Abu Dhabi Festival brings back Portrait of a Nation exhibition

The three-month show, which follows the success of its first event in 2016, features prominent loans from cultural institutions in the UAE

A Portrait of a Nation II: Beyond Narratives highlights the development of the UAE’s visual arts landscape. Photo: Admaf
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The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation is bringing back its Portrait of a Nation exhibition for a second part after the success of its first show in 2016. Coinciding with the Abu Dhabi Festival, Portrait of a Nation II: Beyond Narratives will take place from January 21 to April 16 at Manarat Al Saadiyat.

It highlights the development of the UAE’s visual arts landscape over the past 50 years.

Curated by Maya El Khalil and Roxane Zand, the exhibition features works by artists, curators and gallerists born in the UAE or who have made the country their home, telling a story of artistic growth over the past five decades. More than 100 artworks, including 15 special commissions feature.

“The exhibition is an embodiment of the UAE’s cultural milestones," said Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of Admaf and artistic director of Abu Dhabi Festival. "It is truly inspiring to see our country’s timeless story of creativity and collaboration told by the artists who have given it life."

Five themes are explored. Reclaiming/Reimaging Home looks at the early days in places artists called home, while Shifting Landscapes focuses on how artists negotiate transformation and modernism. Configurations of Togetherness examines spaces that draw people together, transcending cultural differences, and Reclaiming/Reimaging Language looks at mediums of communication. Finally, Shifting Sociality addresses society through consumerism, custom and the structures of time and travel.

“The development of Portrait of a Nation II: Beyond Narratives, has been, from the beginning, a process of approaches – to people, histories and stories," said El Khalil. "We present ways of tending to culture as space not time, recognising that art is shaped by and through encounters that may lay dormant then return, that relationships accumulate significance in and with the places of their genesis and that people assimilate the ideas of their world into their activities. What emerges is a portrait of a multivalent and polyphonic community forged through camaraderie and exchange.”

Prominent loans from cultural institutions and public figures are on view, including from Barjeel Art Foundation, National Pavilion UAE, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah Museum, Art Jameel, NYU Abu Dhabi.

A number of productions, talks and workshops will also take place.

The Abu Dhabi Festival is presenting its latest production of albums in a dedication installation as part of the Composers' Platform at Abu Dhabi Festival. The exhibition allows visitors to enjoy new music including Ismak by Saudi pop singer Tamtam; Ihab Darwish’s Hekayat: Symphonic Tales; and the first album by Cairo Jazz Station. Other albums include Piano Concerto No. 1 by Omar Rahbany who blends music from his own Arabic and Lebanese origins with European Baroque music.

Emirati director and artist Nujoom AlGhanem will also present her short film Passage, which was commissioned by the National Pavilion UAE at the 2019 Venice Biennale and was filmed in the UAE and Venice, Italy.

Visitors will get to see a tribute to artist Christo and his partner Jeanne-Claude, too, whose legacy with the Emirates began more than 40 years ago and flourished over the years through collaborations with Admaf until after Christo’s death in 2020.

More information is at abudhabifestival.ae

Updated: January 20, 2022, 2:22 PM