Abu Dhabi: The Cultural Foundation within Abu Dhabi’s oldest historical site – Al Hosn – has announced a new programme of exhibitions, workshops, and art events to launch on 4 September 2019. Having undergone a full renovation of the original 1981-built spaces, the Cultural Foundation will continue to focus on Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s vision of nurturing the nation’s artistic consciousness and means of cultural exchange. The programme will coincide with the opening of new spaces within the Cultural Foundation including the Abu Dhabi Children’s Library and a 900-seat theatre, marking the complete revitalisation of the Foundation.
“As the oldest historical site within our emirate, Al Hosn represents Abu Dhabi’s strong commitment to Emirati heritage, and the Cultural Foundation is a vital component of this mission,” said Reem Fadda, the Cultural Foundation’s Director. “Since its creation in 1981, the Foundation has served as a key place for artists to learn, collaborate, and create. We are thrilled to continue this legacy with a rich offering of unique and immersive art spaces and a year-round programme of exhibitions, artist residencies and workshops. The Cultural Foundation embodies our nation’s multi-faceted approach to cross-cultural learning and offers a new vehicle for artists both from the UAE and abroad to showcase their work.”
The Cultural Foundation will present a rotating series of contemporary exhibitions per year featuring local, regional, and international artists. Set to create spectacular displays that fill the spaces of the Cultural Foundation’s ground floor, main hall, and new courtyards, the exhibitions are curated to emphasise the forward-looking vision of Al Hosn in line with its deep unifying heritage.
The opening season will kick off with Najat Makki: Luminescence a debut solo exhibition on one of the leading artists of the UAE. Innovative and contemporary in nature, the exhibition will be displayed throughout the Cultural Foundation’s main hall and ground floor spaces, highlighting Dr. Najat Makki’s experimental and open approach to various geographical and historic influences. Many of the works will also be hung from the high ceiling of the Foundation’s atrium to showcase her work innovatively. On view from 4 September – 15 December, the exhibition will have a dedicated public programme including artist talks, workshops, masterclasses, guided tours, curated film screenings and other creative programmes.
In January, The Red Palace by Saudi Arabian artist Sultan bin Fahad will travel from Riyadh to the Cultural Foundation. On view between 20 January – 1 April 2020, the exhibition takes inspiration from the historical 20th century ‘Red Palace’ and its role within Saudi Arabia’s key historical and political events of that era. Collecting memorabilia, relics, and discarded objects from various sites, the artist creates sculptures and installations that explore the transformative potential of the ruin to stand in for what was lost and its reformulation within the country’s social metamorphosis.
In the spirit of supporting local artists, the Cultural Foundation has dedicated two spaces on the building’s first floor to Community Exhibitions. For the opening season, the first community exhibition will be The Tribute: A dedication to Najat Makki featuring 19 Emirati artists. This exhibition brings together three generations of Emirati artists, from the 1970s to the 1990s, under one roof. The artists featured have witnessed Makki’s evolution in the Emirati and international art scene. Some studied with her, others shared her first exhibitions and some have co-exhibited internationally. All have a deep appreciation of Makki and her dedication to the arts in the UAE. They have welcomed this exhibition as a means of expressing their love and admiration for her, whether through portraits or other painting genres and styles, on canvasses no less than two metres square. The 19 artists are: Mohammed Mandi, Abdul Rahim Salim, Dr. Mohamed Yousif, Musa Al Halyan, Abdulrahman Zainal, Obaid Suroor, Mohammed Al Qassab, Ibrahim Al Awadhi, Mona Al Khaja, Khulood Al Jabri, Dr. Karima Al Shomely, Nassim Al Majed, Moaza Abushalibi, Mattar Bin Lahej, Jalal Luqman, Ali Al Abdan, Mohammed Al Astad, Khalil Abdulwahid and Aisha Al Suwaidi.
The Abu Dhabi Children’s Library at the Cultural Foundation will also open with an exhibition on the ground floor entitled Step Into A Story, which will focus on the role that pop-up and moveable books play in literacy. A pop-up book is a type of moveable book with paper mechanisms which pop up or move when the reader turns the page or manipulates them. Pop-up books are important interactive and visual communication tools, which link the reader to the text or concept. They are engineering marvels designed to engage readers of all ages. The Abu Dhabi Children’s Library, which is the newest addition to the Cultural Foundation, has been designed as a life-size pop-up book with immersive spaces, where the print and digital content of a library and the diverse landscapes of the UAE are brought to life. Therefore, the exhibit celebrates the library’s unique design as a creative learning space and living pop-up book by reimagining works by local authors and illustrators in 3D. The library will also house the Children’s Arts Centre with workshops throughout the month for young artists form the ages of 5 to 14 to learn skills in painting, drawing, crafting, jewellery design and music.
The Cultural Foundation boasts a comprehensive Art Residency Programme, a platform to support and advance the artistic practice of professional artists. Within the Cultural Foundation, the contemporary art house at the heart of Abu Dhabi in Al Hosn, the artists, who are based mainly in the UAE, benefit from the dedicated studio spaces and resources. The residency programme enables them to produce and exhibit art within the Cultural Foundation itself, providing them with unparalleled visibility and endorsement. The four artists in residence, Ayesha Hadhir, Ahmad Saeed Al Areef Al Dhaheri, Saoud Al Dhaheri, Zayed Temash, will exhibit their final artworks in the three dedicated Art Residency studio spaces, from 4 September 2019 – 30 November 2019. The Art Residency publication will be launched on the day of the exhibition opening. An open call for the next Cultural Foundation Art Residency 2020 cycle will be released with the opening season.
Bait al Khatt (House of Calligraphy), meanwhile, is a new space within the Cultural Foundation dedicated to the intricate art of traditional Arabic calligraphy. Lead by artist and calligrapher, Mohammed Mandi, and open to residents and tourists alike, the ongoing programme of beginner, intermediate, and masterclasses will take both a theoretical and practical approach with a view towards enhancing the development of Arabic calligraphy within the UAE. Bait al Khatt is designed as an educational hub with a key focus on both the historical and present-day teachings of calligraphy within Arabic culture. Classes will be held daily throughout the year and are open to students of all ages and skill levels.
Celebrating the return of Al Marsam Al Hor to the Cultural Foundation, a dynamic new programme focussed on artistic education will launch in September. Teens and adults of all skill levels are invited to enrol in a variety of classes and workshops that will focus on artistic disciplines including sketching, oil and watercolour painting, mixed media, sculpture, ceramics, pottery, fashion design, silk and glass painting, and jewellery.
Other initiatives announced at the Cultural Foundation include a moving image programme that will also nurture the growing category of broadcast art, with 3-5 films and shorts to debut monthly across various digital mediums.