Contemporary Art from the United Arab Emirates Opens At Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s London has opened an exhibition in its New Bond Street galleries which is the first-ever group exhibition comprising 12 works by important established and also emerging artists from the United Arab Emirates curated by Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF). ‘Three Generations’ is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative of the Western Region of Abu Dhabi (known in Arabic as ‘Al Dhafra’)

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative of the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, said: “The visual arts has the power to transcend borders and boundaries. It ignites the imagination and encourages the pursuit of knowledge. The artists participating in the ‘Three Generations’ exhibition reflect a spirit of innovation that is rooted in the desert landscapes of Al Dhafra [the Western Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi]. Their creations resonate with the cultural heritage that they, as guardians, have inherited.”

H.E. Hoda I. Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, said: “The exhibition ‘Three Generations’ provides a window into the cultural currents of the UAE through the eyes of some of its established and emerging creative minds. It is a reflection of where the UAE has come from, where it is now, and where it is going. I sincerely hope that the range of styles, approaches and mediums used excites and informs all those who visit. I am delighted that together with

Sotheby’s – with whom we have worked closely in recent years – ADMAF is enabling new audiences to explore the development and practice of the UAE visual arts sector.”

The 12 works to be exhibited, by 12 different artists, highlight the creative practices of three generations of Emirati visual artists. Together, they use a wide range of media in expressing a dynamic cultural identity that is both rooted in the traditions of the past while firmly focusing on the present and the future. ‘Three Generations’ presents a snapshot of the breadth and depth of the creative expression in the United Arab Emirates rather than seeking to mount a comprehensive overview of Emirati visual arts practice.

Roxane Zand,

Among the works to be exhibited, artists such as Mohammed Al Astad Al Hammadi seize upon core functional elements that form the fabric of traditional Emirati society. By reappropriating them as objects of aesthetic appreciation, these elements become both representational forms and evocative statements entrenched in emotion and memory. Al Astad has developed a new technique where beaches become a sort of ‘art grave’. The method, used in his work titled ‘Midnight’ (pictured left, dated 2012; iron, rust and acrylic on canvas) employs the forces of nature. Iron is buried with canvas for 2-3 weeks, resulting in abstract works that bear the imprints of rust. Each piece is unique and can never be replicated. The first Emirati to obtain a Bachelor’s degree from the American University, Washington DC in Graphic Design (1998), Al Astad has participated in exhibitions on local, regional and international levels for 27 years.

The work of Najat Makki draws upon the influences and experiences of her own creative journey from the UAE to countries far beyond its borders. Her artistic practice maintains a focus on rhythm and tone, as is illustrated in her work ‘Untitled’ of 2011 (mixed media & acrylic on canvas, pictured right). The female figure has a strong presence in her artwork; tall and strong like a palm tree touching the sky, yet grounded with roots digging deep into the earth. Her work is replete with these iconic women who represent patience, ambition, optimism, struggle and love. Colours serve to strengthen the density and dynamism, while strong lines define their own consistent rhythm. Dr. Makki graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1982, then went on to receive a doctorate in Fine Art in 2001 from the same university. In 2008, she received the UAE National Award of Arts, Sciences and Literature. She has participated in many exhibitions around the Arab world and in 2012, carried out a four-month residency in Paris at Citè Internationale des Arts.

An aspect in Mattar Bin Lahej’s art is movement; from his large-scale oil and acrylic paintings with unique signature brushstrokes, to his equally powerful sculptures that capture split-second movement, especially those of horses, as can be seen in his stainless steel work ‘Depth & Speed’ (pictured left). “I use the concept of movement in all of my art.” Born in 1968 in Dubai, Mattar Bin Lahej is among the second generation of Emirati arts practitioners. A self-taught artist, sculptor and photographer, he has participated in exhibitions in the UAE, Germany, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey and the USA. As Director of the Cultural Committee of

The Architectural Heritage Society and founder of Marsam Mattar Gallery in Dubai, Lahej has supervised workshops and exhibitions throughout the UAE, as a curator and an artist.

The works by artists of the youngest generation to be exhibited, including Sumayyah Al Suwaidi, Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi, Shamsa Al Omaira and Dana Al Mazrouei, reflect the psychology of modern society and the almost performative role of the Sotheby’s Deputy Chairman, Middle East and Gulf Region, said: “Sotheby’s is delighted to provide a platform for the first UK show of a selection of works that represents the remarkable talent amongst artists both new and established from the UAE. ADMAF has succeeded in creating an exciting programme of events and exhibitions that allows the international art world greater access to appreciate the vibrant and dynamic arts scene in the UAE region, and we are thrilled that this exhibition at Sotheby’s will enable a UK audience to share the experience and insight that this group of works offers.” individual. They play on the often contradictory and contrasting nature of the public persona and the private person, in addition to that which is used to divide, protect and conceal.

Sumayyah Al Suwaidi is a digital artist whose passion drives her to manipulate seemingly unremarkable or mundane photographs into masterpieces of emotion and sensuality. She moves the skies, stretches the oceans and elevates humans to the clouds, and in doing so brings out beauty in the image she enlivens, as is evidenced in her work ‘Feminine Delicacy’ of 2012 (pictured right). “This is one of a series of 10 artworks dedicated to those who worked hard their entire life to reach a stage where they feel liberated and free to think and do as they please. Those who decided to let go of negativity and hate and to embrace optimism, happiness and love. People who are driven by passion to succeed and make their own path, taking that difficult bumpy road to reach their goals and learning something new along the way, gaining all that experience and sharing it with others and giving a helping hand and support to all those who need it.” Hailed as the first female Emirati digital artist, Al Suwaidi started her journey in 2001 with a series inspired by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the UAE. Her first exhibition was in 2003 and since then, she has participated in numerous exhibitions in the UAE, France, Germany, China, USA, Morocco and Kuwait. Al Suwaidi is the recipient of several awards, including L’OFFICIEL Arab Women Award 2010 for best new talent, Emirates Woman Achievers Award 2011 and Emirates Woman of the Year 2011.

Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi (whose work ‘State of Mind’ of 2011 is detailed on the first page) is a self-taught photographer, graphic designer and writer. Regarding his approach to art, Al Shamsi quotes John Updike, ‘What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.’ Al Shamsi has participated in a number of group exhibitions around the UAE including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He was recently commissioned to create site-specific digital artworks for the Qattara Arts Centre in Al Ain. Speaking about the influences on his work, Al Shamsi said: “Whoever is used to a whole loaf of bread, is not satisfied by a bite’ (proverb). This is my interpretation. I believe that a person who aims high and who has great ambition to accomplish great things in life is someone who won’t settle for less, who has a strong will and the determination to be innovative – no ordinary person.”

The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation seeks to nurture the arts, education, culture and creativity for the benefit of society and the advancement of Abu Dhabi’s cultural vision. Established in 1996 by Her Excellency Hoda Al Khamis- Kanoo, ADMAF Founder, the Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation under the presidency and patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture, Youth & Community Development.

Each year, ADMAF inspires and engages over 40,000 children, young people and adults in meaningful and memorable experiences across a wide range of art forms. Through year-round programmes in arts education and community arts, it nurtures the creativity of the UAE, often in partnership with leading national and international institutions. ADMAF also presents the internationally acclaimed Abu Dhabi Festival, which in 2013 staged 129 arts events in 44 venues across the 7 Emirates to mark the 10th anniversary edition. In addition, ADMAF supports independent artistic expression through its Grants Scheme and nurtures UAE visual arts practitioners through its professional development initiative, The Nationals’ Gallery, which seeks to encourage, advise, promote and create opportunities for established and emerging artists across the country.

Three Generations: Curated by Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation 23rd July – 9th August 2013 Sotheby’s Galleries, 34-35 New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA

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