Abu Dhabi Art dives underwater, explores the changing landscape of the surrounding desert, steps inside an ancient fort and engages young and old to present its 11th edition at Manarat Al Saadiyat in the UAE capital from November 21-23.

The fair will offer a programme of exhibitions, art installations, talks, workshops and performances delivered by leading international artists, curators and creative professionals, in addition to a roster of public programming, according to a statement.

Organised by Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism, the fair aims to “extend the local art conversation beyond the UAE” and “platform local artists to connect with international counterparts, to feed into the local art ecosystem”, Abu Dhabi Art Director Dyala Nusseibeh told The Jordan Times in a phone interview on Tuesday.

The event will draw in both works and spectators from across the globe, featuring 50 exhibits, half of them from outside the UAE, including eight from the region. It showcases the art of India and contemporary works of the “new generation” of artists in China, and expects to see “top patrons and collectors” visiting from India, Russia, China and Oceana among others, the director said.

“Art is an interesting way to bridge cultures,” she mused, adding that Abu Dhabi Art will take visitors across the capital, from the community space Manarat Al Saadiyat hosting the main exhibits, to pop-up pieces and artist commissions at UNESCO World Heritage Site Al Ain Oasis and historic fortresses, among other spaces.

“I try to bring people to these locally relevant places to give them insight into the area,” Nusseibeh said. 

Al Jahili Fort, an ancient fortress located in Al Ain, is the site for British artist Oliver Beer’s commission piece under the annual “Beyond” series, in which he collaborates with 1,000 local schoolchildren, who color in and reinterpret drawings of Alladin, which the artist then compiles into an animation, according to Nusseibeh. 

Beer is also teaming up with a second 1,000-strong cohort of school-aged artists to reinterpret a series of paintings housed in Abu Dhabi’s Louvre Museum, creating a similar animation.

The second Beyond commission piece, “The Heart of Water” is set against the background of Al Ain Oasis’ palm trees, date farms and ancient “falaj” water system used to irrigate the desert. Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich is creating a palm-frond structure containing a sculpture representing the clouds, which carry the rain that falls on the oasis.

The “Beyond” series this year also includes works by three emerging artists, mentored by curators.  Among them is Ayesha Hadir, whose “other-worldly” creations involve submerging fabric works along the capital’s shoreline, and allowing the gulf waters to play a part in the artistic process, the director said.

These emerging artists, the director explained, gave talks during the year for the next generation of artists at the local Zayed University, elaborating on challenges they have faced, the process of entering the art “conversation” after university and how they tackle their work. 

“Art belongs to the next generation,” Nusseibeh said, noting the importance of engaging a wide spectrum of talents and specialties in the artistic process. 

“We have had an artist in residency this year at Khalifa University of Technology, bringing different people into the art conversation, and helping technology students to think creatively, and artists to think technologically,” she added.

Abu Dhabi art has also engaged university students by awarding a prize to three local architecture students, whose Pavilion design will be recreated at the fair. 

The event will also offer spectators, from families to ministers to global guests, the chance to experience the performing arts, such as recitations by UAE poets, and view exhibitions formed from old and new artwork in collaboration with local museums. 

“We give a sense of place,” Nusseibeh said. 



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