Coinciding with COP28 and the Year of Sustainability, Blane De St. Croix: Horizon, an exhibition inspired by the artist’s study of the UAE environment, has opened at New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi Art Gallery to the public. The artist has launched several major new works and a sculpture series, inspired by the UAE’s landscape.

This exhibition is the result of Blane De St. Croix’s year-long residency at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, in the lead up to COP28. During this period, he interviewed faculty and climate experts, and joined dialogues about environmental issues being researched by faculty and students across NYU Abu Dhabi, from the sciences and social sciences to the arts and humanities. A series of these interviews is presented in a video installation in the exhibition.

The exhibition showcases De St. Croix’s work from ecosystems around the world, and centres on several major new works. The largest of these, Salt Lake Excerpt, UAE, emerged from his collaboration with theatre artist Joanna Settle, an Arts Professor and Associate Dean at NYU Abu Dhabi. They co-created this work inspired by the salt lakes (sabkhas) of the UAE. Together they designed a light, sound and sculpture landscape made from at least 50,000 plastic bottles. The exhibition also includes an infinite landscapes series based on the UAE’s deserts, developed from work with NYU Abu Dhabi’s Research Visualization and Fabrication lab. Following on from the artist’s dialogues with faculty in the Social Sciences and Humanities department who are conducting research on the Himalayas, he produced High Peaks: Himachal (Snow Mountain). In it, sculptures of Mount Everest and five other peaks loom over the visitor, and appear to be melting and collapsing.

Mariët Westermann, Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, said: “I have long known Blane De St. Croix for his deep engagement with climate issues. After his highly successful show at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in 2020-2021, I teamed up with Maya Allison, Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery, to invite Blane to undertake a residency and exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi. This show is the culmination of his time with us and was developed in partnership with so many partners at NYU Abu Dhabi and in the UAE community. As COP28 approaches, we are delighted to see many facets of our university programming aligned with the UAE’s Year of Sustainability.”

Maya Allison, Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery, said: “Commissioning an exhibition of this scale and depth, and working with an artist through the development process, means seeing the subject through their eyes. In this case, it meant seeing the UAE through the eyes of the artist, as he discovered the complex, living landscapes of the region. The subject of our environment looms large as COP28 approaches in the UAE, and we, as a global academic institution, have a critical role to play in the path to climate change solutions. I am moved by the ecological challenge that confronts humanity now, but also reminded of the possibilities for renewal. Art is a vital tool for investigating our place in the world, through the experience of all of our senses, when we enter an exhibition like this. I am grateful to Blane De St. Croix, and everyone who supported his research, for helping us to grow our vision for art as a way to more fully comprehend our world, together with scientists, historians, researchers, experts, and policy makers.”

Blane De St. Croix, resident artist at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, said: “Having travelled to many spectacular and inspiring, but ecologically fragile, environments, including the Gobi Desert and the Arctic Circle, my studies of the equally beautiful UAE desert reinforced a truth that both artists and scientists tell us, our planet is deeply interconnected, as are the environmental challenges we face. Any solutions we might develop in response must account for this fact. I thank the faculty at NYU Abu Dhabi for their support in developing this new body of work, which I hope will inspire people to think in new ways about how we interact with nature.”

The exhibition is being held as NYU Abu Dhabi is chairing the Universities Climate Network (UCN). Comprising 31 UAE-based institutions of higher education, the UCN collaborates to facilitate dialogues, workshops, public events, policy briefs and youth participation in the months to and beyond COP28.

Blane De St. Croix: Horizon runs through January 14, 2024, from Tuesday through Sunday, 12-8pm. For more details visit here.