venice Art Biennale

Through his works, which include stones and drawings, viewers can experience creative process of age-old Arab poets

Emirati conceptual artist Abdullah Al Saadi's studio will be recreated at the exhibition in Venice. Photo: The National Pavilion UAE
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Details on the planned exhibition of renowned Emirati conceptual artist Abdullah Al Saadi in The National Pavilion UAE at the Venice Art Biennale 2024 have been announced.

Taking place between April 20 and November 24, the exhibition entitled Abdullah Al Saadi: Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia, will present eight artworks as part of the National Pavilion UAE’s eighth year at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

Curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh – senior curator and director of the Sharjah Art Foundation performance department – the exhibition is an exploration of Al Saadi’s journeys into the wilderness. Through the presented works, which include stones and drawings, viewers will experience his creative process in relation to the practices of Arab poets centuries ago.

“I draw inspiration from my environment during my various journeys,” Al Saadi said.

“I always like to travel alone, with the company of a specific book, music, animal friends, or means of transportation. The presence of these travel companions has a significant impact on my artworks, as they accompany me during my exploration of the land and humankind’s place in it.”

While immersed in nature, Al Saadi works across media – drawing, painting or writing – similarly to how classical Arab poets described their process involving deep engagement with nature as a means to assist the composition of their poems.

The exhibition will invite viewers into Al Saadi’s world through the displayed works and other pieces hidden in metal chests. The space aims to recreate his studio where the selection of hidden works will be revealed by performers.

The metal chests store maps, stones, scrolls and drawings that Al Saadi produced during his journeys into nature, all of which are numbered, dated and coded in a means to create, preserve and archive collective memories for the future.

“I am pleased to be working with Abdullah again and to discuss his work process in depth,” said Abou El Fetouh.

“The exhibition will be performative, summoning the atmosphere of Abdullah’s studio in a re-enactment of his rituals of archiving and showing his work to visitors. The exhibition design as well is inspired by his artworks.”

The National Pavilion UAE is a permanent space at the Venice Biennale’s Arsenale – Sale d’Armi and is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the Ministry of Culture.

Al Saadi is considered one of the pioneering Emirati artists of his generation whose practice has involved drawing, painting, sculpture and performance. His work often explores the relationships and threads between people and their natural and social environments.

Al Saadi has exhibited his work locally and internationally from the Sharjah International Biennial to the Ludwig Forum for International Art – a museum for modern art in Aachen, Germany.

“Abdullah Al Saadi: Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia will present important artworks by Abdullah Al Saadi, who has been pivotal to the UAE’s long-standing contemporary art community since the 1980s,” said Laila Binbrek, director of the National Pavilion UAE.

“Through this exhibition, the National Pavilion UAE highlights a member of the UAE’s remarkable community of well-established conceptual artists as we continue our commitment to reveal the untold stories of the UAE.”

Updated: February 06, 2024, 11:49 AM