Drawing upon extensive historical research, Sheikha Hoor bint Sultan Al Qasimi, curator for the UAE National Pavilion at la Biennale di Venezia and President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, will present a diverse assemblage of work by key figures in the country's art history at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.
Titled "1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates", the exhibition features the work of 14 artists: Ahmed Al Ansari, Moosa Al Halyan, Mohammed Al Qassab, Abdul Qader Al Rais, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah, Salem Jawhar, Mohammed Kazem, Dr. Najat Meky, Abdulraheem Salim, Hassan Sharif, Obaid Suroor, Dr. Mohamed Yousif, and Abdulrahman Zainal.
The exhibition will present a selection of works from different decades highlighting the emergence of art practices in the UAE. The Emirates Fine Arts Society, a non-profit association that was formed in 1980 in Sharjah, has served as a main point of focus and inspiration for research.
"The opportunity to curate the National Pavilion of the UAE has allowed me to reflect on and honour a significant period of the UAE's art history," said Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi. "Looking back at exhibitions from the 1980s, I have come across a number of interesting art works, mainly sculptures and paintings by now-established artists, as well as works by lesser known ones. It is important to state here that the focus is on the art works not the artist. My aim is to show the diversity of art practices, and the history of the art scene in the UAE at this period in time." The exhibition is built upon extensive research involving archives of newspaper articles, artists' writings, and catalogues, as well as interviews with artists and cultural practitioners. Reflecting personal and geopolitical trajectories, the research focused on under-exposed historical records and evolving practices of some of the UAE's most important modernist and contemporary artists.
"Over the last decade, the UAE art scene has experienced a surge in international recognition and appreciation, however many are still not aware of the depth and diversity of our artists, who have been working decades longer than the current art boom," noted Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, Founder of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. "This exhibition represents an opportunity to document, share, and expand upon a key period for the country's art history." A publication including previous writings and articles on the art scene in the UAE since the 1980s, as well as some personal memoirs from a number of artists, will be presented alongside the exhibition.
The National Pavilion UAE la Biennale di Venezia is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development.
The 56th Venice Biennale runs from 9th May–22nd November, with a preview from 5th–8th May. Further details about the pavilion and the artists involved will be announced soon.