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Ground-breaking painter, sculptor and land artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will represent the United Arab Emirates at the 2022 edition of la Biennale di Venezia, in an exhibition curated by Maya Allison for the National Pavilion UAE.
Ibrahim is known for being one of the UAE's earliest experimental artists and an influential member of the UAE's now-historic avant-garde art community, which formed in the early 1980s. Through his form-led practice and handcrafted works, he responds to his environment, with keen affinity for the natural landscapes of the UAE. Major institutions that have acquired his work include the British Museum, Centre George Pompidou, Sharjah Art Foundation, Art Jameel, and Barjeel Art Foundation. His work was included in the Kochi-Muziris Biennial 2016 and numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally.
The National Pavilion UAE's 2022 exhibition will be curated by Maya Allison, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery ("The NYUAD Art Gallery").
"I am inspired by the coasts, sierras and mountain lights of my home in Khor Fakkan, where my family has lived for generations," says Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim. "Here in the UAE we are surrounded by diverse and ancient landscapes as well as advanced urbanization. This tension is one of the concepts I explore in my work through organic materials, by allowing my subconscious to find the forms. I am delighted to be able to share my locally-rooted practice with a global audience at the Venice Biennale."
Maya Allison says, "When I first encountered a work by Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, its playful, abstract-yet-organic form electrified my curatorial senses. Later, discovering the depth and extent of his legacy was a watershed moment in my study of the UAE's contemporary art movement, which dates back half a century. Ibrahim continues to innovate, with a prolific daily practice and several flourishing bodies of work. He is one of the most important artists working in the UAE today, and has influenced generations of artists here. I am looking forward to an even greater international audience discovering this work with his solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale."
With this exhibition, the National Pavilion UAE is moving towards a more artist-led approach to curation in recognition of the strength of the UAE's artistic community. This comes as a reflection of National Pavilion UAE's growth as a pavilion, seen as a catalyst to the UAE's cultural scene. The selection committee appointed Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim for the 2022 exhibition and following discussions, the artist chose Maya Allison, one of the leading experts on the contemporary regional art scene, as his curator. This is not a first-time collaboration between Allison and Ibrahim, who have formed a strong working relationship across exhibitions such as The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery's But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Art Community 1988-2008.
"Since the UAE's inaugural pavilion in 2009, understanding and discourse around the UAE's incredible artistic community has grown immensely, encouraged by the research and platforms that entities like the National Pavilion UAE provide," says Angela Migally, Executive Director of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, which commissions the National Pavilion UAE. "The UAE has so many artists whose work deserves global recognition, and the Venice Biennale is an opportunity for us to introduce them to an international audience on a new scale. We are making a conscious decision to move towards an artist-led approach for this reason, and Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim - one of the UAE's most inspiring and unusual artists - is a very fitting choice for 2022."
Mariet Westermann, Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, notes "We are immensely proud that the University's Chief Curator, Maya Allison, will be curating the National Pavilion UAE at the Venice Biennale. We at NYU Abu Dhabi are deeply committed to contributing to the ever-evolving arts scene in the UAE. Similar to the spirit of the National Pavilion UAE, NYUAD and its Art Gallery shape our scholarly and creative endeavors through an intercultural and multidisciplinary lens. We look forward to the further engagement of our scholars, students, and the public with the work of Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim."
Through participation at La Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennale), the National Pavilion United Arab Emirates - La Biennale di Venezia (NPUAE) supports the arts and architectural practices of the UAE on an international platform, and promotes a cultural dialogue between the UAE and the international community.
The UAE's participation at La Biennale di Venezia commenced in 2009 with a national pavilion at the 53rd International Art Exhibition, and has continued in subsequent editions of the art exhibition. In 2022, it is participating for the 11th time in the International Art Exhibition. [see all the editions in UiU]
The National Pavilion UAE also organizes the Venice Internship, offering opportunities to young residents of the UAE through a one-month internship on site in Venice acting as custodians and docents of the National Pavilion. Rotated on a monthly basis throughout the six months of the biennale, the different intern groups oversee the daily operations of the exhibition and participate in an educational program, run in partnership with Ca' Foscari University and other cultural institutions in the UAE and Venice.
The National Pavilion UAE - La Biennale di Venezia is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development.
The Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation (SHF) is a private not-for-profit foundation committed to the cultivation of a more creative, connected and thriving UAE community. Based in Abu Dhabi, SHF oversees a diverse portfolio of not-for-profit programs and initiatives spanning the arts, culture, heritage, human development and early childhood development in the UAE and internationally. Underpinning SHF's activities is a common ambition to invest in the knowledge and capabilities of the UAE people in order to support them to unlock their full potential.
The Ministry of Culture and Youth works to enrich the cultural ecosystem in the UAE through initiatives and policies that stimulate the development of the cultural and creative industries and its contribution to the country's GDP, developing new legislation and policies that promote integrated media growth in the country and creating avenues for the youth to invest their capabilities in the aforementioned fields.
The Ministry of Culture and Youth is responsible for empowering and engaging the youth in the UAE by enhancing their leadership skills, involving them in decision-making process and programs, and giving them opportunities to contribute to the creative development of the country.
From press information.
© Photos: Courtesy of the National Pavilion UAE and NYUAD Art Gallery
© Image top: Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Khorfakkan number 2. 2007