Art Hub Liwa lets gifted international artists live and work on the cusp of the Empty Quarter

Art Hub Liwa is a desert oasis of inspiration and creativity. Sister property to the Abu Dhabi Art Hub, the first exhibition will open this week.
Mohammed Quraish, a resident artist from Canada working with paper, iron and ink at Art Hub Liwa. Ravindranath K / The National
Mohammed Quraish, a resident artist from Canada working with paper, iron and ink at Art Hub Liwa. Ravindranath K / The National

Underneath the wooden sign that signifies your arrival at Liwa’s newest artistic enterprise, brave steel figures either march up an 80-metre golden sand dune or form a line across its base. One intrepid silver shape seems to have escaped and appears to be sand skiing down the side.

These playful artworks are just a few of the original pieces created on-site by 12 artists who have been living and working here for the past month.

Welcome to the Western Region’s first art centre, Art Hub Liwa, the sister property to Abu Dhabi Art Hub, which opened in 2012 and is now one of the capital’s most popular destinations for artists to visit. Abu Dhabi Art Hub also hosts regularly monthly residencies that incubate artists from a particular country and culminate in an exhibition. Art Hub Liwa aims to do the same thing, only in the middle of the desert.

“Being isolated in this desert can test an artist into how to live a simple and productive life,” says Ahmed Al Yafei, the owner and founder of both Art Hubs. “Liwa gives an artist a unique, elevated experience inspired by the landscape of the desert that they can take with them wherever they go in the world.”

Scheduled to open late last year but delayed until March, the Liwa property is something Al Yafei holds close to his heart.

“The desert is a very special environment and one that all our artists love to experience,” he says. “Also, for people living in this country many years ago, they used to come to the desert to escape the heat and humidity in the summer. We are proud to share our heritage with our visitors.”

The first residency in Art Hub Liwa welcomed 12 artists from all over the world as well as a writer, Pamela Thompson, and a yoga instructor.

The artists have lived and worked together for the past five weeks in the 10,000-square-metre compound, located close to the Al Jabana Fort on the edge of the Empty Quarter desert.

They have been working on artworks made from recycled, repurposed and reused materials salvaged from oil and gas industry scrap yards found in the region for an exhibition that opens tonight.

The steel figures that greet visitors on arrival are an integral part of Upcycled Art Festival – Oil and Gas Industry, as is a 10.5 metre-by-12 metre portrait of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, created with sand and glue by the Canadian artist Sylvain Tremblay.

Another artist, Nasser Palangi, has fashioned a life-sized scrap-metal camel featuring an oil barrel as its belly and many of the other artists have used scrap that Art Hub Liwa collected to ease their production.

“This is the first in an annual series of artist residency programmes dedicated to the process of converting waste material and useless products into magnificent visual and functional art,” explains Karen Hart, the Art Hub director. “They are all eco-friendly creations that represent an exceptional coming together of science and art from the functional design of the equipment to the repurposed beauty of the resulting artwork.”

Upcycled opens tonight at 6pm. For those wishing to attend, Art Hub is providing a bus leaving from Abu Dhabi Art Hub at 3pm. To reserve a seat, call 02 551 5005 or email

* With additional reporting by Pamela S Thompson

Published: May 14, 2014 04:00 AM


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