Islamic Art Forum in Abu Dhabi to invite the world’s best calligraphers

Emirati artist and curator Mariam Al Suwaidi explains the inaugural Islamic Art Forum will focus on calligraphy.

Islamic Art Forum curator Mariam Al Suwaidi. Courtesy of Islamic art forum
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An array of leading artists will display their works in Abu Dhabi as part of November’s Islamic Art Forum.

Art aficionados have until Sunday to get a taste of what the event, to be at Emirates Palace, has to offer with a special preview held at the hotel.

Emirati artist and curator Mariam Al Suwaidi explains the inaugural showcase will focus on calligraphy.

“I have felt a growing international interest in calligraphy in particular, but I believe this hasn’t been reflected in the media as it should,” she states from last night’s preview opening.

“The forum will seek to explore the relationship between heritage and modernity through the eyes of calligraphy artists. It will offer a platform for contemporary artists and legends to share their inspirational messages, conveyed through the Arabic language.”

The preview saw nine eminent Islamic artists exhibiting 30 pieces. Half were snapped up in the first few hours with prices beginning from $20,000 (Dh73,450) and with others valued at over $100,000 (Dh36,720) — something Al Suwaidi hails as a testament to calligraphy’s enduring appeal.

“I hope that through the Islamic Art Forum we will soon witness a tangible interest in genuine Islamic artworks, which set off from Abu Dhabi, as the city of art and culture, to the rest of the world,” she says.

Al Suwaidi says the forum’s November date, which will include exhibitions and workshops, will be announced soon.

Emirati sculptor Jamal Al Suwaidi displayed his metal sculptures, which are steeped in local culture. One of the pieces, resembling a dhow, took him three months to craft using wood from an old ship for the base.

Different translations of the word ‘wind’ were stencilled onto the gold-plated sail. “My grandfather travelled by dhow”, he says. “When you travel, you connect with other cultures- that is what this piece symbolises.”

A slew of international artists have also been invited to showcase their work, including Moroccan visual artist Mohamed Boustane, who is best known for his calligraphy on paper, cedar and skin.

“He beautifully transforms letters into signs that contain Moroccan and Islamic cultural identity”, says Al Suwaidi.

Another guest is Syrian artist Khaled Al-Saa’i, whose forms and letters create landscapes full of colour and emotion, often reflecting on his ravaged homeland.

British calligrapher Soraya Syed has also been invited to the capital to show off her pieces fusing classical Arabic calligraphy with innovative new technologies.

The forum will also be a chance for experts, students and art lovers to discuss current trends at seminars and roundtables meetings.

“We will be spending the next six months accepting new artwork for the forum”, says forum spokeswoman Hermoine Macura. “We’re looking at calligraphers from all over the world — so far we’ve got artists coming from Malaysia, Syria, Morocco and Japan, as well as the UAE.”

Any collectors interested in a private viewing of Islamic Art Forum artwork can contact or visit