Manar Abu Dhabi is set to illuminate the archipelagos and mangroves of the UAE capital from 15 November 2023-30 January 2024, with an exhibition of new commissions and site-specific light sculptures, projections, and immersive artworks by local and international artists.

A key pillar of the Public Art Abu Dhabi initiative, announced by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) earlier in 2023, Manar (the Arabic word for lighthouse) echoes the tradition of radiant decorations that have historically illuminated the emirate’s celebrations under the night sky, and will offer residents and visitors opportunities to engage with artworks and experience the transformative power of light.

Held under the theme Grounding Light, the inaugural edition of Manar Abu Dhabi is being curated by Reem Fadda, Director of Abu Dhabi Culture Programming, Director of the Cultural Foundation and Artistic Director of Public Art Abu Dhabi, and co-curated by Alia Zaal Lootah, Manar Abu Dhabi Curator. Offering an immersive, multi-sensory experience that celebrates the emirate’s natural beauty, the exhibition will invite audiences to see Abu Dhabi’s coastal areas in a new light.

The artworks will be displayed across several key locations throughout Abu Dhabi, including Lulu, Saadiyat, Yas, Jubail, Al Samaliyah and Fahid islands, and other coastal areas such as Corniche Road, Mina Zayed and the Eastern Mangroves. Visitors will embark on a 2.3-kilometre art journey through Al Samaliyah, witness a Saadiyat Cultural District museum-inspired drone show on Saadiyat Island, and explore mesmerising displays on Lulu.

His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “Manar Abu Dhabi is more than just an art exhibition. It's a testament to our long standing and continued commitment to public art and the cultural growth of our city – highlighting Abu Dhabi as an international destination of choice for culture. Our vibrant, dynamic city is the canvas, and the light art is a bridge connecting us to the city’s artistic expressions. While appealing to audiences across the Abu Dhabi community and beyond, we especially aim to inspire the young minds who are our future. Through this immersive experience, we hope to encourage imagination, a sense of wonder, and appreciation for our beautiful natural environment.”

Rita Aoun, DCT Abu Dhabi’s Culture Sector Executive Director, said, "Culture is at the heart of Abu Dhabi’s identity and heritage. With Manar, we are engaging our community in a dialogue that connects the aesthetic, historical, and social values of the city. The magic of light art is its ability to transcend traditional boundaries, bringing together people from all walks of life. This transformative journey speaks to the emirate’s cultural vision anchored in the collective memory of its residents and enhancing the liveability, wellbeing, and accessibility to all forms of art. We hope that every Abu Dhabi resident and visitor will sense a newfound connection to the city, inspired by the visual narrative woven by exceptionally talented artists."

More than 35 site-specific artworks by local and international artists have been commissioned for Manar Abu Dhabi, spanning a diverse array of mediums including light projections, sculptures, installations, and performances. Hailing from Argentina, Belgium, France, Japan, India, Mexico, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tunisia, the UAE, the UK and the US, artists include Ahmed Al Areef Al Dhaheri, Alaa Edris, Asma Belhamar, Ayman Zedani, Carsten Höller, Groupe F, Jim Denevan, Jumairy, Latifa Saeed, Rain Wu, Luciana Abait, Mohammed Kazem, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Nujoom Alghanem, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Samia Halaby, Shaikha Al ketbi, Rawdha Al Ketbi, Ayesha Hadhir, Shezad Dawood, Shilpa Gupta and teamLab.

Reem Fadda, Director of Abu Dhabi Culture Programming, Director of the Cultural Foundation and Artistic Director of Public Art Abu Dhabi, said: "Grounding Light is an experience designed to transform our perception of the world around us. The exhibition brings together an extraordinary array of artists whose works are intended to foster a sense of calm, engagement and appreciation of Abu Dhabi’s unique biodiversity and natural beauty. It is an exhibition that marries the elements of nature, water, and light art to create a one-of-a-kind experience unique only to Abu Dhabi. Each piece will not only enhance our experience of the emirate's beautiful water landscapes, but also resonate with visitors long after the exhibition, prompting reflection on the bond that connects us to the earth beneath our feet and to each other, as well as on the role of public art in shaping our collective experiences.”

Alia Zaal Lootah, Manar Abu Dhabi Curator, said: “The exhibition programme reflects the rich cultural legacy and contemporary aspirations of our city. This immersive public art platform will further shape the creative expression of the city and inspire community engagement by offering residents and visitors the opportunity to engage and connect with art in some of Abu Dhabi’s most beautiful natural locations.”

A robust public programme of talks, workshops, and art performances will take place throughout the duration of Manar Abu Dhabi.

The exhibition is part of Public Art Abu Dhabi’s ongoing commitment to commissioning public art for the emirate; two other major long-term elements include the Public Art Abu Dhabi Biennial, launching in November 2024, and artist commissions. Since its launch in March 2023, Public Art Abu Dhabi has continued to bolster DCT Abu Dhabi’s longstanding efforts in enhancing spaces of historical, aesthetic, architectural, social, scientific, and technological value, paying homage to the vibrant cultural legacy of the city while looking to the future.