Hands-on Guggenheim workshops shows children that abstract art can be fun

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi has ongoing education and public programming, meant to enhance the museum experience for visitors and draw younger audiences to modern art.

Children use unconventional materials such as sticks to create abstract art at the Guggenheim workshop. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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ABU DHABI // Inspired by the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection on display at Manarat Al Saadiyat, children as young as six had fun producing their own abstract paintings yesterday.

They took part in an immersive workshop, part of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s education and public programming.

It was meant to enhance visitors’ experience at the museum and draw younger people to modern art.

“It’s about developing a deeper understanding of the artwork and it allows our audiences to have a deeper relationship as well with the artworks,” said ­Sharifa bin Horaiz, education manager at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

“The programming is developed with the artworks and the artists on display in mind, and they directly link a concept that is featured in the exhibition – a particular technique, perhaps, or materials that a certain artist might use to create their artworks.”

The artistic workshop introduced children, between six and 12 years old, to the work of Kazuo Shiraga, a Japanese performance artist who earned critical acclaim for his “foot-painting” technique.

Mr Shiraga’s painting, Female Tiger Incarnated from Earthly Shady Star, is among the artworks on display as part of The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence, the second exhibition of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection on display until July 29. Yesterday, local artists led the children on a tour of the Japanese Gutai art exhibit and challenged them to create a painting by using unconventional materials – such as the wheels of a tricycle, a spray bottle, a stick, their hands and even their feet as they swung from a rope over the canvas. “My goal is to get young people not to be afraid of art and see that it is fun,” said workshop leader Angelika Hamilton.

“Usually you go into exhibitions, there are red lines they can’t cross, signs saying don’t touch, warnings to stand back, not too close or you’ll have security guards hovering over you. So it’s nice that in this workshop they can get their hands dirty.”

The experience helped the children to connect with contemporary art and artists, fostering a new generation of patrons, said Ms Hamilton.

“So when the Guggenheim opens, then people will know what to expect and know how to appreciate contemporary modern abstract art,” she said.

“Lots of these pieces come from the permanent collection. So I hope the children will take their parents into the museum and say, ‘look, this is the painting that I learnt about in the workshop and the one that I have at home inspired by this’.”

In addition to the weekly workshops for children, teenagers and adults, the museum also offers weekend drop-in sessions.

It has also published a free family activity guide to help visitors explore selected works and learn about the exhibition themes.

When The Creative Act first opened, the museum gave teachers a preview of the exhibits along with education material and resources.

On May 18, the museum will offer a four-week kinetic sound sculpture course for adults and host a free multimedia event ­featuring poetry, music and ­theatre.

“Our education and public programming is about having the museum become more accessible and the exhibitions as an accessible platform for people to visit so that they can learn about art,” said Sara Abdulaziz Yousef Binsafwan, researcher at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

“It’s definitely the aim of the museum to start a programme and arts community here within Abu Dhabi so that they are prepared and ready for the museum opening.”

For more information about Guggenheim Abu Dhabi workshops and events, visit www.saadiyatculturaldistrict.ae.