How Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is ramping up activities ahead of opening

Senior project manager Maisa Al Qassimi says she is eager for the next phase for the museum

When completed, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will join Louvre Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat and Berklee Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island, where the capital aims to build an arts and culture cluster. Photo: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
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Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which has announced a new 2025 completion date, will be focused on working with artists to create site-specific commissions for the museum over the next five years.

"We are going to continue with programming, research, collection [building] and our major focus will be commissions for the building and that takes a lot of time," Maisa Al Qassimi, senior project manager at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, tells The National. "It's really an exciting time that we're in that phase. We're in the phase of commissioning artists and definitely focusing on regional artists."

Maisa Al Qassimi is senior project manager at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. DCT Abu Dhabi

The building, which will stand 88 metres tall, will feature nine cone-shaped structures, which will be a space for both commissions and acquisitions.

The aim is to have "a fully programmed museum at opening", Al Qassimi says.

More than a decade since its first acquisition, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi has been building a transcultural collection, which today includes more than 600 works by 295 artists from 65 countries.

"In the past 10 years, we really have been doing a lot of research, heavy on seminars, we've been doing of lot of workshops with other academics in building this collection," Al Qassimi says.

"There is a main focus on West Asia, North Africa and South Asia and we use this term Wanasa, which has come in a few years back. About 50 per cent of our collection is Wanasa region."

Some of the work is even on loan today with other cultural institutions.

Sara Bin Safwan, curator at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, says: "Now that the collection is getting more well known more institutions are asking."

One sculpture by artist Marisol, who created a portrait of Andy Warhol, is going on loan to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pennsylvania for a coming exhibition.

The team continues to be focused on programming, too.

"Now that a lot of the programmes are in-person we are working with artists to present commissions but on a smaller scale."

This October, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is hosting a film screening programme at Manarat Al Saadiyat, inspired by the work of artist Ayman Yousri that is within their collection. Yousri, who was born in Palestine but lives and works in Jeddah, references old Egyptian film posters. The programme will include films from Egyptian cinema's golden age and will take place from Wednesday to Friday, October 27 to 29.

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Updated: September 30, 2021, 10:20 AM