ABU DHABI// Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, will open the door to the Royal Family's private art collection for the first time this week. The exhibition, on Tuesday at the Sea Palace, the private residence of the Crown Prince, is part of a three-day Collectors Programme of events aimed at creating a dialogue between the western art world and the Middle East. Among those invited are Julia Peyton-Jones, director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim Museum's director, Aaron Betsky, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Iranian artists Charles Zenderoudi and Shirin Neshat.
The collectors will have the opportunity to meet leading figures behind the arts in Abu Dhabi and debate Middle Eastern art at a series of events at the Emirates Palace hotel. It is hoped the event will demonstrate Abu Dhabi's commitment to supporting the next generation of arts practitioners and enthusiasts. Among the events, will be a presentation on the cultural vision of Abu Dhabi by Dr Zaki Nusseibeh, from the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.
The collectors will also have the opportunity to take a helicopter tour of Abu Dhabi and view developments at Saadiyat Island Cultural District, where the Guggenheim and Louvre galleries are to be located. The collectors have been invited to Abu Dhabi to coincide with artparis-Abu Dhabi, showcasing contemporary art with participation from 58 galleries around the world. Artparis-Abu Dhabi, which opens at the Emirates Palace hotel today, will run until Nov 21.
Sheikh Mohammed has been collecting art in a private capacity for more than 25 years but this is the first time he has displayed his collection, which is a reflection of his own personal tastes and interests. The guide to the royal collection says: "Ours is an unfinished collection, in the sense that we are constantly discovering exciting and different avenues of art to explore. "Each day brings new encounters and enjoyments. In every sense, therefore, the collection represents just the beginning of an exciting voyage and one that knows no bounds or ultimate destination."
Emily Doherty, the exhibition organiser, said the Crown Prince took great interest in the artists and added the exhibition showed this was "not about buying into trends". "This is an extraordinary opportunity. There are some wonderful works of art that have never been seen before," she said. "It reflects what he is interested in. He is very discerning and has developed his own taste and ideas." Although the collection numbers around 400 pieces, only 160 have been chosen to go on display. The paintings and sculptures are being shown by country for simplicity.
Works from prominent UAE artists, such as Hassan Sharif and Abdul Kadir al Rais are on display, along with pieces from Iranian artists such as Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, and a striking scroll by Pouran Jinchi, in which verses from the Quran have been copied in green ink. Among the classics of western modern art on display are a Warhol screenprint of Marilyn Monroe, a Picasso painting from 1953, Tête de Femme, a Matisse charcoal drawing and a Joan Miro painting.
There are also works from what are considered "hot" artists among contemporary Middle Eastern galleries and collectors, such as a bronze frieze by Susan Hefuna, the rising German-Egyptian artist, in which a line from a song by Umm Kalthoum - Patience is Beautiful - is repeated in a series of bronze blocks on a canvas. There are also two paintings by the Iranian calligrapher Hassan Massoudy, an impressive three-part photographic print by the Moroccan-American artist Lalla Essaydi, whose work combines Islamic calligraphy with depictions of the female body.
Among the works by major international stars from the region and the West are two photographs by the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, a spot painting by Damien Hirst and a wooden bench designed by the Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, featuring her trademark swooping curves. Saleh Barakat, a Beirut-based Middle Eastern art specialist, who will guide the collectors through the tour, said: "This is a collection that is growing. It is going through phases. There are orientalist and western art works but it is mostly Middle Eastern. There are a lot of established artists from the Arab world and Iran."