11th Abu Dhabi Art launches with cutting-edge exhibitions and dynamic programmes

Under the patronage of HH Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, the 11th edition of Abu Dhabi Art opened to the public today, 21 November at Manarat Al Saadiyat and Al Ain Oasis.

The leading art fair features participation from esteemed galleries, artists and curators from around the world, as well as emerging local talent, in its wide-ranging exhibitions and programming. In addition to the commercial aspect of the fair, the event offers specially-commissioned installations, curated exhibitions, and a full public programme of talks, workshops, performances and other activations.

An artist-led tour was held at Al Ain Oasis and Al Jahili Fort today to explore installations there as part of the Beyond: Artist Commissions initiative, this year created by world-renowned international artists Oliver Beer and Leandro Erlich. Argentine conceptual artist Erlich’s ethereal installation at the oasis thrilled visitors with the contrast between its ephemeral and mysterious centrepiece cloud and the harsh surrounding landscape. At Al Jahili Fort, Beer, a prominent British video and sculptural artist, discussed with visitors his two ‘reanimation’ video works, created in collaboration with 1,000 Abu Dhabi schoolchildren in sessions organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi’s Education and Outreach team.

Leandro Erlich commented: “Through my site-specific installation in Al Ain Oasis, titled Heart of Water, I am presenting an impossible and aspirational poetic work, about a cloud that is kept in this kind of nest in the desert, in the oasis.”

Oliver Beer said: “My exhibit is called A Thousand Faces, and works with ideas of cultural conformism and individualism, done primarily through a technique I developed called reanimation. The paintings we’ve worked with are part of a shared human story and the reinterpretation by these children is a new way of perceiving these images.”

The opening day of the fair also saw three workshops take place, the first led by Ai-Da, the world’s first ultra-realistic AI robot artist. Ai-Da took participants through her artistic persona and demonstrated the ways in which technology and art can be intertwined. The second session of the day, ‘Art Activities’, saw both children and adults taking inspiration from the art they saw at the fair to create their own artworks using various mediums. A third workshop, led by artist, Li Shurui, encouraged visitors to think about the way that colour and light interact in their daily lives.

Manarat Al Saadiyat is also playing host to the Al Burda Endowment, a pioneering initiative created by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development which celebrates Islamic art through grants distributed to ten contemporary artists from the region. The opening day of the fair saw guided tours around the Al Burda Endowment’s gallery stands and installations, allowing participants to gain a deeper insight into contemporary Islamic art.

The day closed with two performances, the first of which, ‘The Art of Expression’, saw Untitled Chapters delight audiences with poetry about heritage storytelling and symbolism in a contemporary world. The second performance, ‘Bait Al Oud Harmonies’, featured renowned Qanoon player and Bait Al Oud teacher, Bassem Abdel Sattar and Iraqi Oud star Saddeq Jaffar alongside a talented collection of saxophonists and drummers.

The second day of Abu Dhabi Art is set to offer further immersive activities, including creative workshops for visitors of all ages and a series of engaging talks focusing on topic such as the emerging contemporary art scene in the Pacific region and the challenges and defences for cultural identity influencing art.

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