The UAE National Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, being held from 9th May to 22nd November, will showcase the diversity and history of the art scene in the UAE through an unprecedented grouping of over 100 works of art structured to create dialogues between artists and across practices. Curated by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, it will showcase the diversity and the history of the art scene in the UAE. Entitled, "1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the UAE", the showcase has been conceived as a retrospective on contemporary art exhibitions in the Emirates.
The exhibition features work by fifteen Emirati 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, Ahmed Sharif, Hassan Sharif, Obaid Suroor, Dr. Mohamed Yousif, and Abdulrahman Zainal.
"Reflecting our generation's collective obsession with memory, many recent exhibitions have been conceived to look at the past in order to reflect on the present. For these archival exhibitions, curators travel the world to discover overlooked artists and art scenes, institutions invest in research, gathering material, and publishing texts. But how do we connect all the information?" asked Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi. "This exhibition, and its accompanying publication, invites viewers to make connections directly between objects, historical archives, and the collective memory they represent. The resulting discourse is both personal and collective, and marks the beginning of a much more detailed and intensive research project."
Inspired by historic exhibitions in the UAE throughout the 1980s, Sheikha Hoor will structure the exhibition to follow the aesthetic experience and encourage connections between works. In addition to thematic groupings, some works will be arranged by artist to highlight elements of an individual's practice, while others will be paired to create complimenting and contrasting dialogues between works. Rather than following a didactic chronology, the exhibition will create the sense of wandering through dense collections in conversation with one another. The works, many on loan from institutions and private collections as well as from the artists themselves, will demonstrate a juxtaposition of conceptual and formal approaches, time periods, and media.
The selection of pieces will focus on sharing fundamental stages of the artists' careers as well as that of the UAE art scene collectively, and Sheikha Hoor's research relied heavily on the public archives of the Emirates Fine Art Society, EFAS, a trove of English and Arabic books on visual art, theatre, and literature, as well as catalogues, photo albums and copies of Al Tashkeel, EFAS's newsletter, which has been published since the 1980s. The Emirates Fine Arts Society is a non-profit association that was formed in 1980 in Sharjah, and has long served as a galvanising incubator for the UAE's art scene.
"For our fourth exhibition at the International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, we are delighted to be working with curator Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi," said Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, founder of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, the commissioner of the National Pavilion of the UAE. "Thanks to her vision and leadership, we are able to share essential works from this key period in the UAE's art scene and also build links for future generations. I applaud her contributions to the development and advancement of the larger discourse on art from the region," she said.