Abu Dhabi Art, held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office, will present works from the 2021 edition of the Beyond: Emerging Artists programme at Palazzo Franchetti, Venice, Italy from 20 April to 22 May 2022, to coincide with the Biennale Arte 2022. For its first iteration in Italy, Beyond: Emerging Artists will showcase commissioned artists Christopher Joshua Benton, Maitha Abdalla and Hashel Al Lamki, who were supported by guest curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, co-founders of multidisciplinary curatorial platform Art Reoriented.
The Beyond: Emerging Artists initiative invites local and international curators to work with UAE-based emerging artists of their choosing in a year-round programme, enabling and supporting the artists to hone their skills and develop their professional practice. Participating artists are provided with a budget and curatorial support to create ambitious new works that are exhibited through Abu Dhabi Art.
Dyala Nusseibeh, Director of Abu Dhabi Art, said, “Abu Dhabi Art has always been committed to nurturing artists, enabling them to develop their practice and providing opportunities that can support them professionally and expand audiences for their work. Our annual programme Beyond: Emerging Artists, was, in 2021, funded through the newly launched cultural philanthropy initiative Friends of Abu Dhabi Art, whose support gave our UAE-based emerging artists an unparalleled international platform. Now expanding beyond the UAE, we are delighted to bring global attention to the works of Christopher Joshua Benton, Maitha Abdalla and Hashel Al Lamki in Venice this year.”
Combining film, installation, and sculpture, Benton’s The World Was My Garden works with the palm tree as a metaphor for migration, labour economies and the history of slavery in the Gulf. The exhibition’s centerpiece is My Plant Immigrants, an almost three-metre-tall date palm tree suspended in the air.
Abdalla’s Too Close to the Sun spans video performance, sculpture, and works on canvas and photography. The exhibition explores what the artist perceives as the wild nature of women that social forces have often attempted to tame, intertwining themes including the wildness of human nature, the archetype of the feminine psyche, and the untamable character of wild animals.
Neptune, a multidisciplinary work featuring sculptures and works on canvas by Al Lamki, traverses natural, built and imagined realms to foreground the scarcity of the Earth’s resources and how these events impact the human psyche. In his exhibition, the artist explores liberation from worldly duties and confines through the adoption of a lifestyle grounded in nomadism.
Designed to introduce emerging UAE-based artists to a global audience, this is the second international exhibition for Abu Dhabi Art, building on the success of the fair’s collaboration with London’s Cromwell Place in 2021, where it extended its 2020 Beyond: Emerging Artists programme to the UK. La Biennale di Venezia is a perfect platform for these young artists to engage with art world professionals, collectors, art-lovers and fellow artists.
“I’m honoured to showcase Neptune in Venice this year at a moment that coincides with the Venice Biennale. This body of work was recently exhibited at the Abu Dhabi Art fair under the fair’s Beyond: Emerging Artists 2021 programme, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath. Neptune celebrates the various colours and textures of Abu Dhabi. I’m very pleased that the journey of this body of work can extend and reach a new audience that might engage with it critically and offer up new readings and dialogues surrounding it,” said Al Lamki.
Abdalla said, “My commission for the Beyond: Emerging Artists programme at Abu Dhabi Art last year, as an internationally facing platform, was a powerful opportunity in itself. The chance to share this series during the Venice Biennial is an honour. While much of my art chronicles personal narratives there are topics that humans might connect to universally embedded within my practice. I’m excited to see how my art connects to those that encounter it in Venice and how it takes on new meaning in this dynamic new context.”
Benton said, “I am so excited to bring The World Was My Garden to Venice, Italy. European markets and consumer demand played an important role in the story of the date and its global circulation at the turn of the 20th century. My intention with this project is to re-route these circuits by revealing the exploitation inherent to these labour and agricultural economies.”
Nadine Maalouf and Nadia Sehweil, Co-Heads of Friends of Abu Dhabi Art, added, “When we created Friends of Abu Dhabi Art, it was out of a profound commitment to supporting homegrown talent in the UAE and to encouraging the continuous development of the local art scene. Seeing the spellbinding, immersive works of Christopher Joshua Benton, Maitha Abdalla and Hashel Al Lamki first exhibited at Abu Dhabi Art 2021 now find a new setting in Venice, is testament to the success and future potential of this endeavour. We invite everyone to visit the exhibition and discover the works of three of the UAE’s most promising emerging artists.”