Lighting up Abu Dhabi

Jumairy, Luciferin Shores (2023). Courtesy the Artist and DCT Abu Dhabi

From 15 November to 30 January 2024 Abu Dhabi is getting three dozen site-specific light sculptures and installations. Under the name Manar Abu Dhabi (‘manar’ being a lighthouse or a guiding light), this is one of the key programmes in the $35m Public Art Abu Dhabi initiative.

We know the artists involved but don’t have much information about exactly what they’ll be showing – or indeed where, when, and how you get to see them. We did ask for a map of the locations, but it seems such an apparently useful aid is not available.

We do know in who will be showing and more or less where. The bulk of the exhibits will be along the Corniche, with three on Lulu Island, three in the Eastern Mangroves and three on Samaliayah Island opposite Raha Gardens (for that one we’re promised a 2.3km “art journey” through the island). The rest of the works are installed in a loop through Saadiyat Island, the Jubail mangroves, and Fahid Island.

There’s also a “museum-inspired drone show” on Saadiyat, and “a robust public programme of talks, workshops, and art performances”, but we don’t know anything more than that. Maybe the website will be updated to provide a few more clues …

We do know that this edition of Manar Abu Dhabi is co-curated by Reem Fadda, director of the Cultural Foundation (and Artistic Director of Public Art Abu Dhabi), and the Emirati artist and curator Alia Zaal Lootah.

They’ve gathered an impressive collection of artists for what Reem Fadda called “an experience designed to transform our perception of the world around us”. The works, she said, are intended to promote “a sense of calm, engagement and appreciation of Abu Dhabi’s unique biodiversity and natural beauty … It is an exhibition that marries the elements of nature, water, and light art to create a one-of-a-kind experience unique to Abu Dhabi”.

Rita Aoun, Executive Director for the Culture Sector at DCT Abu Dhabi, also emphasised the branding element. She described the Manar as “a dialogue that connects the aesthetic, historical, and social values of the city … This transformative journey speaks to the emirate’s cultural vision anchored in the collective memory of its residents and enhancing the liveability, wellbeing, and accessibility to all forms of art”.

This is the second incarnation of Public Art Abu Dhabi, the first being the dramatic WAVE projection on top of the Cultural Foundation (above). November 2024 should see the key event in the programme, the Public Art Abu Dhabi Biennial. This will be a major spectacle, sure to become a fixture in the international art calendar; it will be curated by Reem Fadda and the independent curator Galit Eilat – who know each other well, having worked together on the award-winning ‘Liminal Spaces’ project in Palestine, Israel and Germany.


  • Luciana Abait Argentina
  • Ahmed Al Areef Al Dhaheri UAE
  • Asma Belhamar UAE
  • Shezad Dawood UK
  • Shilpa Gupta India
  • Samia Halaby Palestine
  • Carsten Holler Belgium
  • Nadia Kaabi Linke Tunisia
  • Latifa Saeed UAE


  • Nujoom Al Ghanem UAE
  • Jumairy UAE
  • Raphael Lozano-Hemmer Mexico


  • Shaikha Al Ketbi UAE
  • Rawdha Al Ketbi UAE
  • Ayesha Hadhir UAE


  • Ayman Zedani Saudi Arabia
  • teamLab Japan
  • Mohammed Kazem UAE


  • Alaa Edris UAE
  • Groupe F France


  • Rain Wu Taiwan


  • Jim Denevan USA
teamLab, Pillars that Dance with the Wind (2023) Copyright teamLab, photo courtesy DCT Abu Dhabi

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