Saadiyat show's finale portrays urban life as art

Artists, students, families and cultural aficionados pack Artscape Madina on Saadiyat Island at the close of the island's first art exhibition.

Abu Dhabi // Artists, students, families and cultural aficionados packed Artscape Madina on Saadiyat Island last night at the close of the island's first art exhibition. The interactive art show, organised by the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), celebrated Disorientation II: The Rise and Fall of Arab Cities, and the varied displays and performances drew praise.

Denise Patten, 49, an Australian who lives in Abu Dhabi, said she always attended art exhibitions in the city, but this one was totally different. "It makes the art more user-friendly, and is a great way to harness interest," she said. "It is so different to what normally happens in art galleries." Artscape Madina started with activities for children on the terrace of Manarat al Saadiyat, the island's exhibition space. Visitors were then invited to view the art exhibition before the storyteller, or hakawati, Sayed Rajab took the floor to regale them with tales inspired by 1001 Nights.

Mohammed al Mandi, one of the region's only master calligraphers, gave a live performance with the Chinese Muslim calligraphy master Haji Noor Deen. The pair used luminescent ink on a black screen to emphasise the patterns and curves of their script. Throughout the evening, DJ Bliss and the fusion band Ziryab performed live in the background. Anood al Fahim, an art student, said she was attending her first exhibition.

"We are not used to having exhibitions here in Abu Dhabi and I am not normally sure if I want to attend, but this event made me want to explore," said the 25-year-old Emirati. "I like it. The whole thing is eye-catching." Rita Aoun-Abdo, the art and cultural adviser at TDIC, said the event celebrated the urban experience of the Arab world. The audience, she said, was meant to experience all aspects of living in the city.

"Human words and stories, they all make up city life and they can all be found here at Artscape," she said. Artscape is part of TDIC's public programme to support art and culture in the UAE. The development of Saadiyat Island was integral to that aim, organisers said. Asma al Shamsey, 29, said: "I am proud of Abu Dhabi for these kind of events. I am an art lover and today I have seen art in a new perspective. I hope there are more events like this in the future."