It is the start of a milestone month for Abu Dhabi’s thriving cultural scene – as Saadiyat Island goes on full display to the world.
Thousands of art lovers will be hopping over to the idyllic island to not only soak up sea and sunshine, but also see some world-class art.
It’s not only the eagerly-awaited opening of the iconic Louvre (on November 11) that has the whole of the global art scene talking, the ninth annual Abu Dhabi Art festival will be taking centre stage to kick off one of the biggest weeks in the history of the emirate.
From November 8 until November 11, Manarat Al Saadiyat will welcome an estimated 20,000 visitors for a four-day extravaganza featuring an art fair, exhibitions, installations, a series of talks and 47 established and emerging galleries spanning 18 countries, showcasing work from both internationally renowned artists and rising talents.
While the bulk of events will take part at one of the jewels of the Saadiyat Cultural District, the festival will stretch out to other areas of the city, making this an event everyone in the city can be a part of.
Alongside the array of gallery presentations – featuring art hubs such as Abu Dhabi’s very own Etihad Modern Art Gallery, Kamel Mennour (with venues in in Paris and London) and Galleria Continua (based in both Havana and Beijing) – there will be a wide-ranging public engagement programme on offer.
The Beyond series, an annual exhibition of large-scale sculptures and installations, will be expanded this year.
Beyond: Artists Commissions will see new works created by established contemporary artists Manal Al Dowayan, Magdi Mostafa and Nasser Al Salem going on show at Manarat Al Saadiyat as well as in Abu Dhabi city and Al Ain.
Beyond: Emerging Artists is spearheaded by one of the UAE’s leading artists, Mohammed Kazem, and highly regarded curator Cristiana de Marchi, who have commissioned three talents to create works for the cultural extravaganza.
Other highlights include the fifth edition of Durab Al Tawaya, a performing arts programme curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh, being held at both Manarat Al Saadiyat and cool arts space, Warehouse421.
The fun-packed schedule will include a dance show and a comedy act.
For those looking to add an urban flavour to their experience, the Street Art programme, led by Fabrice Bousteau, features three artists who have created striking etchings on buses, while an art wall has also been created at the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi.
Culture vultures can also let their own creativity roam free at a raft of workshops suitable for all ages, from youngsters through to arty adults for a wallet-friendly Dhs50.
The sessions at the Art Studio at Manarat Al Saadiyat will include exclusive artist-led masterclasses to help all ages hone their skills. They will run from November 8 to 11, priced at Dhs50 per child and Dhs100 per adult.
There will also be a daily schedule of talks, such as Connecting Collections: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum in Conversation with Ahmed Mater, held at the Manarat Al Saadiyat auditorium on the opening day of the festival of art.The thought-provoking presentation will include talks from Maisa Al Qassimi, programmes manager at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and Salama Al Shamsi, senior project manager at Zayed National Museum in conversation with artist Ahmed Mater.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism, says: “Since 2009, Abu Dhabi Art has welcomed galleries, artists, curators, collectors, art professionals, and every possible global audience to Saadiyat Island. This ninth edition coincides with the most important cultural event in the recent history of the UAE; the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first universal museum in the Middle East.
“As the eyes of the world turn to Abu Dhabi we proudly express our vision for the emirate as a thriving cultural hub that welcomes both residents and tourists alike.”
He continues: “As part of the Department of Culture and Tourism’s mission to develop Abu Dhabi into a centre of culture for the region, Abu Dhabi Art has become an exceptionally diverse year-long programme that transforms the capital and wider emirate into a creative tapestry of events, workshops and experiences.”
Al Mubarak confirms his department’s primary goal is to celebrate the rich heritage of the UAE, adding: “This edition of Abu Dhabi Art will champion that heritage through unique contemporary commissions at sites throughout the emirate.”
Entrance to the Art Fair at the event is Dhs250 but many events are free.For more information, visit www.abudhabiart.ae.