The works by the 10 artists shortlisted for the $60,0000 Richard Mille Art Prize (winner to be announced early next year) are on show in the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Art Here 2022 exhibition until 19 February 2023.
The exhibition is curated by Reem Fadda, Director of Abu Dhabi’s Cultural Foundation. It has the theme ‘Icon and Iconic’ – “exploring how the concept of icon resonates within contemporary art practices and how it informs new artistic perspectives” – and Dr Souraya Noujaim, LouvreAD’s Director of Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management and one of the selectors, described the artists’ contextualisation and interpretation of this as “incredibly nuanced”.
She went on: “Art is a powerful tool that can be used to drive connections across cultures, time and space” – right on message for the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s remit, of course – “and we are honoured to witness how these artists have creatively engaged with the prompt to tell their rich and diverse stories”.
By all accounts the jury was very happy with the quality of submissions – “testament to the artistic energy present within the region” said Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Director Manuel Rabaté – and certainly the exhibiting artists are all building solid reputations in the region (and some beyond too).
The exhibition is open during the museum’s normal hours – 10am to 6.30pm Tuesday to Thursday, to 8.30pm Friday to Sunday, closed Mondays – with access included in the standard admission charge of AED 63 (AED 31.50 for teachers, faculty members and UAE military, free to under 18s, over 60s, Louvre Abu Dhabi members, and several other groups.
Afra Al Dhaheri: (2022). Cotton rope and wood Weighing the Line Afra Al Dhaheri (b. 1988, Abu Dhabi, UAE) roots her practice in her experience growing up in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE, a place of recent and rapid change. She practices repetition in her works as a method of prolonging time; with Weighing the Line she emphasises the creation of a line through the weight of the rope that are pulling it down, establishing tension that forms the line. She examines the way we collectively acknowledge invisible boundaries, and the struggle we face when trying to detangle societal conditioning, as to untie a knot Ayman Zedani: (2021). 9-channel sound installation, salt. Commissioned by Diriyah Biennale Foundation Between Desert Seas Ayman Zedani’s investigative narratives question our comprehension of the past and challenge our acceptance of the future. The projects of Ayman Zedani (b. 1984, Khamis Mushait, Saudi Arabia) are platforms to invite audiences to observe human-nonhuman symbiosis For. Between Desert Seas, an immersive multi-layered sonic experience, Zedani has arranged audio recordings of the Arabian humpback whale into a multi-channel sound installation with added stories and research. Between historical whaling and recent environmental human disturbance, fewer than one hundred of these whales survive. Evoking the sea through the whales, the work is a synthesis of fact and fiction, addressing issues related to climate change and the loss of biodiversity in a regional context Dana Awartani: Standing by the Ruins (2022). Compressed earth The artistic practice of Dana Awartani (b. 1987, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) imbues forms, techniques, concepts, and spatial constructs that define Arab culture with contemporary awareness, aspiring for the revival of traditional geometry and historical modes of making through crafts which are enacted in the contemporary. This site-specific installation echoes the neglected and destroyed lands and built heritage of the Middle East and North Africa. The crucial steps that temper and solidify the earth tiles have been skipped, allowing the work to crack, deteriorate and eventually crumble, reflecting the destruction of the Middle East’s built heritage. The viewer becomes a witness and active participant in the deterioration of the artwork Elizabeth Dorazio: (2022). Pyro-engraved scrap wood Xylophone The title refers to the musical qualities of the forest and the desire to reintegrate humanity in its own harmony; using pieces of wood – once trees, then transformed into objects that lost their usefulness, discarded to be destroyed – Elizabeth Dorazio (b. 1957, Araguari, Brazil) is rescuing the material, bringing them it to life. Today, more than ever, wood is a symbol of the disorderly extraction that compromises our future as a species; Dorazio uses art as a way to reconnect the wood with nature Manal AlDowayan: (2016). Twill cotton, treated wool thread, aluminium Sidelines Manal AlDowayan (b. 1973, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia) navigates a territory where the personal and the political overlap, reflecting upon social injustice, and the pangs of memory. She works extensively with the idea of active forgetting and disappearance of communities, exploring new ways of producing portraits of individuals or groups. Sidelines is inspired by the traditional Bedouin Sadu and Nagsh weaving; it highlights a generation of women who were known as artisans among their tribes, and who witnessed the societal transformation which pushed them from the center to the sidelines of their communities Rand Abdul Jabbar: (2019 – ongoing), Glazed stoneware Earthly Wonders, Celestial Beings Examining historic, cultural and archaeological narratives, Rand Abdul Jabbar (b. 1990, Baghdad, Iraq) interrogates the fragility of tangible heritage to create and compose forms that draw on Mesopotamian artefacts, architecture and mythology. Using clay as the medium, Abdul Jabbar engages with ancestral and embodied knowledge to set up a conversation across the past and present in the language of reverberating forms. Like an ever-expanding alphabet of gestures, the work composes a field of discoveries; each object embodying a nascent history, while collectively in dialogue Shaikha Al Mazrou: (2022). Glazed ceramic A Still Life of an Ever-changing Crop Field The sculptural experimentations and investigations of Shaikha Al Mazrou (b. 1988, Dubai, UAE) reflect an intuitive understanding of materials and their physical properties. In A Still Life of an Ever-changing Crop Field, she emphasises the rise of modern agriculture techniques which challenge the sterile stereotype of the desert; fascinated by the mapping of the crop’s location, the systematic placement and rotations, she questions this hybrid creation of calculated circular shapes, placed in an environment where they do not belong. The work is an information archive of the existing crops, translated as hand-made ceramic configurations; using clay as a malleable and haptic medium, Al Mazrou aims to depict, imitate, and archive the ever-changing landscape found in uninhabited areas of the region Simrin Mehra Agarwal: (2022). Graphite, charcoal, ink, primer, plaster, gypsum powder, stucco, acrylic, gesso, glue, sand, fibreglass, vellum, mylar and paper on wooden panels Break the Atom and Vegetal Forms (After Zeid) In her work Simrin Mehra-Agarwal (b. 1979, Kolkata, India) questions our understanding of nature, its various states of bloom and decay within the context of history, war, neglect, and contemporary issues of climate change. She has been chronicling the aftermath of obliteration and patterns of growth on sunken archaeological war wrecks in the UAE and West Asia; In Break the Atom and Vegetal Forms (After Zeid), she investigates nature’s liminal states, the periods between destruction and creation, when the vessels of war – once symbolic of violence and destruction – are reviving the ecosystem as artificial reefs pulsating with life and hope Vikram Divecha: (2022). Maquette, video, research Wall House Vikram Divecha (b. 1977, Beirut, Lebanon) has developed his work by engaging with what he terms as “found processes” through which he raises questions of time, value and authorship. Wall House is envisioned as a centre encasing hundreds of walls and partial facade sections extracted from buildings slated for demolition; the walls selected from private and public addresses will signify intimate relationships with the spaces inhabited through their lived material qualities and remnants. The work proposes an urgent “archiving of the present” to transform urban refuse into an alternative, inclusive and diverse cultural history. Each wall becomes a “living fragment” of our times offering various research potentials for the future Zeinab Alhashemi: (2022). Metal, sand, sound Camoulflage: The Fourth Pillar The conceptual site-specific installations of Zeinab Alhashemi (b. 1986, Dubai, UAE) capture the transformation of the UAE; the evident recent change of the country became an underlaying factor in her own artistic and visual development. Camouflage – a combination of camel and camouflage – is inspired by the way camel hides blend into the desert dunes. Just as camels adapted to their environment through time, the texture of the UAE evolved with the large-scale modernisation. Every piece of the Camoulflage series is connected to an element of its surroundings; here, it reflects the architecture of Louvre Abu Dhabi by echoing the columns of the Forum