La Biennale di Venezia 2024: UAE Pavilion: ‘Abdullah Al Saadi: Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia’

The National Pavilion UAE for the Biennale Arte 2024, presents “Abdullah Al Saadi: Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia.” Featuring eight artworks by Emirati artist Abdullah Al Saadi, an influential conceptual artist in the UAE, the exhibition delves into his explorations of the wilderness. Curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh, the show explores Al Saadi’s creative process in relation to the practices of ancient Arab poets. Al Saadi begins drawing, painting, or writing during his journeys, drawing parallels to the poetic tradition where poets described a similar immersion in nature before composing their verses.

Abdullah Al Saadi: Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia. Image Courtesy of National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia. Photo by Ismail Noor of Seeing Things-2762

This marks the National Pavilion UAE’s eighth participation at the Biennale Arte, with the exhibition running from April 20 to November 24, 2024. Visitors can immerse themselves in Al Saadi’s world, discovering both the displayed artworks and those concealed in metal chests. Performers will unveil a selection of hidden artworks, mirroring the artist’s ritual in his studio. These chests contain maps, stones, scrolls, and drawings created by Al Saadi during his journeys, each meticulously numbered, dated, and coded as a form of collective memory for the future. Al Saadi expressed how his environment influences his art during his solitary travels, often accompanied by specific companions such as books, music, or animals.

Curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh discussed the exhibition’s focus on Al Saadi’s four-decade-long dedication to his craft, with a performative design echoing the atmosphere of his studio. Laila Binbrek, Director of the National Pavilion UAE, insisted on the significance of showcasing Al Saadi’s pivotal role in the UAE’s contemporary art scene since the 1980s.

Abdullah Al Saadi: Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia. Image Courtesy of National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia. Photo by Ismail Noor of Seeing Things-2795

About Abdullah Al Saadi

Abdullah Al Saadi, an Emirati artist based in Khor Fakkan, was among the influential “Pioneer Five” conceptual artists who shaped the UAE’s contemporary art scene in the 1980s. His education includes English literature studies at the United Arab Emirates University and Japanese painting at Kyoto Seika University. Al Saadi’s diverse oeuvre spans painting, drawing, and the meticulous documentation of found objects. His practice, deeply rooted in nature and rural life, explores local landscapes and cultural histories. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions globally, including the Sharjah Biennale, La Biennale di Venezia, and the New Museum in New York.

Location: The Arsenale, Sale d’Armi, Venice, Italy.

Dates: April 20 to November 24, 2024.



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