Abu Dhabi Art brings together ancient and futuristic creative designs

Abu Dhabi Art brings together ancient and futuristic creative designs
Abu Dhabi Art is exhibiting more than 300 works of art by emerging and established talent. (Arab News)
Updated 23 November 2019

Abu Dhabi Art brings together ancient and futuristic creative designs

Abu Dhabi Art brings together ancient and futuristic creative designs
  • The 11th edition of Abu Dhabi Art boasts 50 leading regional and international galleries
  • Spread across the two main gallery halls, innovation, thought, and concept is explored through various artistic mediums

DUBAI: The world’s first robot artist, Ai-Da, was among the many attractions at a top Middle Eastern cultural event taking place in the UAE.

The 11th edition of Abu Dhabi Art, which runs until Nov. 23 at the capital’s Manarat Al-Saadiyat creative hub, boasts 50 leading regional and international galleries exhibiting more than 300 works of art by emerging and established talent.

Among a range of other activities taking place at the event are workshops, master classes (one of which will be led by Ai-Da), public talks and discussions looking into topical issues such as cultural identity, artistic talent from China, the rise of the Pacific region as a hotspot of contemporary art, and the multidimensionality of Islamic art.




Abu Dhabi Art runs until Nov. 23 at the capital’s Manarat Al-Saadiyat creative hub. (Arab News)

Spread across the two main gallery halls, innovation, thought, and concept is explored through various artistic mediums.

From Dubai, Ayyam Gallery has a solo presentation of vibrant works by the French-Tunisian calligraffiti artist eL Seed, who combines “the beauty of Arabic calligraphy with the roughness of graffiti.”

Meanwhile, the Lawrie Shabibi Gallery was showcasing paintings from the late 1950s onwards by Moroccan modernist Mohamed Melehi, known for his signature, retro-cool wave images.

Another popular exhibit was from Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, which showed Emirati artist Nasir Nasrallah’s bright neon artwork, reading in Arabic, “Visit me every year 365 times.”




Abu Dhabi Art is spread across the two main gallery halls. (Arab News)

From the wider region, Lebanese gallery owner and curator Salah Barakat of Agial Art Gallery introduced visitors to geometrical, steel sculptures by Anachar Basbous.

Jeddah’s Hafez Gallery was making its fourth appearance at the fair, bringing together a display of works by nearly 12 multidisciplinary artists from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Egypt.

Hailing from Tunisia, Elmarsa Gallery displayed figurative paintings bursting with expression and color, by the 20th century Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine, who was highly regarded by the likes of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

Beyond the gallery sections, the Abu Dhabi Art team had set up a number of special exhibitions. “New Horizons” looked into conceptual works created by Chinese and Indian artists, while “Gateway: Fragments, Yesterday and Today” explored archaeological artifacts of ceramics and musical instruments on loan from the Al Ain Museum.




Beyond the gallery sections, the Abu Dhabi Art team had set up a number of special exhibitions. (Arab News)

Alongside the historical items were works by contemporary artists, which exhibition curator Paolo Colombo said were aimed at examining “the ways in which everyday objects have survived long after the lives of individuals who shaped them, and how they have entered the language of a number of contemporary artists.”

Curated by Dr. Omar Kholeif – who was recently appointed senior curator of the Sharjah Art Foundation – the handpicked “Focus: Drawing, Tracing, Mapping” section was dedicated to understanding the medium of drawing in profound depth.

Kholeif said: “Here, drawing is not the simple act of applying graphite to paper, but rather, drawing is performance and social sculpture, as much as it is about the study, diagramming and impression of a portrayal. Here, drawings reveal hidden histories and contour realities. Drawing becomes a means to see the unseen.”

Among the eight participating galleries in the section was the Saudi Athr Gallery, with a solo booth of serene drawings of circles by the Saudi-Palestinian artist Dana Awartani. Created especially for the fair, the gallery said the works symbolized “acts of meditation and moments of contemplation as part of her (Awartani’s) daily rigor of being an artist, a method she frequently adopts to quiet the mind.”




Among the eight participating galleries in the section was the Saudi Athr Gallery. (Arab News)

A fair newcomer was the recently founded Al-Burda Endowment initiative, led by the country’s Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development. For this presentation – on display at Manarat Al-Saadiyat until Feb. 8, 2020 – a group of 10 artists from around the world were chosen to create pieces that celebrated Islamic art with a contemporary touch. Through this experimental exhibition, visitors were treated to a memorable viewing experience, encountering fabric installations to virtual reality.

UAE social enterprise, 81 Designs, forged an artistic dialogue between eL Seed and Palestinian women artisans from Lebanon’s Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp. Inspired by eL Seed, the women have reproduced some of his calligraphic artworks through a time-honored tradition of cross-stitch embroidery.

“The message we want to get across is that art brings happiness to people, especially the underprivileged,” 81 Designs’ co-founder Nesrine Maalouf told Arab News. “We would like to empower women and make them feel that they are contributing to the livelihood and the household.”


The return of Rami Malek: Oscar winner discusses new movie, ‘The Little Things’

The return of Rami Malek: Oscar winner discusses new movie, ‘The Little Things’
‘The Little Things’ marks Rami Malek’s return to the big screen. (Supplied)
Updated 59 min 26 sec ago

The return of Rami Malek: Oscar winner discusses new movie, ‘The Little Things’

The return of Rami Malek: Oscar winner discusses new movie, ‘The Little Things’

DUBAI: It’s been nearly two years since Rami Malek stood on stage at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to accept the Academy Award for Best Actor for his commanding performance as the late pop star and frontman of Queen, Freddie Mercury, in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a film that grossed over $900 million worldwide. Nothing of the moment was lost on him as he looked across the crowd. 

“Part of my story is being written right now,” Malek, the now-39-year-old son of Egyptian immigrants, said during his acceptance speech, which marked the first time a person of Arab heritage had won the award. 

Malek, and everyone in the room, knew what had gotten him to that point in his story. The commitment to his craft was clear in every frame of the film, as he didn’t just embody the legendary singer, but brought new insights into his character. The question that remained, even for Malek himself, is where that talent and dedication would take his story next. 

The answer is “The Little Things,” written and directed by John Lee Hancock, which opens in the UAE and Saudi Arabia on Jan.28. It is Malek’s first big-screen appearance since “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He plays a detective named Jim Baxter, chasing a serial killer with the same singular focus that has made Malek himself so successful.

Malek plays a detective named Jim Baxter who is chasing a serial killer.  (Supplied)

  

Unlike Malek’s tale, however, Baxter’s is a cautionary one, as his non-stop pursuit nearly ruins him. That, in fact, is what drew Malek to the role. 

“It was the whole idea of when obsession starts to overtake so many other aspects of your life. I think it's a good thing to be reminded of,” Malek tells Arab News. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down production across Hollywood only months after “The Little Things” finished filming at the end of 2019, Malek, like all of us, has had a lot of time to reflect. Through these long months, Malek has continued to think back on the last character he played, aware that a singular focus on his own career could lead him away from what matters most.

“This year probably has taught us a lot about that as well. We get so focused on certain things, get so narrow-minded and have a certain tunnel vision about what has to be achieved in life and what we have to do, that we start to neglect the most important things and perhaps Jim gave me a little bit of that,” says Malek.

Beyond that, a year in social distance has given Malek a renewed sense of his own humanity, and the responsibility that comes with that. 

“[Our art] is extremely important; this thing that we get involved in — our heart and our work — and that, of course, means a lot. But loving your fellow man, the relationship you have with your friends and family, how interconnected we all are, and the sense of equality all over the world is something I think we're all probably thinking about now in a very strong, focused way,” Malek continues. 

Flanking Malek in “The Little Things” are two fellow Oscar winners — Denzel Washington and Jared Leto. Leto was offered a part after Washington and Malek had signed on, and the chance to work with Malek was something that the acclaimed actor and lead singer of the band 30 Seconds To Mars couldn’t pass up. 

“If you look at Rami and what he did in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ it's (awe-inspiring),” says Leto, who plays Albert Spama, whom the police suspect may be a serial killer. “I remember when I saw him for the first time after that, the first thing I said to him was, ‘Forget the acting, what you did on the stage deserves the awards in and of itself.’ And, as a guy who has stood on thousands of stages around the world, that isn’t easy. They almost should have cast a musician and taught them how to act, because that's a really a hard thing to do. For me, being a physical actor is really (what I’m interested in).” 

In the film, Malek’s character Baxter latches on to the older, wiser Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon, played by Washington. That relationship mirrored their real-life interactions, as Malek basked in the chance to learn from his accomplished co-star. 

“Personally, if I see wisdom and great instincts and experience in front of me, I lean on that. I think that was also inherent in the script. For someone who is struggling in a case, with so much building up, so much responsibility, to have the ability to lean on someone who had clearly been there before and seen something quite dark — there was almost a need to bring that person into your life and seek counsel from them,” Malek says. “I think Baxter knew, in a sense, it could get him down a harmful road. But there was something advantageous to working with this man that could help him solve this very difficult puzzle.” 

While Washington’s presence gave Malek the opportunity to learn from one of the most acclaimed actors in film history on set, Malek also sought out meetings with actual detectives to gain a better insight into the way they operate. It was, in fact, the way that one detective cancelled on him that gave him his way into their mentality.

“(He) told me he couldn’t make it to an appointment we had set to do some research and talk about my character because he’d just come across ‘a fresh one.’ Those words stuck with me and haunted me. At some point it becomes commonplace for them that this is the job. There must be some type of numbing effect that happens for them, because I can’t imagine ever getting used to seeing what they see on a daily basis,” says Malek. 

The script, written by Hancock in 1993 and originally intended for Steven Spielberg, was meant to be both an ode to the detective film and a rebuke of the genre. (Supplied)

Ultimately, it is how the film resolves that makes it linger. The script, written by Hancock in 1993 and originally intended for Steven Spielberg, was meant to be both an ode to the detective film and a rebuke of the genre. According to Hancock, usually it is the resolution, where the good guys capture the evil doer, that is the least interesting aspect of the film.

“The Little Things” has no heroes, nor does it clearly have villains. Its ending has no satisfying answers, other than laying out a clear pathway to how men end up compromised and broken. 

“One of the reasons I gravitated to this story is because it doesn’t have your usual Hollywood ending. It leaves you questioning your idea of how we look at people — criminals, even ourselves,” says Malek.

As Malek himself continues to reflect, he is entering the next chapter of his story with a renewed sense of what he is building towards.