First United Arab Emirates pavilion
By Antonia Carver. News, Issue 197, December 2008
Published online: 05 January 2009
ABU DHABI. The United Arab Emirates is to be the first Gulf state to have a national pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009. “The theme, ‘Making Worlds’, speaks of the potential of art to bring new realities into being,” stated Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale. “It is all the more appropriate, therefore, that the Biennale will include the pavilion of the UAE, a nation that is fast becoming one of the significant new realities in the world of art.”
The UAE has appointed the respected Iranian critic Tirdad Zolghadr as curator. Previous exhibitions sponsored by the UAE have been largely promotional; given Zolghadr’s track record (as, for example, a co-curator of the Sharjah Biennial in 2005), he is expected to deliver a challenging exhibition.
“[The Pavilion] will…reflect, and encourage, a global shift in critical thinking and artistic practice that is only now making itself felt,” said pavilion organiser and commissioner Dr Lamees Hamdan, a well-known art collector and a board member of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.
The UAE pavilion will be co-designed by Emirati Rami Farook, director of Dubai’s Traffic gallery, and young Belgian architectural collective D’haeseleer & Kimpe & Poelaert.
Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage is creating another pavilion which will be curated by Catherine David, artistic director of the 2009 Lyons Biennial.
The UAE has been making its mark on the art world in recent years, launching two fairs (Art Dubai, Art Paris-Abu Dhabi) in addition to the long-running Sharjah Biennial. Abu Dhabi has made headlines with its plans to build branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre, plus another three vast arts institutions on Saadiyat Island.
Curators, museum directors and dealers have attempted to nurture contacts in the Gulf; the British Museum’s “Word into Art” exhibition, for example, toured to Dubai in 2008, with sponsorship and curatorial involvement from Dubai Holding and individual collectors in the emirate.
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