Abu Dhabi Art 2020 begins: here are the exhibitions to see and talks to attend

The 12th edition of the fair will take place online from November 19 to 26

Lamya Gargash’s photos at Gateway: Fragments, Yesterday and Today exhibition at The 11th edition of Abu Dhabi Art. Curated by Paolo Colombo.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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Abu Dhabi Art’s week-long virtual fair is almost upon us.

Despite the online format, the art fair's agenda has expanded this year, bringing additional curated sections, as well as reinstating its performance programme, when it launches on Thursday, November 19. There are a total of six guest curators, each presenting an online exhibition with a specific geographic focus or theme.

The Beyond: Emerging Artists section, the fair’s commissions programme that focuses on young artists, has a virtual and physical exhibition, with the exhibit on view at Manarat Al Saadiyat. Curated by Maya El Khalil, it features three Emirati artists: Hind Mezaina, Afra Al Dhaheri and Afra Al Suwaidi.

The fair will also host a series of talks and educational workshops, accessible to the public via the Abu Dhabi Art website. Here are a few highlights from the the fair’s programme.

UAE galleries

At least 12 galleries from across the Emirates are participating at Abu Dhabi Art this year, including 1x1 Art Gallery, Elmarsa Gallery, Meem Gallery, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde (IVDE), Lawrie Shabibi and Etihad Modern Art Gallery.

Gallery IVDE is showcasing works by Hassan Sharif, Mohamed Kazem, Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, among others. Meanwhile, Lawrie Shabibi is dedicating its presentation to Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, an Emirati artist who was recently selected to represent the UAE at the Venice Biennale in 2022. Meem Gallery is featuring other Arab artists such as Kamal Boullata, Marwan and Dia Al Azzawi.

Other curated sections focused on geography

The fair’s other themed sections include India Today. As the name suggests, it features contemporary art galleries from India or those that represent South Asian artists, chosen by Ashwin Thadani, art dealer and founder of Galerie Isa in Mumbai. With a similar geographic focus, Sung woo Kim, an independent curator who works with the Busan Biennale, has dedicated a section to contemporary Korean art named Material-Real. Simon Njami, a curator and writer in Paris, presents The Day After, which focuses on artists from the African continent, who are linked by works that address the theme of time.

An untitled work by G R Iranna from the India Today section. Abu Dhabi Art

In the Rounds performance programme

Curated by Rose Lejeune, the performance programme In the Rounds includes artists Maitha Abdalla from the UAE, Alice Theobald from the UK, Raed Yassin from Lebanon and Nastio Mosquito from Angola.

Performances are cast for the digital realm, wielding technology to create a new experience in a 360° video. Lejeune says In the Rounds uses "immersive projection technology to offer an experimental way to present artist's performance beyond the live moment".

The works are available online from Thursday, November 19.

A still from Maitha Abdallah's performance as part of the programme curated Curated by Rose Lejeune. Abu Dhabi Art 


The curators of the fair will each have an opportunity to discuss their work and research through online talks. Njami, Thadani and Nada Raza, curator of the UAE section, will come together for a discussion on the opening day to explore each of their virtual exhibitions in depth.

Njami, who was behind Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent, a landmark exhibition held in Europe in 2005, and its accompanying book, will have a dedicated discussion with curator Chris Dercon at a later date that is yet to be announced.

On the opening day, the women behind social enterprise 81 Designs and design studio Naqsh Collective will talk about their presentation A Thobe Story, a community initiative that is part of the fair that features 10 thobes with a unique design twist. Instead of the typical traditional patterns, the tatreez depicts scenes from everyday Palestinian life. While Naqsh Collective worked on the design, the artisan women who live in Ain Al Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, executed the embroidery.

On Monday, November 23,an online panel "How UAE art institutions have shaped and impacted the local art ecosystem" – will trace the development of the country's art scene and the role of museums and foundations in it. Speakers include Nawar Al Qassimi, director of Sharjah Art Foundation, Laila Binbrek, co-ordinating director of the National Pavilion, Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, and Reem Fadda, director of the Culture Foundation.

Educational workshops

There are virtual workshops for children, teenagers and adults, each inspired by an artist from around the world. One on embroidery, for example, draws from the work of Indian artist Sumakshi Singh, using botanical forms as the basis for the pattern. The workshop costs Dh100.

A children’s workshop inspired by the work of Senegalese artist Soly Cisse will teach participants how to create textured landscapes using tempera and acrylic paints with coloured tissue paper. This can be booked for Dh50 and children have to be accompanied by an adult.

Abu Dhabi Art will take place from Thursday, November 19 to Thursday, November 26. More information can be found at abudhabiart.ae