NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery announces its autumn exhibition

The show will feature the work of four UAE-based artists reflecting on the subject of their own environment

'Khod Nafass 1.0' (Take A Breath/Breathe) by Areej Kaoud, 2018, a custom yellow and red LED Panel commissioned by Tashkeel. Courtesy of the artist
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NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery, the university's museum-gallery,  has announced that its new fall exhibition will bring the work of four established UAE-based artists : Palestinian Areej Kaoud, Emirati Jumairy, Saudi-born Ayman Zedani and Raja'a Khalid.

Titled Speculative Landscapes and curated by Maya Allison, Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi and Executive Director of the NYUAD Art Gallery,, the exhibition allows the artists to explore the concept of environment, whether natural, artificial or visual, through the close study of their surroundings in the UAE.

'Becoming-with (red)' (2019) by Ayman Zedani. Courtesy of the artist
'Becoming-with (red)' (2019) by Ayman Zedani. Courtesy of the artist

Speculative Landscapes will present a series of new installations, each offering an imaginary journey derived from the artists' real-world observations of everyday life.

A detail of 'Study for a.quiet.wave' (2019) by Raja'a Khalid. Courtesy of the artist
A detail of 'Study for a.quiet.wave' (2019) by Raja'a Khalid. Courtesy of the artist

Khalid's performative installation invites viewers to embrace personal well-being as a commodifiable trend, while Kaoud's playground keeps visitors on high alert to ever-present risk. In two very different landscape installations, Zedani and Jumairy each propose worlds in which our natural bodies and the landscape around us manifest biological or artificial intelligence.

'BRZ5 Imagined' (2019), a digital collage by Jumairy. Courtesy of the artist
'BRZ5 Imagined' (2019), a digital collage by Jumairy. Courtesy of the artist

“For me, these artists capture something unique in their perspectives, both in how they respond to our surroundings, and how they connect to the unusual art scene here," says Allison.

"There has been an apparently fast rise of contemporary art in the UAE that matches the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of the country since its founding in 1971," she adds. "The art community, of course, has always existed, but began to create a very proactive community starting in the 1980s and 1990s.

"That grass-roots scene was largely invisible to their international peers until around 2012, when the now-acclaimed Hassan Sharif came to the attention of major international curators. By then, the UAE’s Sharjah Art Biennial had long since become a highly-influential leader, while Dubai saw the growth of the commercial gallery sector with the pivotal Art Dubai fair, followed by the launch of a series of international museum projects in Abu Dhabi.”

"Now, a host of organisations support the emerging artists, but other 'emerged' artists occupy a midpoint as they branch out into international museum shows and prestigious residencies," she went on to say.

"This exhibition offers a rare lens onto one specific recurring theme that I’ve observed in this emergent scene, a theme that these four artists in particular express through their distinctly arch, speculative, conceptual practice."

Speculative Landscapes will run from September 16 to December 7, 2019 at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery