National Pavilion UAE at the Venice Biennale 2022 announces Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset, a major new installation by one of the UAE’s leading experimental artists

calendar-iconTuesday, 18 January, 2022

18 January 2022, United Arab Emirates: The National Pavilion UAE (United Arab Emirates) announces its upcoming exhibition at the Biennale Arte 2022 (Venice Biennale) titled Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset. The exhibition will present a new body of work created for the National Pavilion UAE by Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, a veteran of the experimental art community in the UAE. Curated by Maya Allison, Executive Director of The New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, Between Sunrise and Sunset is an installation of human-sized, abstract and organic sculptural forms. The work draws from Ibrahim’s deep connection to the local environment of his hometown, Khor Fakkan – a city harbouring the rocky Al Hajar mountains on the east coast of the Emirate of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

This exhibition marks the National Pavilion UAE’s seventh participation at the Biennale Arte, along with its move towards an artist-led approach whereby Ibrahim nominated Allison to curate the exhibition. The 59th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2022 (Biennale Arte 2022) will open to the public between 23 April – 27 November 2022.

The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is curated by New York based Italian curator and artistic director Cecilia Alemani under the theme The Milk of Dreams, which questions the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses, and the connection between bodies and earth. In resonance with this theme, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s biomorphic sculptures cluster in undulating colour and movement – suggesting bodies, mutation, and metamorphosis. These forms arrive from his physical dialogue with the materials of the work: accretions of papier-mâché are built up over loose skeleton structures that shift and settle into their final position as he works. Often incorporating actual earth, leaves, tea, coffee, and tobacco, the texture of the forms derives from his raw materials.

Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, said: “Emirati artists enjoy the support of the Ministry of Culture and Youth, which leads the cultural and creative sector in the UAE, and works to strengthen the UAE’s position on the global creative map. Our participation embodies the conducive cultural climate of the UAE that highlights diversity and enables the development of a thriving artistic scene. At the ministry, we believe in empowering our artists and creators for them to contribute to the country’s holistic and sustainable development.

Her Excellency pointed out that the exhibition will contribute to enriching the art movement in the UAE, showcase Emirati art to a wider crosssection of audiences and make it accessible to the world. “ The UAE is an ideal platform for artists to grow and showcase their talent. We have legislations, infrastructure, equimpment and advanced technologies to help them possess their art. Our particpation will be an incentive for creative people to present innovative cultural and artistic works that reflect the development of our cultural sector, enhance the UAE’s positive image and keep up with its outstanding position globally.” Her Excellency concluded.

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim said, “Between Sunrise and Sunset highlights the connection I have with the nature of Khor Fakkan – my hometown and the place I continue to live in. The exhibition demonstrates the tension between Khor Fakkan’s colorful bright mornings, when the sun rises over the ocean, and the disappearance of colors in mid-afternoon, when the sun drops behind the mountains that loom over my hometown. We can never see the sunset in Khor Fakkan, but we can imagine it on the other side of the UAE. I am looking forward to showing my new installation, working alongside Maya Allison and the National Pavilion UAE, to represent my country in our upcoming presentation at the Venice Biennale in 2022.”

Curator Maya Allison said, “Over the years, I have closely observed Ibrahim’s work process and its intense and intimate relationship with each environment he encounters, whether that be the rocky mountainous landscape of his lifelong home, or the landscapes of his residencies in Holland, France, India, and beyond. Even after almost 4 decades of art-making, the artist continues to evolve and deepen his practice, with a stubbornly persistent exuberance, nourished by his connection to his work and his artist community. For many years he worked against the odds of location and access, and I’m gratified to see the exposure and recognition of this artist by the wider art world. This is a watershed moment for the work of the institutions that are supporting this project.”

Allison added, “Over the past decade, the National Pavilion of the UAE to the Venice Biennale has played a pivotal role in telling stories of the UAE’s culture and history on the global stage. During this same period, NYU Abu Dhabi’s commitment to The NYUAD Art Gallery exhibitions, publications, and curatorial fellowships have made possible our sustained study of the UAE’s art history. Today, I am grateful to both of these institutions for their partnership in support of the 2022 National Pavilion of the UAE to the Venice Biennale. Serious and important art has been made in the UAE for much longer than international art audiences may realize, and I look forward to contributing again to the development of the historical record.”

Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset marks Ibrahim and Allison’s fifth collaboration together and the third book that Allison has worked on that studies Ibrahim’s work – marking a special collaboration for them. In the first monograph on the artist, the exhibition’s accompanying publication, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset / Works: 1986-2022, is co-edited by Maya Allison and Cristiana de Marchi, artist, curator, and poet based between Dubai and Beirut, who has a long record of work with and writing on this UAE art community. The editors have commissioned new texts that comprehensively explore Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s work, representing a major contribution to the UAE’s art history, documenting and archiving part of the country’s long-standing experimental art community. The book will make new material and histories available for future scholars, bringing these untold stories of the UAE into the contemporary art world narrative.

Laila Binbrek, Coordinating Director, National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia, said, “Between Sunrise and Sunset will present important new sculptural forms by Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, who has been one of the influential members of the UAE’s long-standing avant-garde community since the early 1980s. Ibrahim confronts his imagination to encompass his deep connection to the UAE’s natural environment. Through this exhibition the National Pavilion UAE highlights a member of the UAE’s extraordinary community of well-established artists as we continue our commitment to reveal the untold stories of the UAE.”

Angela Migally, Executive Director, Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, commissioner of the National Pavilion UAE, said, “National Pavilion UAE, NYUAD and its Art Gallery are shaping the UAE’s cultural and scholarly efforts by realizing Ibrahim’s work process through the National Pavilion UAE’s 2022 exhibition, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset. Together with the publication, this exhibition is a testament to our long-standing commitment to invest in people and the UAE’s art ecosystem – spearheading the growth and understanding of the UAE’s art and creative community. Extraordinary artists like Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim deserve global recognition and the Venice Biennale is a catalyst to providing a unique opportunity to connect with an important international audience and engage in global cultural dialogue tying to the untold stories of the UAE art community and beyond.”

Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi Mariët Westermann said, “The Venice Biennale is one of the most significant and prestigious showcases for art in the world. We are incredibly proud that our Chief Curator, Maya Allison was selected to curate the National Pavilion UAE this year. NYU Abu Dhabi has always been profoundly committed to the arts, from its museum quality Art Gallery and lively Performing Arts Center to its brand new Master of Fine Arts. It is an honor for us to collaborate with the National Pavilion UAE and be part of such an important milestone in the global arts calendar. We look forward to seeing the exhibition come to life on this great world stage.”

The National Pavilion UAE is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the Ministry of Culture and Youth, with a permanent pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s Arsenale – Sale d’Armi.