Sheikha Hoor Brings 14 Artists to the UAE’s Venice Biennale Pavilion

The UAE looks to show off its underknown art history.

Sheika Hoor Al Qasimi, president of the Sharjah Foundation and curator for the UAE's national pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Photo: Alex Maguire.

The United Arab Emirates’s pavilion for the upcoming 56th Venice Biennale will feature a group exhibition with 14 of the country’s artists: Ahmed Al Ansari, Moosa Al Halyan, Mohammed Al Qassab, Abdul Qader Al Rais, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah, Salem Jawhar, Mohammed Kazem, Najat Meky, Abdulraheem Salim, Hassan Sharif, Obaid Suroor, Mohamed Yousif, and Abdulrahman Zainal.

Titled “1980–Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates,” the pavilion is curated by Sheikha Hoor bint Sultan Al Qasimi, president of the Sharjah Art Foundation (see The 100 Most Powerful Women in Art: Part One). It will highlight major developments in the country’s art scene over the decades since the Emirates Fine Arts Society was founded in Sharjah in 1980. In preparation for the exhibition, Al Qasimi drew on the Society’s records to conduct historical research on a period that is little-known to the Western world, though the last decade has seen auction houses and art fairs pop up throughout the Middle East.

“Over the last decade the UAE art scene has experienced a surge in international recognition and appreciation, however many are still not aware of the depth and diversity of our artists, who have been working decades longer than the current art boom,” Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, founder of Abu Dhabi’s Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, which commissioned the pavilion, noted in a statement. “This exhibition represents an opportunity to document, share, and expand upon a key period for the country’s art history.”

A Significant Period of the UAE’s Art History

“The opportunity to curate the National Pavilion of the UAE has allowed me to reflect on and honor a significant period of the UAE’s art historySheikha Hoor Brings 14 Artists to the UAE’s Venice Biennale Pavilion,” added Al Qasimi. “Looking back at exhibitions from the 1980s, I have come across a number of interesting art works, mainly sculptures and paintings by now-established artists, as well as works by lesser known ones. It is important to state here that the focus is on the art works not the artist. My aim is to show the diversity of art practices, and the history of the art scene in the UAE at this period in time.”

The country has been participating in the Venice Biennale since 2009. In addition to the national pavilions, the Biennale will feature an international exhibition, “All the World’s Futures,” curated by Okwui Enwezor (see Theme and Title of the Next Venice Biennale Announced).

The UAE is currently preparing for the latest edition of its own international art fair, the Sharjah Biennial, which is run by Al Qasimi and coincides with New York’s Armory Week in March (see 2015 Sharjah Biennial Will Open Week of the Armory Show and Sharjah Biennial 2015 Announces Participating Artists).

The 56th Venice Biennale will be on view May 9–November 22, 2015.

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