Abu Dhabi gets a new ‘creativity festival’

installation view from Jason Seife, A Small Spark vs a Great Forest; Unit London, January 2020

Three days of talks, performances, “dining experiences”, art installations and screenings from an invited roster of “acclaimed global creative talent” are featured in a new ‘creativity festival’ to be held at Abu Dhabi’s Manarat al Saadiyat in October. From the blurb: “this is a festival experience like no other. Intimate and exclusive, this is your chance to dive into the creative processes of the world’s best artists, musicians, designers and more”.

This is the first outing in the region for Semi Permanent, the brainchild of an Australian ‘creative experience company’ of the same name. It has developed an attractive “creativity festival” package that combines retail, branding, fashion, technology and (loosely) design. Starting back in 2003, Semi Permanent events have run in various formats in Australia (regularly), New Zealand (there’s one scheduled for Wellington later this year), Singapore, China, the UK, the States, and Portugal.

Semi Permanent Middle East is a collaboration between the organisation and DCT Abu Dhabi – specifically, its dedicated retail arm, Retail Abu Dhabi, which probably tells you how its focus should be seen. The Semi Permanent people say the aim is to offer “fresh and unique perspectives on our world” as it emerges from the pandemic. The DCT Abu Dhabi press release has a different angle on it, and reckons that the theme is ‘Bridges’ – with an emphasis on “unexpected combinations, collaborations and conditions” that can demonstrate “new, game-changing work across the creative and design ecosystem”.

This will be delivered through keynote talks, panels, workshops and “experiences”. In fact we don’t have many more details, and certainly not a schedule; but we are promised a DJ set from Mark Ronson (right); a pop-up by New York restaurant and bar The Flower Shop; La Rosa Social Club, an exhibition/art bar that will feature a clutch of contemporary US-based artists (Kahlil Joseph, Ryan McGinley and Johanna Jackson are named); and a data-driven digital artwork from the uber-hip Turkish-American AI/data/new media artist Refik Anadol, delivered via what’s described as “a stunning, all-encompassing LED format”.

As for regional talent, that apparently includes Lebanese singer Dana Hourani; artist/designer Jason Seife (highly recommended and a regular on the Semi Permanent circuit, though it’s a bit of stretch to describe the Miami-born Seife as local on the basis of a Syrian father); founder and creative director Bünyamin Aydin of the Turkish male fashion brand Les Benjamins (another Semi Permanent alumnus, he’s based in Istanbul, which probably means he does just about qualify as regional talent); and photographer/designer Hussain AlMoosawi, who genuinely is local – an Emirati who did a lot of the good infographic content creator for The National in its early days, he’s currently the creative lead an Abu Dhabi agency (and check out his photography, especially the brilliant ongoing Facades of the UAE collection).

“Our strategic partnership with Semi Permanent will unite a who’s who of international talent and cutting-edge powerhouses from across the world’s creative landscape, right here in Abu Dhabi,” said HE Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, Executive Director of Tourism and Marketing at DCT Abu Dhabi. “This exciting new addition to Abu Dhabi’s increasingly diverse events calendar underlines the emirate’s role as both an enabler and a beacon of innovation for the regional design, business and creative industries.”

The pricing for Semi Permanent Middle East is impressive. Tickets are sold in pairs at AED 798 per session, and there are a total of five sessions over the three days – 9am to 2pm and 3pm to 8pm on 14 October, 10am-3pm and 4-9pm on 15 October, 4-9pm on 167 October. So the dedicated follower and a friend will have to stump up AED 3,990 to attend the whole thing (there don’t seem to be any multi-session passes).

Here’s the website for the event; presumably it will be loaded up with more details as they are confirmed.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply