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.”


Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair

Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair
Updated 15 January 2021

Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair

Highlights from this year’s Egypt International Art Fair
  • Works from 100+ artists from the MENA region will be on show in Cairo from Feb. 12-14

ESRAA ZIDAN

‘Untitled’

This 2020 painting is typical of Zidan’s exuberant, colorful and loving portrayal of the female form (her Master’s degree was on “Human Anatomy for Artists”). The 30-year-old Egyptian artist began depicting plus-size women as a response to the “unrealistic beauty standards” of Instagram, she once told Cairo West magazine. “The most important point is that I portrayed them feeling happy and satisfied. I want every woman to feel accepted and confident about how she looks.” In another interview, with Executive Woman magazine, she said: “We aren’t supposed to look alike. Everyone is different, and every woman is enough the way she is.”

WAEL DARWISH

‘Untitled’

The Cairene multidisciplinary artist has described himself as “much concerned with the changing perceptions and the state of continual metamorphosis that Egypt, as an African, Arab, and Middle Eastern country that was colonized and liberated, has witnessed in the last three decades.” In his paintings, such as this one, he is “obsessed by human movement and the quest for freedom,” and uses bold colors and impressionist techniques to imply that movement.

HAKIM ALAKEL

‘Untitled’

The 55-year-old artist is one of the most significant figures in Yemen’s art scene and his paintings have sold around the world — particularly to fans of Art Nouveau work. His art is inspired by city life in Yemen before the civil war, depicting simple, colorful urban scenes often featuring female residents. “These cities, and their inhabitants, form a primary reference for my work… the clothing, the weather, the nature and the environment,” Alakel is quoted as saying on synkroniciti.com. “You’ll find that Yemeni women actually form the main inspiration for my work. They are unique in their style, their vision, their dress… and there is also a certain kind of silence in their faces. I see these women as symbols of the larger environment in which they live.”

WALID EL-MASRI

‘Peacock’ (series since 2018)

El-Masri is a Lebanese artist who was born in Syria and now lives and works in Paris. According to Ayyam Gallery, his practice “revolves around the repeated examination of a single material subject as he explores variations in depth and space through abstracted compositions. … Like Morandi's vases or Cezanne's apples, El-Masri's depictions are less about the objects themselves and more about the possibility of transformation that is derived from paying close attention to the object over time.” El-Masri explained this practice to the Attasi Foundation. “Every time you repeat a shape, you perceive it in a different way,” he said.

“The Peacock” is a series he has been working on for the past few years, reportedly intended as an homage to his father, who was kidnapped in Syria, after which El-Masri stopped painting for some time. When he started again in 2018, the peacock was the first thing he painted, and he has since completed several works on the same theme.

SALAH EL-MUR

‘Untitled’

Sudanese multidisciplinary artist Salah El-Mur is based in Cairo, but spent many years traveling throughout East Africa and the Middle East. This, according to a statement from the organizers of the Egypt International Art Fair, “has given him a rich and diverse background, while still maintaining a distinctive and peculiar Sudanese identity, to the extent of becoming a (flag bearer for) Sudanese art.” His vivid and colorful paintings of street life “do not (portray) significant events or actions, but characters — each with a concealed story of their own.”

MOHANNAD ORABI

‘Waiting’

This painting comes from the UAE-based Syrian artist’s “Family Portrait” series. His expressionist-style works, according to the fair’s organizers, is based on “the inherent psychology of portraiture in compositions that depict a revolving cast of characters” and was “initially inspired by the confessional elements and sense of freedom in children’s drawings.” But the inspiration for this series came from childhood visits with his family to photographers’ studios. “These psychological portraits capture the fatigue and uncertainty experienced by millions,” Maymanah Farhat, director of art at Ayyam Gallery, told Time Out last year. “They remind viewers that the future of countries such as Syria now rests in the hands of displaced youth; children shaped by the trauma of war.”

AHMED ABDELWAHAB

‘Egyptian Girl’

Abdelwahab is one of Egypt’s most-respected contemporary sculptors. His work is something of an homage to Ancient Egyptian civilization and visual references, and he often uses traditional techniques and materials to create his sculptures. But while he celebrates his country’s heritage, his style is modern — even incorporating Western influences no doubt inspired by his time studying in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, he earned a three-year scholarship in the Rome atelier of the acclaimed Italian sculptor Emilio Greco in the late Sixties.