The 10th edition of Abu Dhabi Art took place at Manaraat Al Saadiyat (MAS) from 15th – 17th November. This year, artmejo joined forces with gallerygirlldn’s Lizzy who took us on a journey throughout the fair. Here are her highlights:

Tribe Magazine takes us out to space:

INTERGALACTICA was a show curated by Tribe Magazine, the region’s only publication devoted solely to photography from the Arab world. The exhibition comprised works by “Instagram artists”, whose images were printed for the first time at Abu Dhabi Art.

Nabil Anani at Zawyeh Gallery:

This painting by Nabil Anani (b. 1943) was presented by Ramallah based Zawyeh Gallery. The muted colour scheme and soft expressions of the characters in End of Innocence (2016), evoke a sense of tenderness, which is emphasised by the long limbs that the women use to shield their children.

Interpretations of a Letter:

The colour and energy in Hind Mezaina’s film Dancing Girls was striking. The short film was exhibited as part of LETTERS, which was inspired by Omar Saif Ghobash’s book A Letter to a Young Muslim, and curated by Athr Gallery. LETTERS was divided into a number of themes that included: Fragments of Memory, Youth and Other, Probable Questions and The Grey Area.

Piecing pictures together:

Reem Falaknaz’s (1985) Harish and Bharti was shown in the Fragments of Memory section of LETTERS. The date of the original photograph (9.4.1983) is displayed next to the image, but we know very little about the figures in the photograph. The ageing object prompts the viewer to ask who couple is, and where they might be now, more than 30 years later.

Reframing landmarks:

This series, View Master (2014), also part of LETTERS, is by Ahmed Mater (b. 1979). Across the analogue images are recognisable Saudi landmarks including buildings and Mekkah. The photographs take us back to a time that many of the viewers might not remember, taking the viewer back to a time that might be described in a letter.

A rose by any other name:

Mai Almoataz’s Stop + smell the roses was exhibited by Hafez Gallery. Almoataz’s series alludes to themes of femininity, veiling, catharsis and introspection. Her consistent aesthetic of a black print in a black box is an extension of the idea of the girl who is lost in the dark, but she is not lost when she is in her darkroom, and the way the roses seem to glow emphasise that the light is always there, even in the dark.

Responding to the institutions:

This highly textured resin and acrylic painting by Sara Alagroobi (1989) was presented by London’s Park Gallery. A cackle at the Union Jack is an artistic response to the decolonisation of western institutions and the perpetual social white-washing of Arab culture and identity.

Patterns and smiles:

The childlike facial expressions and vibrant colour scheme in this painting by Algerian artist Baya (1931 – 1998), caught all the viewers’ attention at the Tunisia and Dubai-based gallery El Marsa booth. Critics have likened her work to surrealism, primitivism, modernism and naivety, but Baya never chose to self-identify with any particular genre.

Focusing on the icons:

Within the fair, was a special exhibition called ICONS OF MODERN ART. Curated by Omar Kholeif, some of the most important modern Arab artists were presented as having reached “icon” status across several galleries. Lawrie Shabibi exhibited both sculpture and paintings by Mona Saudi (b. 1945), who was also present at the fair. Her work is heavily influenced by poetry — particularly Adonis and Mahmoud Darwish — as well as the surface and physical qualities of the stones from which she carves.

Finishing in Egypt:

Egyptian artist Ahmed Morsi (b. 1930) was also included in ICONS OF MODERN ART. This pen on paper work, exhibited by Cairo’s Gypsum Gallery, is particularly expressive, and Morsi is considered to be one of the most important modern Egyptian artists.

All images courtesy of gallerygirlldn

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier
Lizzy Vartanian Collier

Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a writer and curator based in London, specialising in contemporary art from the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been published by Canvas, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Hyperallergic, After Nyne, the Guardian, Ibraaz, Jdeed, EVN Report, Tribe and Suitcase, along with many other publications. Her recent exhibition ‘Perpetual Movement’, which took place during Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) Festival 2018, was featured in Vogue Arabia and the Art Newspaper, and later traveled to the debut Armenia Art Fair. Lizzy is also the founder of the Gallery Girl. You can follow her work on www.gallerygirl.co and on Instagram @gallerygirlldn, as well as on Twitter @lizzycollier

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