1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates at Venice Biennale 2015

 Emirates Fine Arts Society Exhibition - 1981. Image courtesy of the Emirates Fine Arts Society

Emirates Fine Arts Society Exhibition - 1981. Image courtesy of the Emirates Fine Arts Society

 

The 56th edition of the International Art Exhibition at Venice Biennale is on from 9th May till 22nd November 2015 (the press and VIP preview is between 6th-8th May). 

The UAE Pavilion is taking part with an exhibition titled "1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates". The exhibition is curated by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation and will explore the emergence of contemporary art practices in the UAE over the past four decades, featuring over 100 works by 15 artists.  

This is the first time there will be a historical look at the contemporary art scene in the UAE, an opportunity to learn more about what kind of work was created in the early days of the UAE, way before we had commercial art galleries, a biennale in Sharjah and art fairs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The exhibition features only Emirati (mostly male) artists, Dr. Najat Meky is the only female artist amongst the 15.  

A part of me is thrilled this is happening, it will be an opportunity to showcase Emirati artists who have been around for 40 years, dimissing the perception Emirati artists only started emerging the past decade. 

But I also wish there are more female artists represented in this exhibition. I can't help but question where are their voices, where's their story and history and this exhibition. I also wonder when will the UAE Pavilion consider including non-Emirati artists, who are part of the contemporary art scene in the UAE. This is the UAE PAvilion's 4th participation at the art biennale, I hope there will be more daring choices in the future editions of the biennale. 

I am looking forward to reading the reviews about this exhibition and hear people's thoughts. Sadly I had to decline my invitation to the preview this week, but I hope to get a chance to visit the biennale later this year. 

About the exhibition:

Inspired by historic exhibitions in the UAE throughout the 1980s, the exhibition will be arranged into thematic groupings, and there will also be works arranged by artist to highlight elements of their practice, and some works will be paired to create dialogues between them. The aim is to encourage connections between works, rather than following a didactic chronology. 

1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates was conceived as a retrospective on contemporary art exhibitions in the Emirates over the last 40 years. Through an unprecedented and dense grouping of over 100 works structured to create dialogues between artists and across practices, curator Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, will show the diversity and the history of the art scene in the UAE.

“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?” said Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi.

“This exhibition and its accompanying publication a 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 intensivere search project.” 

Sheikha Hoor AlQasimi’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 catalogs, photo albums and copies of Al Tashkeel, EFAS’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 galvanizing incubator for the UAE’s art scene.

The following 15 artists are taking part in this exhibition and a look at some of the work that will be shown in Venice. 

Abdul Qader Al Rais (b. 1951, Dubai, UAE)

 Abdul Qader Al Rais - Al Intithar (The Wait), 1968. Oil on canvas, 79 x 57 cm. Image provided by the artist.

Abdul Qader Al Rais - Al Intithar (The Wait), 1968. Oil on canvas, 79 x 57 cm. Image provided by the artist.

 

A pioneer of the fine arts movement in the UAE, Abdul Qader Al Rais’s work is inspired by his Emirati environment and the Arabic alphabet. His oils and signature watercolors have been exhibited in more than 30 solo exhibitions around the world, and he has represented the UAE in many international art events. He received a bachelor’s degree in Sharia Law from the United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain in 1982.

Abdullah Al Saadi (b. 1967, Khorfakkan, UAE)

Abdullah Al Saadi - The Cavity Room, 1991. Animal bones, dimensions variable. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.

Working in drawing, photography, artist’s diaries, and found objects, Abdullah Al Saadi has exhibited both in the UAE and internationally. He received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, in 1993, and studied Japanese art at Kyoto Seika University from 1994 to 1996. In 2014, Sharjah Art Foundation presented his solo exhibition “Al-­Toubay”.

Abdulraheem Salim (b. 1955, Dubai, UAE)

Abdulraheem Salim - Intithar Imra’a (Waiting for a Woman), 1986. Relief on brass, 183 x 92 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Museum.

A painter and sculptor, Abdulraheem Salim has had more than 10 solo exhibitions in the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Egypt. He received a bachelor’s degree in sculpture from the College of Fine Arts, Cairo University, in 1981.

Abdulrahman Zainal (b. 1951, Dubai, UAE)

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Image via http://www.myartguides.com/sharjah-biennial-12-dubai-art-week/artists/item/4158-abdulrahman-zainal

Painter and sculptor Abdulrahman Zainal has had solo exhibitions at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation (1992), the Al Ahli Club, Dubai (1992), the Lancaster Hotel Hyde Park, London, (1980), and at Dubai High School (1973). He has shown his work as part of group exhibitions around the world and regularly participates in the annual exhibitions of the Emirates Fine Arts Society.

His awards include second prize for “Environment Day” (1998), second prize for “Expressive Faces” (1998), and the “Golden Dana”, Kuwait (1998). He received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Cairo College of Fine Arts in 1978, and undertook postgraduate studies at Edinburgh Fine Arts College.  

Ahmed Al Ansari (b. 1954, Sharjah, UAE)

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image via http://www.myartguides.com/sharjah-biennial-12-dubai-art-week/artists/item/4159-ahmed-al-ansari

A founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Ahmed Al Ansari’s exhibition marking the inauguration of Radio Sharjah in 1972 was the first ever solo exhibition in the UAE.

Since his solo exhibition at the Hilton Abu Dhabi in 1979, he has exhibited his work at many events, including the 21st exhibition of the UAE Fine Arts Society (2003); the 4th Sharjah Biennial (1999); the annual exhibition of Gulf Cooperation Council Artists (1994); and the 9th Exhibition of Fine Art at the Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi (1994).

He was recognized at the third exhibition of Gulf Cooperation Council Artists (1994) as a pioneer of the fine art movement in the UAE. 

Ahmed Sharif (b. 1978,  Dubai, UAE)

Ahmed Sharif - Untitled, 2006. Acrylic on Canvas, 180 x 140 cm. Image provided by the artist.

Ahmed Sharif is a member of the Board at Emirates Fine Arts Society and served as its director from 2006 – 2008. He has participated in many exhibitions and festivals across the world since 1993. He holds a bachelor’s in Economics from the United Arab Emirates University. He has won many prizes nationally and internationally and has participated in the Sharjah Biennial (1997), Cairo Biennial (2001), Arab University Biennial (2001), Mahaba Biennial (2003), Dhaka Biennial (2003), Tehran Biennial (2005), and the EMAAR international Symposium, Dubai (2005). 

Hassan Sharif (b. 1951, Dubai, UAE)

Hassan Sharif - A to Z, 1983. Collage, photographs and pencil on mounting board, 73.5 x 56 cm. Image courtesy of Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

A pioneer of conceptual art in the UAE and the Middle East at large, Hassan Sharif has played a major role in promoting contemporary art in the region through his diverse works, which include live performance, drawing, photography, multimedia, and synthetic works.

He was a founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society in 1980, and founded the Free Atelier at the Youth Arts Theater in Dubai in 1987.

He published cartoons in newspapers and magazines between 1970-­1979, and received a diploma of Fine Arts from Byam Shaw School of Art, London, UK, in 1984.  

He has participated in many group exhibitions and international biennials.

Dr. Mohamed Yousif (b. 1953, Sharjah, UAE)

Dr. Mohamed Yousif - Isteeqath (Waking Up), 1984. Wooden Sculpture, 6 x 16 x 123 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Museum.

A pioneering artist who has made invaluable contributions to the fine arts movement in the UAE, Dr. Mohamed Yousif was a founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, and was Chairman of its Board of Directors for several terms.

Motion and stillness feature prominently in Yousif’s works, which have been exhibited in art events around the world.

He has participated in all exhibitions organized by the Emirates Fine Arts Society since its inception in 1979, and organized the exhibition “Exiting In” at his house in 2003. He is the former chair of the Board of Directors of the Sharjah National Theater.

He received a Ph.D. in Fine Arts from Manav Rachna International University, India, a Master’s degree in Fine Art from Webster University, Missouri in 2000, and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the Cairo College of Fine Arts, Egypt, in 1978.  

Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah (b. 1953, Sharjah, UAE)

Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah - (left) Ta’ir (Bird). Iron, 82 x 26 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Museum. (right) Untitled. Steel sculpture, 50 x 23 x 35 cm. Images courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.

A natural sculptor whose spontaneous works are inspired by the local environment, Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah is a member of numerous cultural societies and organizations, including the Emirates Fine Arts Society, the GCC Art Friends Group, Al Jidar Fine Arts Group, and the Al Iyab Fine Arts Society.

He has organized several solo exhibitions, and been involved in a host of local and international art events, including the UAE Fine Arts Society’s exhibitions between 1986 and 1993; the first three Sharjah Biennials (1993-­‐1997); the first GCC States’ Plastic Arts Exhibition (1989), and “Portraits”, UAE Fine Arts Society (1995).

 

Additionally, he participated in most of the local and international exhibitions organized by the Emirates Fine Arts Society from 1985 to 2000 in 17 countries around the world. 

Mohammed Al Qassab (b. 1960, Sharjah, UAE)

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image via http://www.barjeelartfoundation.org/artist/uae/mohammed-al-qassab/

Multimedia artist Mohammed Al Qassab is a member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, where he has served in several positions on its Board of Directors and founded the Outreach program.

He has exhibited in many exhibitions and his works are in the collections of Abu Dhabi’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development, the Barjeel Art Foundation, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Sharjah Museum of Art.

As a representative of the UAE, he has won the gold prize twice: at the first GCC Fine Art Exhibition (1989) and at The Silver Jubilee at the GCC Art Exhibition, Muscat (2013). He was recognized by the GCC Ministry of Culture as a GCC Creative Artists in Riyadh in 2012.  

Mohammed Kazem (b. 1969, Dubai, UAE). 

Mohammed Kazem - Tongue, 1994 (detail). From a series of 45 gelatin silver prints mounted on five corrugated boards, 43 x 43 cm each board. Image provided by the artist.

A member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Mohammed Kazem is a conceptual artist whose works depict changes in sociopolitical and natural environments worldwide.

His work has been exhibited at the Havana Biennial (2000), Dhaka Biennial (2002), Singapore Biennial (2006), the University of the Arts, Philadelphia (2010), and at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012).

He also represented the UAE at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013). His many awards include the first award for synthetic works at Sharjah Biennial (1999), and the Sharjah Biennial Award (2003).

He studied fundamentals of drawing at the Emirates Fine Arts Society (1984-­‐1987), and music at Rayat Institute of Music, Dubai (1990-­‐1991). He recently obtained a Master of Arts degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. From 1999 to 2007, he served as supervisor of the Free Atelier at Youth Arts Theater.  

Moosa Al Halyan (b. 1969, Dubai, UAE)

Moosa Al Halyan - Horse Painting, 1996. Acrylic on canvas, 75 x 99 cm. Image courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation.

A member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Moosa Al Halyan has exhibited his work in many group exhibitions, including the second Al Banoosh Exhibition, Al Wasl Club, Dubai, (1984); the sixth GCC Youth Exhibition, Abu Dhabi, (1990); two UAE University exhibitions (1988, 1990); the annual exhibitions of the Emirates Fine Arts Society (1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990); the Teacher’s Society, Khor Fakkan, (1988); the second and third editions of the Sharjah Biennial (1995, 1997); the Arab Youth Festival, Riyadh, (1982); and the Bangladesh Biennial (1996), as well as exhibitions in Madrid, Muscat, Bahrain, and Khartoum.

He won the top prize at the GCC Exhibition, Oman (1988), and the third prize at “The UAE in the Eyes of Its Artists” Exhibition, Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation (1998).

Dr. Najat Meky(b. 1953, Dubai, UAE)

Dr. Najat Meky - (left) Portrait, 1982. Welded Metal, 40 x 20 x 20 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation. (right) Portait, 1982. Welded metal, 57 x 30 x 15 cm, Photograph by Alfredo Rubio, Courtesy of the Sharjah Art Foundation

Painter Dr. Najat Meky is a member of numerous cultural societies and organizations, including the Emirates Fine Arts Society, the GCC Art Friends Group, Al Jidar Fine Arts Group, and Al Iyab Fine Arts Society.

She has had many solo exhibitions, including “Distinctive Marks”, Sharjah Art Museum (2001), and other solo shows at the Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi (2011), the Sharjah Art Gallery (2005), Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation (2006), Abbekos Gallery, Sweden (2007), Emirates Fine Arts Society’s Gallery, Sharjah (2007), and the Cairo Atelier (1992).

Her group exhibitions and international shows include the Luxor 6th Photography Forum, Luxor (2013); Arab Female Artists Exhibition, Sharjah (1995); China International Sculpture Symposium (2008); the first three Sharjah Biennials (1993, 1995, 1997); and the Tehran Contemporary Art Biennial (2002). Her many awards include the State Honor Award in Science, Literature and Arts (2008).

She received a Ph.D. in Metal Coins from Cairo College of Fine Arts in 2001. 

Obaid Suroor (b. 1955, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE)

Obaid Suroor - Untitled, 1994. Oil on Canvas, 135 x 94 cm. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.

A member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Obaid Suroor is in charge of the Society’s Atelier in Ras Al Khaima. He has exhibited his paintings in numerous exhibitions. 

Salem Jawhar (b. 1956, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE)

Salem Jawhar - Al Bee’a Al Bahriya (Marine Environment), 2004. Ceramics, 75 x 68 cm. Image provided by the artist.

A member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society, Salem Jawhar has exhibited his work in many exhibitions in the UAE and internationally.  He received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art, with a major in ceramics.  

 

www.labiennale.org/en/art/exhibition

www.nationalpavilionuae.org/art/2015

www.artsuae.ae