Abu Dhabi Art Announces its 2022 Artist Commissions in Cultural Sites Programme

Abu Dhabi Art has announced the artists commissioned to create new public installations, to be placed in select cultural sites of historical significance across the emirate as part of this year’s Artist Commissions in Cultural Sites programme. The 2022 commissions include new works by Abdullah Al Saadi, Marinella Senatore, Shilpa Gupta and Conrad Shawcross. These works will appear in sites across Al Ain and at Manarat Al Saadiyat, the home of Abu Dhabi Art.

The installations will be revealed to the public on 16 November 2022, the first day of the art fair, and will remain on view until 22 January 2023. The works are site-specific and thoughtfully placed in locations to create a dialogue with their surroundings, bridging the gap between the historic and contemporary.

Dyala Nusseibeh, Director of Abu Dhabi Art, commented: “Artist Commissions in Cultural Sites is back this year with new commissioned works, enabling visitors to discover the heritage of the emirate hosting the art fair and view first-hand what this year’s artists Abdullah Al Saadi, Conrad Shawcross and Shilpa Gupta have conceived for Al Ain. We are also delighted to be showing Marinella Senatore’s work at the entrance to the fair. In diverse ways, these artists invite visitors to reflect on community, social participation, language, memory, the human body and finally, light.”

Notions of what constitutes community are prominent in the commissioned works for the cultural sites, a theme that has taken on further depth following the pandemic and global lockdowns.

Artist Commissions in Cultural Sites programme 2022 artworks

Abdullah Al Saadi’s work ranges across painting, drawing, artists’ notebooks, the collection and systematic categorisation of found objects and the invention of new alphabets. Al Saadi has a great affinity with nature and rural life informs his practice, which explores the changing environment as well as personal and cultural history. His work, Quipu Alphabet, to be displayed at Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain, is inspired by the Incan writing system of the same name. The artwork is composed of a series of colourful strings knotted at varying levels which signify different letters of the Arabic alphabet. Once decoded, this invented Arabic Quipu system, developed from its Incan predecessor, transmits a message to its viewers relating to the pandemic and its aftermath.

Marinella Senatore’s Bodies in Alliance is a large-scale metal and LED-light installation whose text and iconography are inspired by elements from the artist’s cultural background, such as southern Italy’s traditional “luminarie”, which are elaborate light structures in the form of architectural elements created for outdoor public celebrations. The titular quote is taken from American philosopher Judith Butler and underlines the importance of social assemblies, a notion that she has reframed following the pandemic. Bodies in Alliance will be on display at Manarat Al Saadiyat until 20 November 2022.

Shilpa Gupta’s video artwork StillTheyKnowNotWhatIDream will be on display at Al Ain’s Al Jahili Fort, taking the form of a double flat board installation which is reminiscent of notice boards at airports and railway stations. Gupta works with a range of media including found objects, interactive computer-based video installations and performances. Through her work, she strives to explore human perception and the transmission of information, visible and invisible, in everyday life. The exhibited work replaces dates, times, and locations with phrases related to ideas of desire, power, and belonging. The changing text challenges the seeming distinctiveness of physical entities, inviting the viewer to question the geographic, social, and economic forces that divide people. The work encourages visitors to reassess their identities and relationships in a context devoid of these differences, inspired by the collective experience of the pandemic.

Patterns of Absence (Bb36D10) – Desert Beacon is a brand-new work by Conrad Shawcross which responds to the light, space, and contemplative potency of the desert. To be displayed at Al Ain Oasis, the piece has been born out of the artist’s optic series the Patterns of Absence, which explores the mathematics of interference and the human perception of light. In this series, Shawcross creates works that are akin to stained glass windows, and are activated by the sun. The commissioned work is composed of two slowly counter-rotating discs, each peppered with over a hundred thousand holes carefully arranged across their surfaces. The dappled rays of the sun filter through, creating dynamic, constantly shifting patterns.

Artist Commissions in Cultural Sites, previously known as Beyond: Artist Commissions, is part of Abu Dhabi Art’s year-round programming which provides an accessible platform for visitors to discover both the works of new artists and historically significant cultural sites spread across the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The programme aims to support the region’s arts scene and create dialogues relevant to today’s audiences by commissioning artists to respond to cultural sites, encouraging them to further explore heritage locations in the UAE.

The fair’s upcoming edition will open to the public at Manarat Al Saadiyat from Wednesday 16 November to Sunday 20 November 2022, with the commissions on view until 22 January 2023 across the emirate.

Source: Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi

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