Abdullah Al Saadi: Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia
THE 60TH INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION
Curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh for Biennale Art 2024, Abdullah Al Saadi: Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia will present eight artworks, produced by artist Abdullah Al Saadi, a conceptual art pioneer in the UAE, featuring his journeys into the wilderness. The exhibition proposes to look at Al Saadi’s creative process in relation to the practices of Arab poets centuries ago. Al Saadi starts to draw, paint, or write during his journeys once he feels immersed in nature. Similarly, classical Arab poets described this immersion as the process leading up to the composition of their poems.
Visitors are invited to enter Al Saadi’s singular world and discover both the displayed art pieces and others hidden in metal chests. In a re-enactment of the artist’s ritual with visitors in his studio, a selection of the hidden artworks will be revealed by performers who are constantly present in the space. The chests store maps, stones, scrolls, and drawings that Al Saadi produced during his journeys and that he numbered, dated, and coded as if creating and preserving a collective memory for the future.
Considered a key figure in the development of contemporary art in the UAE, Al Saadi’s prolific practice ranges from painting, drawing, sculpture, performance, and photography, to collecting and cataloguing found objects, and the creation of new alphabets. His work is informed by the UAE’s landscape, heritage, and his own family history, often exploring relationships between individuals and their natural and social environment. His thought-provoking body of work delves into personal constructions of meaning emerging from his immersion in nature, inspiring us to reflect on our relationship to the world. Starting in the 1980s, Al Saadi has consistently created the most distinctive and comprehensive body of work connected to the landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula.
The 2024 exhibition will be curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh, with whom Al Saadi has recently collaborated on a public intervention in Expo 2020 Dubai with his exhibit titled Terhal which stemmed from the artist’s experience with the UAE’s natural environment. Over the last 25 years, Abou El Fetouh has been dedicated to creating institutional platforms that provide opportunities for contemporary artists in the region through commissions, co-productions, touring projects, residencies, and events. His curatorial practice is influenced by classic Arab intellectual and scientific literature.
The 60th International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia will take place from 20 April to 24 November 2024, conceived by Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa, director of the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP).