In its first ever exhibition abroad, Abu Dhabi Art presented commissioned works created in 2020 as part of the annual programme Beyond: Emerging Artists at Cromwell Place London from 2 to 13 June.
The three Emirati, emerging artists included in the exhibition were supported by curator Maya El-Khalil in the development of their commissions in 2020. Their works were shown alongside presentations of UAE-based galleries Tabari Artspace, Lawrie Shabibi, The Third Line and Isabelle Van Den Eynde across five galleries in 2, 3 and 4 Cromwell Place.
Beyond: Emerging Artists was curated by El-Khalil in 2020 and first shown at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi in November 2020. The commissions explore in diverse ways the theme of memory, with works by Hind Mezaina, Afra Al Dhaheri and Afra Al Suwaidi. Alongside these new commissions and by invitation from Abu Dhabi Art, Tabari Artspace presented recent works by emerging performance artist Maitha Abdalla, whose work crosses mediums to explore adolescence and transitional moments. Lawrie Shabibi presented works by the UAE’s most established contemporary artist, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, who will represent the UAE at the Venice Biennale in 2022. Dubai-based galleries The Third Line and Isabelle Van Den Eynde presented a selection of MENA-based artists including Anuar Khalifi, Sara Naim, Sophia Al Maria and Manal AlDowayan.
Exploring the theme of memory, the Beyond: Emerging Artists programme features artworks from Mezaina using multimedia archival materials, such as photography and archival film, to express elements of collective memory, masculinity, heritage, and the UAE. Mezaina often describes her work as a form of ‘visual archaeology’.
As a starting point to explore identity formation, Al Dhaheri disorders hair strands, using her own reclaimed hair, which she collects once it has fallen out. Beyond exploring self-identity, her work draws on broader social associations and inhibitions related to female hair and its containment. Al Dhaheri uses mixed media to render nuances of memory and time.
Al Suwaidi, meanwhile, reconstitutes fragmented visual memories, rendering lines of trauma as embodied in domestic architectural forms. Al Suwaidi presents her work through a process of collage. In her work, time is caught in a fugitive state but also pushed further away, to elsewhere.
Abu Dhabi Art 2021 will return to Manarat Al Saadiyat in a physical format this year, taking place from 18 to 21 November 2021, with an opening event on 17 November 2021. Following the success of last year’s virtual fair, Abu Dhabi Art will also continue to have a strong digital presence through a number of online initiatives.