Saadiyat secures world art first

Some of the defining images of the 20th century, including one of Andy Warhol's famous multicolour prints of Marilyn Monroe, go on display in the capital.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emitrates --- September 21, 2010 --- The opening of the RSTW Exhibit from the private collection of Larry Gagosian was held on Tuesday evening, September 21, 2010 at Manarat al Saadiyat. The artwork features the works of Rauschenberg, Ruscha, Serra, Twombly, Warhol and Wool.    ( DELORES JOHNSON / The National )

ABU DHABI // Some of the defining images of the 20th century, including one of Andy Warhol's famous multicolour prints of Marilyn Monroe, go on display in the capital today in the first glimpse of works owned by a renowned New York art dealer. Warhol is one of six American artists whose work was unveiled at Manarat al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island last night at the world's first exhibition of contemporary masterpieces from Larry Gagosian's private collection.

Four Marilyns (1962) and Crushed Campbell's Soup Can (1962) are some of the collection's most recognisable pieces, which join the works of Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly and Christopher Wool in the exhibition, called RSTW after their surnames' initials. "It is the first time I've opened up my home to show my personal collection of artwork that I hold dear to my heart," said Mr Gagosian, who was invited to show the 72 works by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC).

Mr Gagosian, who has been collecting art for more than 25 years, said he was "curious" about the reaction of visitors to his first showing in the Middle East. "There will be people who like it and some who won't. And there will be people who will finally put a name to a piece they have seen somewhere before," he said. "Manarat al Saadiyat represents a beacon for Abu Dhabi's emerging contemporary scene, and the efforts being made by the emirate to deliver a ground-breaking cultural district is a testament to the leadership's understanding of the importance of art," Mr Gagosian said. He couldn't pick a favourite from the collection, but did admit having a soft spot for one of the stars on display. "Who can resist a blonde?" he said with a wink. The collection includes Ed Ruscha's Robin, a 1963 oil canvas; Christopher Wool's She Smiles For The Camera, a 2005 enamel on linen; Richard Serra's 1987 large-scale etching Back to Black; Cy Twombly's The Rose, from 2008, acrylic on wood panel; and Warhol's Flowers, a 1964 fluorescent paint and silkscreen ink on linen. The exhibition was opened by Sheikh Hamad bin Zayed, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court, who was joined by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of TDIC and Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. "The opening of this exhibition is a significant milestone in the continued development of Abu Dhabi's cultural offering," said Mubarak Hamad al Muhairi, TDIC's managing director. "Organising an exhibition with new contemporary themes takes our capital city further on the world's art scene," he said. One of the visitors invited to last night's preview, Zayed Ahmed, a 33-year-old businessman, said he was impressed with the art. "I am not a fan of art, to be honest, but I did enjoy the exhibition here as it is different from a typical exhibition," he said. "I am coming back here with my family." Out of the collection, he liked Warhol's paintings most, as they were "familiar" and he enjoyed being introduced to Wool and Rauschenberg's work. "I didn't understand the art, but, I guess, art is never meant to be understood, but appreciated," he said. The exhibition, under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, will run until January 24, from 10am to 8pm. Admission is free. rghazal@thenational.a