This fall, The Art Gallery of New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) invites viewers into the imagined worlds of four UAE-based artists who have developed their practice in the UAE, establishing a strong regional track record, as well as an emerging international presence.
Open to the public from September 16–December 7, 2019, the exhibition is curated by Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi and Executive Director of the NYUAD Art Gallery, Maya Allison. Through close study of their surroundings in the UAE, each of the artists here reflect on our shared futures: Areej Kaoud, Ayman Zedani, Jumairy and Raja’a Khalid.
Speculative Landscapes is a series of new installations through which each artist explores the very concept of environment (natural, artificial, virtual). Each raises a question: how do organisms – whether human or other – create, survive, and inhabit our natural, artificial and virtual worlds?
The four artists in this exhibition have developed their practice in the UAE. They share a speculative practice, extrapolating imagined worlds within existing ones. Each installation offers an imaginary journey derived from the artists’ real-world observations of everyday life.
In Khalid’s performative installation, she invites viewers to embrace personal well-being as a commodifiable trend, while Kaoud’s playground keeps visitors on high alert to ever-present risk. In two very different landscape installations, Zedani and Jumairy each propose worlds in which our natural bodies and the landscape around us manifest biological and artificial intelligence.
Allison, who has curated a number of exhibitions focused on the rise of UAE’s contemporary art scene, comments: “These four artists capture something unique and interconnected in their take on our environment, both in how they respond to our surroundings and how they connect to the art scene here.
There has been an apparently fast rise of contemporary art in the UAE that matches the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of the country since its founding in 1971. The art community, of course, has always existed, but began to create a very proactive grass-roots scene starting in the 1980s.
Their activity was largely un-known by their international peers beyond the Gulf until around 2009, when the now-acclaimed Hassan Sharif came to the attention of major international curators. By then, the UAE’s Sharjah Art Biennial had become a highly-influential leader, while Dubai saw the growth of the commercial gallery sector with the pivotal Art Dubai fair, alongside the launch of a series of museum and cultural projects in Abu Dhabi.”
She adds: “These three emirates (Sharjah, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi) host what has evolved into a diverse art ecology. Still, few international audiences are aware of the rising generation of contemporary artists living and working in the UAE now. The community today, as much as ever, come from a mix of international backgrounds and very often their work is in dialogue with both where we are, and the many cultures that converge in the UAE.
This exhibition offers a rare lens onto one specific recurring theme that I’ve observed in this emergent scene, a theme that these four artists in particular express through their distinctly arch, speculative, conceptual practice.”