Abu Dhabi Art will return as a physical event this year after being hosted virtually in 2020.
Taking place in Manarat Al Saadiyat from November 17 to 21, the art fair has announced the names of its guest curators, as well as the artists participating in this year’s Beyond: Artists Commissions programme.
For the 2021 iteration, Simon Njami and Rose Lejeune return as guest curators. Njami, who lives in Paris, is a highly regarded curator, art critic and author whose focus lies in contemporary African art, while Lejeune is a curator and researcher who has an interest in performance art.
Both worked with Abu Dhabi Art last year, adapting their sections for the online version of the fair after Covid-19 scrapped plans for an in-person event.
This year, however, Njami will present a different curatorial framework named Kind of Blue, a reference to a Miles Davis album. For the section, the curator will take cues from jazz music’s improvisational nature, building an exhibition wherein the works in the gallery booths will respond to each other in a type of orchestra.
Njami said the African artists he will bring to the fair “have unique techniques and ways of addressing contemporary issues”.
"They also come from various locations not just mainland Africa … I have chosen jazz music as a metaphor for the gathering of the galleries I have invited to take part for this edition of the fair because, in my eyes, jazz is the best representation of what is at stake with ‘African Contemporary Art’”.
He also explained that he hopes Abu Dhabi Art will play a role in bridging the “cultural gap between the Middle East and Africa”.
Lejeune’s performance programme will be activated across different sites in Abu Dhabi, with the live sets by artists offering poetic ways of experiencing the capital city. She has commissioned four artists, including Louise Herve and Clovis Maillet, Mays Albaik and Taus Makhacheva for this year’s iteration.
“My 2021 programme will place audiences back in the temporal and physical space of the artists’ work; exploring the transformative power of storytelling to create a series of journeys through histories, memories and fictions – both at the fair and throughout the city itself,” Lejeune said.
Abu Dhabi Art’s Beyond: Artists Commissions was established in 2017 as a way to bring artistic interventions across the emirate and historic sites in Al Ain. The works will be unveiled during the fair and will be on view until Saturday, January 22.
This year’s programme will include new large-scale works by Aya Haidar, Hazem Harb, Najat Makki, Rasheed Araeen and Richard Atugonza.
The fair is also bringing an on-site programme titled In & Around, which will serve as a response to Beyond: Artists Commissions, showcasing works by Alfredo Jaar, Hera Buyktascıyan, Siah Armajani and Zineb Sedira.
Throughout the year, Abu Dhabi Art is also running its talks programme Collectors Forum, put together by Roxane Zand, former deputy chairman of Sotheby’s. So far, Zand has taken on topics such as non-fungible tokens and will continue to develop discussions that address art collecting and contemporary practices throughout the world.
In July, the fair announced that Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath will curate the Beyond: Emerging Artists programme, which will feature new commissioned works from Hashel Al Lamki, Maitha Abdalla and Christopher Benton.
More information on Abu Dhabi Art 2021 is at abudhabiart.ae