Highlights of Abu Dhabi Art 2017

 Hassan Sharif. Slippers, 2016. Slippers, wool thread and synthetic thread. 210 x 260 x 23 cm. Courtesy Estate of Hassan Sharif and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

Hassan Sharif. Slippers, 2016. Slippers, wool thread and synthetic thread. 210 x 260 x 23 cm. Courtesy Estate of Hassan Sharif and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

As the world gears up to the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the cogs of the art world in the capital are already full speed ahead with the annual art fair, which opens mid-week and closes on Saturday as the curtain is raised on the museum.

This is the first fair to be held under the leadership of Dyala Nusseibeh, the director who took the reins last November and has been hard at work making significant changes and welcome additions to the fair’s programme.

One of the expected highlights is the number of new guest curators involved. In a section titled Beyond: Emerging Artists, Mohammed Kazem and Cristiana de Marchi, will present commissioned works by three Emirati artists Shaikha Al-Mazrou, Alaa Edris and Jumairy. This curator/artist duo have been supporting emerging UAE-artists for several years and work hard to give them the best platforms. This section will see conceptual and challenging pieces that go far beyond the borders of what international audiences might expect from locally-based talent.

 Alaa Edris. Study for The Great Puzzle, 2017. Courtesy of the artist

Alaa Edris. Study for The Great Puzzle, 2017. Courtesy of the artist

Beyond: Artist Commissions is a section that is mooted every year but never actually realised – placing new artist commissions outside of the fair and in the public arena. I am delighted that Manal Al Dowayan, one of the leading female regional artists has produced a site specific work for in the Al Ain Oasis and Nasser Al Salem, a genius in re-appropriating calligraphic text for contemporary purposes will have a piece in Al Jahili Fort. Egyptian sound artist Magdi Mostafa has also made a new version of his 2014 work The Surface of Spectral Scattering, an LED light installation that reflects the sounds of the environment.

Omar Kholeif is also on board for a curated section: Focus: Beyond Territory. For this, he has invited seven international galleries to exhibit works that explore themes of landscape and notions of ownership and territory. Included in this section is Marian Goodman Gallery, who will be exhibiting a major tree sculpture Giuseppe Penone – one of only two artists who have received a contemporary commission from the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Also, exhibiting in this section and for the first time in the Middle East will be Sprüth Magers, a gallery with bases in Berlin, London and Los Angeles. They will be presenting a selection of ceramic and board wall-works by Otto Piene, which illustrate the artist’s long-held investigation into the materiality of light and surface.

 Otto Piene. Untitled, 1957/1965. Oil on paper mounted on board. 72 x 101.6 cm. 84 x 112 cm (framed). Courtesy of Sprüth Magers.

Otto Piene. Untitled, 1957/1965. Oil on paper mounted on board. 72 x 101.6 cm. 84 x 112 cm (framed). Courtesy of Sprüth Magers.

In another curated section, Maya Allison, chief curator at New York University in Abu Dhabi has placed work from leading Emirati contemporary artists such as Mohammed Kazem, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim and Ebtisam Abdulaziz alongside pieces from their international peers. Pieces in this exhibition include Abdulaziz’s Structures, a video projection made in 2015 and Life (Corps sans Organes) No.17 a 2013 by Tatsuo Miyajima, from Japan.

There will be a robust programme of talks and performances focusing on local histories and narratives and featuring site specific performance. The Talks Programme has been conceived by Munira Al Sayegh, a Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Durub Al Tawaya, Abu Dhabi Art’s performing arts programme is curated again by Tarek Abou El Fetouh. There will also be a section dedicated to street art organised by long-time fair collaborator Fabrice Bousteau.

 Chant Avedissian. Kol Hal yazool, 2013. A work never shown before, this work consists of five panels of corrugated cardboard. It portrays Princess Fawziya, King Farouk, Yolanda, Yuri Gagarin, President Nasser, Om Kalthum, the artist himself and a fan. Courtesy of Sabrina Amrani Gallery.

Chant Avedissian. Kol Hal yazool, 2013. A work never shown before, this work consists of five panels of corrugated cardboard. It portrays Princess Fawziya, King Farouk, Yolanda, Yuri Gagarin, President Nasser, Om Kalthum, the artist himself and a fan. Courtesy of Sabrina Amrani Gallery.

All this is before you get to the galleries themselves. There are 47 participating booths and some of my top picks are Meem Gallery who will be exhibiting one large scale piece by Iraqi giant Dia Azzawi as well as Sabrina Amrani, who are bringing a solo show by Egyptian-Armenian artist Chant Avedissian.

The Park Gallery from London will be participating for the seventh consecutive year with a double participation of parallel booths in the Modern & Contemporary sector and in the Solo Projects sector, with a presentation of works by artists including Nazir Naba’a, Abdullah Shalty, Abdulaziz Ashour, Abdullah Murad and Mustafa Anlas alongside a debut solo presentation of the young Emirati artist Sarah Alagroobi. AB43 Contemporary, from Switzerland will also have a fascinating booth. They have partnered with a European porcelain manufactory MEISSEN® and will feature porcelain works by artists including Khaled Al-Saai (Syria), Ramin Haerizadeh (Iran) and Nja Mahdaoui (Tunisia).

Hassan Sharif will be the focus of Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde’s booth and Cuadro will feature the work of Manal Al Dowayan as well as Aidan Salakhova.

  • Abu Dhabi Art. November 8-11. Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi. For more info visit the fair's website