Portrait of a Nation travels to Berlin

 Layla Juma. Leaf, 2016. Stainless steel. 36 x 59 x 33 cm. An Abu Dhabi Festival 2016 commission. Courtesy of the artist. Part of the ADMAF Art Collection. © ADMAF

Layla Juma. Leaf, 2016. Stainless steel. 36 x 59 x 33 cm. An Abu Dhabi Festival 2016 commission. Courtesy of the artist. Part of the ADMAF Art Collection. © ADMAF

From the vibrant colours of the fabrics that vie for space and attention in Khalid Al Banna’s textile pieces to the smooth curves of Layla Juma’s Leaf sculpture, which pull to mind the undulating landscape of the desert, the artworks in Portrait of a Nation reflect upon the UAE as homeland. The original exhibition was hosted in Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace in 2016 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation (ADMAF). Now, it is travelling to me Collectors Room in Berlin.

Several of the works on show were commissions, where ADMAF asked 20 of the most dynamic contemporary artists of the UAE to question what their homeland means to them. A personal favourite is Zeinab Al Hashemi’s Coastal Collision – a digitally altered satellite image of Abu Dhabi, which resembles a Rorschach test or the kinds of visual illusions made in magic-eye drawings. If you look close enough you can identify the city below but the point of the artwork is to imagine the endless possibilities that the continuous development of the city might bring. This kind of utopian vision is something that certainly underlines the entire experience of living in the UAE.

 Zeinab Al Hashemi. Coast Collision, 2016. From the 'Urban Phantasmagoria' series. Digital scanography; satellite shot and digital editing, 160 x 240 cm. An Abu Dhabi Festival 2016 Commission. Courtesy of the artist. Part of the ADMAF Art Collection. © ADMAF

Zeinab Al Hashemi. Coast Collision, 2016. From the 'Urban Phantasmagoria' series. Digital scanography; satellite shot and digital editing, 160 x 240 cm. An Abu Dhabi Festival 2016 Commission. Courtesy of the artist. Part of the ADMAF Art Collection. © ADMAF

In other pieces, Khalid Shafar, the UAE’s most prominent designer, has created a seating area, inspired by the traditional arish shelters made of palm fronds and Khalid Mezaina’s pencil and pen drawings on paper of UAE coffee shops immortalise what he calls “a ubiquitous part of our urban landscape”.

Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s land art is shown in The Qubba Project, which is both a physical installation in the mountains of Khorfakkan and a photographic project on display. His relationship to his dramatic home landscape, nestled between the mountains and ocean, is an intimate, inner dialogue that he articulates through raw materials.

In the true spirit of collaboration, which is part of the fabric of the UAE and part of the reason for its success, Khalil Abdulwahid, a friend and colleague to all 20 commissioned artists in Portrait of a Nation, decided to collect the tools and material that went into all 20 pieces and display them in frames.

Alongside the 20 commissions are loaned pieces from a further 30 artists includilng Mohammed Kazem, Ebtisam Abdulaziz, Hussein and Hassan Sharif – all of whom an exhibition of UAE contemporary art would not be complete without.

  • Portrait of a Nation. September 13 – October 29. me Collectors Room in Berlin
  • Read my original review of the exhibition here 

 Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, The Qubba Project, 2015 - Courtesy of the artist. Part of the ADMAF Art Collection. © ADMAF.jpg

Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, The Qubba Project, 2015 - Courtesy of the artist. Part of the ADMAF Art Collection. © ADMAF.jpg