National Pavilion UAE Announces Artists and Theme for 54th Venice Biennale 2011

calendar-iconThursday, 10 March, 2011

United Arab Emirates, March 10, 2011 – Building on its 2009 debut, the United Arab Emirates is emerging as an important contributor to the world of contemporary art, and will welcome visitors once more to its Pavilion in Venice from June 4 through November 27, 2011.

Established in 1895, the Venice Biennale today encompasses the official pavilions of more than 70 nations. Its International Art Exhibition draws more than 375,000 influential visitors from around the world. It is widely regarded as the most important international art fair.

The UAE Pavilion has been initiated and supported by His Excellency Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed Al Owais, UAE Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy and the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC). The UAE Pavilion is being developed and presented under the leadership of its Commissioner, Dr. Lamees Hamdan. Serving as curator for the UAE Pavilion for 2011 is Vasıf Kortun, an internationally respected curator and Director of Research and Programs, SALT, Istanbul.


“Second Time Around / للمرة الثانية ”

The title of the exhibition for this year‟s UAE Pavilion is “Second Time Around / للمرة الثانية .

This title refers to the UAE‟s debut appearance at the biennial in 2009. A newcomer to the la Biennale di Venezia, the UAE Pavilion found itself in a position of answering demands and curiosities which it addressed brilliantly with its cheerful self-criticality and artistic strength. The second Pavilion is in turn a sign of slowly coming of age. The title “Second Time Around” is in fact purposefully modest and refers to the barebones of the exhibition. The same attitude adopted while choosing the title is echoed in the approach to the exhibition.

In a statement about his curatorial concept, Kortun elaborated, “The first years of the emergent art scene in the UAE have been of remarkable frenzy. This scene that had been earlier propelled by galleries, art fairs, museum projects and curious professionals is now developing into a more established set of structures, inline with the necessities of a contemporary globalized hub. The effects of a vertical urbanization that every citizen has to answer day in and day out constituted the rapid transformation of the nation. Likewise, UAE artists were called upon to perform the role of chroniclers and represent the burdens of this sea of change. However, they are now negotiating and processing the complexities of what is becoming a predominantly visual culture.”

“No longer contextualized in what have become the absolute clichés of the international reception of the UAE, the UAE Pavilion for 2011 does not aim to treat the exhibition as curatorial conceit; but rather chooses to realize the theoretical foundation in the immanence of the works in the exhibition,” Kortun notes. “The Pavilion will not be „curated‟ around concepts but around artistic positions, as if three independent projects form a coherent exhibition structure pivoting around the works of three artists, Reem Al Ghaith, Abdullah Al Saadi and Lateefa bint Maktoum.”


The Artists

Kortun visited the UAE on numerous occasions in 2010 and interviewed over 30 Emirati artists about their artwork and their art practice.

Three Emirati artists were selected by Kortun for exhibition in the UAE Pavilion. Reem Al Ghaith, Abdullah Al Saadi and Lateefa Bint Maktoum will represent the UAE through displays of an installation, drawings and photography respectively.

Reem Al Ghaith holds a BSc in Visual Communication from the School of Architecture and Design, American University of Sharjah, UAE. Her work examines changes in the urban and social landscape of the UAE, often with sophisticated all-around installations that relate to tradition and history, yet do not fall into banal representations and fascinations of the subject. The intertwined structure of her work deliberately places itself far away from being representative.

Abdullah Al Saadi holds a degree in English Literature from United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain. From 1994 -1996 he studied Japanese painting at Kyoto Seika University in Japan. He lives and works in Khorfakan, outside the art world and untethered by its demands and daily routines. His work is a daily practice of recording, inventing normative groupings, and documenting species that are beyond “scientific inquiry.”

Lateefa Bint Maktoum holds a B.A. in Visual Arts from Zayed University, Latifa College. Her practice largely consists of composite, digitally manipulated images based on highlighted, enhanced, and conflated realities from her immediate memories as well as the distant past. Her compositions combine an aestheticism of British painting with enhanced local fauna and flora that sit in stark opposition to images of urbanization. Maktoum is also a curator and Founder and Director of Tashkeel, a public studio providing specialist facilities for artists and designers living and working in the UAE.


Additional plans for the UAE Pavilion

The architecture firm SuperPool has been selected to create the scenography of the UAE Pavilion exhibition.

Headed up by Selva Gurdogan and Gregers Tang Thomsen, in addition to the UAE Pavilion, the firm is currently engaged in TailorCrete, a European Commission funded research grant for incorporating robotics into concrete construction technology. Superpool has recently completed Mapping Istanbul, a book commissioned by Garanti Gallery with nearly a hundred maps and information graphics. The book is a resource for architects, planners and policy makers invested in the city‟s future.

Möbius Design Studio, based in the creative resource centre, Tashkeel – UAE, will be developing the visual for the exhibition theme as well as designing the catalogue and related materials.

In 2009, the UAE became the first gulf nation to exhibit at the prestigious la Biennale di Venezia. For la Biennale di Venezia in 2011, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are expected to also participate with their own national pavilions.