It is 12 metres in diameter and consists of a circular platform loaded with 25 tonnes of red oil-based painted wax, which is moved and shaped by a rotating arm. Anish Kapoor's My Red Homeland certainly has a dominating presence.
The artwork, part of a selection from Guggenheim Abu Dhabi's permanent collection, will be the centrepiece of works that will be on display at Manarat Al Saadiyat from March. It will be the second showcase from the collection, following the success of the 2014 exhibition Seeing Through Light, which welcomed more than 90,000 visitors.
The new programme, The Creative Act, will feature 25 pieces. The theme is movement, with three subcategories – performance, process and presence.
Given the immense mass of Kapoor’s installation and its size, the viewer is forced to walk around it and observe, as a mechanical arm simultaneously builds up the viscous material into high walls and flattens it down again.
The name suggests a reference to India, the birthplace of the artist, who is one of the most important sculptors of contemporary art in the world. But Kapoor has often explained it as a “path to emotional exploration”, because red is the colour of emotion and passion, thus offering a much more spiritual interpretation. The curators say it was an appropriate centrepiece for the show.
“This piece sums up the exhibition in one go,” says Muneera Al Sayegh, the programmes officer at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority. “With its movement, performative elements and striking presence, it brings together the three subcategories of the show within one work, making it the main part of the exhibition.”
The work of French artist Niki de Saint Phalleis also included. She created a series of paintings in the 1960s by firing a rifle at polythene bags full of paint in front of canvases, so that when the bags exploded, paintings were created. Pirodactyl Over New York, from 1962, is an example of this rather violent and dramatic process.
Valerie Hillings, the curator and manager of curatorial affairs for the Abu Dhabi Project of Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, explains how all the works in the exhibition underline the importance of movement and action. “As opposed to the last show, which was largely abstract work, we wanted to bring the human element forward as well as the artists themselves. Sometimes it is in the doing itself that the creativity emerges, so we chose the title to talk about the act of creation and to illustrate that process can be as important as the end result.”
Importantly, the main artwork will be shown alongside archival materials such as magazines articles, photographs and other documents.
“We really want to animate the process underlying their works and their actions, and bring to light the dynamism of their movement,” says Sasha Kalter-Wasserman, the assistant curator for the museum.
A handful of Emirati artists will be in the show, including Mohammed Kazem. His Directions, 2002 is a two-minute video accompanied by photographs and wooden panels depicting a performance by the artist at sea, taking his GPS coordinates and recording them – a series that was later developed into Walking on Water, the large installation that was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2013.
“Another piece we are very excited to include is a selection of Susan Hefuna’s drawings mapping movement and a video recording of a performance at the Drawing Center in New York,” says Sarah Dwider, the curatorial assistant with the Abu Dhabi Project, Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation.
German-Egyptian artist Hefuna, who had a large retrospective in Sharjah Art Foundation in 2014, is interested in the concept of structure. Geometric shapes and lines appear across her works, regardless of the medium.
For this piece she used chalk to draw on the floor and had dancers move across the drawing so that it was eventually erased.
“This work is important because it is about choreography in the broadest sense – the way we move through our cities and through our lives. These are ideas and concepts that make sense to all of us,” says Hillings.
Importantly, the works come from across geographies and generations, and use a variety of media. This highlights the museum’s philosophy and also gives the public a clear view of what Guggenheim will offer.
Saif Saeed Ghobash, the director general of TCA Abu Dhabi, sums it up: "The Creative Act exhibition will emphasise intertwined histories among countries, within regions, and across continents, consistent with the curatorial vision of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and echoing TCA Abu Dhabi's strategic endeavours to transform Abu Dhabi into a hub for world cultures. This exhibition will highlight connections between contemporary artists, revealing common sources of inspiration, lines of influence and distinctive contributions."
• The Creative Act: Performance. Process. Presence. begins on March 8 at Manarat Al Saadiyat