Global Art Daily™ Archive
United Arab Emirates
Warehouse 421, Al Mina, Abu Dhabi. Photograph: Sophie Arni for Global Art Daily, November 2015
Khalid Mezaina, Observations Series Process, 2015
Khalid Mezaina, Observations Series, 2015
Hadeyeh Badri, Matter, 2015
Asma Belhamar, Untitled, 2014
Tahlin Hazbar, Hoarding Board, 2015
The Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, in partnership with
the Rhodes Island School of Design, has established the Salama bint
Hamdan Al Nahyan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF), a year-long
program, to mentor 15 promising artists in the UAE from chosen
visual arts disciplines.
The exhibition, titled 'Art: Process & Practice, Salama bint Hamdan
Emerging Artists Fellowship' is a real breath of fresh air in the Abu
Dhabi art scene. Not only is it experimental, but its curation is
low-key, and young as opposed to the polished international hauteur of
the annual Abu Dhabi art fairs (see the 2014 and 2015 editions). Housed
in a warehouse in the new Warehouse 421 complex, opened also under the
patronage and direction of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation,
the flat works were lined up on wired walls, sometimes casually printed
on A3 papers. Installations felt raw, lived, torn, and still full of
life - it felt like the warehouse was the place these artists met and
created together for a period of five months.
The different mediums reminded me of the
interesting De.Fash.Struction exhibition I visited earlier in Sharjah,
the neighbouring city of the economical capital Dubai (and arguably, at
the moment, the art-filled city of the UAE).
There was no standard medium, no standard technique. Between
photography, textile design, sculpture, installation, painting
and video - these young fellows proved that they have the talent
to pull off the difficult task to represent Abu Dhabi and the UAE
in all its fascinating complexities. Between migrant labor's
issue, to womanhood and liberty, construction, standardisation
and neoliberalism, I thought the right social trends of the
UAE were highlighted in subtle, intelligent manners.
Mixed media - found objects - photography. Low key, home-made art,
which speaks of post-Conceptual Art & Instagram, and represents
the UAE quite perfectly actually. Observations are acute with
Khalid Mezaina, a promising artist, designer and illustrator,
now based in Dubai. I was impressed with this installation of works.
Performance art met with photography once again (these two seem
inseparable), in a project of great importance in the midst of heated
debates of construction workers rights in building the Abu Dhabi museums.
Construction, indeed, play an important influence on many of these
artist's works. "Under construction" may be the UAE motto, as a country
developing at such rapid rates, with sky rocketing ambitions and means
to make profound societal improvements. But as much positivity comes
with a blank desert to construct from the ground up, there is a certain
melancholia and discerning absurdity with implanting concrete and star
architects to rapidly create hotels, whole neighborhoods, communities
and in many ways, culture.
The following artists celebrated construction not as a transit state,
but as a material object to be admired and thought about on its own
ground. Construction is the point C permitting A to reach B. Instead of
forgetting it and pushing it aside to the outskirts of society, "in
construction" should be as accepted as "finished" or "not started".
In short, the Warehouse 421 inaugural exhibition was a huge success,
showcasing the breath and depth of artist's works in the UAE. Visiting
superstar installation artist Alice Aycock agrees, as she was very
impressed with the exhibition during her last visit to Abu Dhabi. We can
agree that the naive, orientalist thoughts that "the UAE
imports culture", "the UAE has no history" or "The Emirates only have
craftsmen, not artists" are quite removed from the reality of the art scene
of Abu Dhabi in early 2016, ahead of the opening of the mega Louvre and
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museums.