Manar Abu Dhabi light art exhibition has opened to the public, transforming the emirate with light artworks installed across various islands, mangroves and natural vistas of the capital.

A key pillar of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi’s (DCT Abu Dhabi) Public Art Abu Dhabi initiative, this inaugural edition of Manar Abu Dhabi is held under the theme Grounding Light, rooted in the concept of grounding and self-enlightenment and the belief that light is a reflection of our inner selves, body, mind, nature and spirit. Curated by Reem Fadda and Alia Zaal Lootah, the citywide exhibition artworks feature more than 20 local, regional and international artists from Argentina, Germany, France, India, Japan, Mexico, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tunisia, UAE, UK and the US.

Celebrating art on a grand scale on Fahid Island, Jim Denevan has created Self Similar, a land art installation illuminated by 432 solar lanterns. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer takes over Lulu Island with Translation Island, an interactive journey through 10 large-scale audiovisual multimedia artworks. On Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach, Carsten Höller has created with Abu Dhabi Dots a game that invites visitors to interact with light and change its properties, while Shilpa Gupta has reflected on humans’ ability for change in an artwork presented in Arabic, English and Urdu.

Merging sound, digital technologies, light, and water, Jumairy celebrates the beauty of bioluminescent Abu Dhabi beaches, provoking reflection on the interconnectedness of all living beings. Luciana Abait compiled her collection of visual and audio recordings from around the world in Agua, an interactive experience, where viewers are invited to immerse themselves in a large-scale waterfall projection. Shezad Dawood's 4-metre-high Coral Alchemy (Acropora Grove) sculpture on Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach promotes environmental awareness, highlighting the endangered acropora coral species.

On Lulu Island, Nujoom Al Ghanem celebrates Abu Dhabi seafaring heritage with a large-scale installation of dhow boats. Exploring Abu Dhabi’s traditions and cultural practices in a series of artworks, Ayesha Hadhir, Rawdha Al Ketbi and Shaikha Al Ketbi have created a playful journey through the Eastern Mangroves. Abu Dhabi’s evolving landscape is captured by Ahmed Al Areef in his video projection, featuring archival photos of the city’s old and contemporary skyline. Exploring the interaction of time and spatial perception with her sculptural piece, Asma Belhamar reflected on how those grown in the UAE experience the changes in architecture and landscape through transient moments. Groupe F's drone and light painting shows transform the night sky, previewing Saadiyat Island's landmark architectural future. Drawn by the medium of light, Latifa Saeed and Nadia Kaabi-Linke envisage their architecture-focused artworks as vehicles or lenses for the immaterial medium–light that makes the world visible without being seen. Transforming Corniche Beach into her canvas with the aid of two LED screens, artist Samia Halaby merges painting with kinetic technology, giving typically visual ideas a concrete body, reflecting growth and development.

A second series of artworks will be unveiled in Al Samaliyah Island on 20 December and remain on view until 30 January 2024. Among the artists whose projects will open on the second half of December, teamLab use digital technologies to create immersive artworks that transport viewers into a world where nature and technology converge in harmony. Similarly, Ayman Zedani studies the interplay between humans and the natural world in his work Terrapolis, blurring the lines between life forms and prompting reflection on our connection to the Earth and other species in the modern Gulf environment. Representing collaboration across various realms and the nation’s developmental journey as a work of art, Mohammed Kazem manifests the unity and boundless opportunities that the UAE offers through a circular arrangement of numerical coordinates in his directions, UAE artwork. In Jubail Mangrove Park, Rain Wu’s installation One with the Soil, One with the Cloud will illuminate the life cycle of mangrove trees through a floating swarm of lights, celebrating the beauty and ephemerality of existence while offering a unique view on the living world from above. Finally, in celebration of the rising cultural district in the making, Alaa Edris will offer a new perspective on Saadiyat Island with the new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum as a backdrop.

In conjunction with the art installations, a schedule of public talks, workshops and performances is offered to visitors over the course of the exhibition. These endeavours highlight Public Art Abu Dhabi’s ongoing commitment to enhancing the emirate’s public spaces through art, building upon a vibrant cultural legacy while looking forward to a future rich with creative potential.