The Middle East Institute (MEI) Arts and Culture Center, in partnership with The NYUAD Art Gallery, is proud to announce the opening of Between the Sky and the Earth: Contemporary Art from the UAE on Friday, December 3, 2021 at the MEI Art Gallery at 1763 N Street NW, Washington DC. Marking the UAEs’ 50th anniversary, the exhibition brings together 12 artists whose different concepts, mediums and backgrounds, reflect the United Arab Emirates’s diverse contemporary art scene.
This exhibition, conceptualized by independent Abu Dhabi-based curator, Munira Al Sayegh, introduces an intergenerational dialogue between artists who explore their social, cultural, and natural landscapes. With roots in the Gulf, the Levant, Southeast Asia and the United States, the artists - all of whom call the UAE home – examine themes around permanence and fluidity, time and memory through a range of subjects such as the environment, consumerism and the impact of rapid urbanization on individuals and societies. In the process, they offer a sample of the multi-faceted community of practitioners contributing to the UAE’s dynamic cultural output.
“I have chosen works that combine playful irreverence alongside a rigorous investigation of a vibrant UAE from the perspective of different nationalities who make it their home,” said curator Munira Al Sayegh. “In the process, this exhibit challenges standard narratives of the Emirates and speaks to the intricacies present in the country’s art ecosystem.”
Between the Sky and the Earth also marks an important collaboration between two art galleries with similar missions - the MEI Art Gallery and The NYUAD Art Gallery. Both provide a platform for the exhibition of thought-provoking artists from the Middle East and internationally alongside programming and scholarship focused on encouraging debate and deepening understanding.
Speaking on behalf of The NYUAD Art Gallery, Executive Director Maya Allison said: “We are delighted and honored to play a role in the realization of this exhibition in collaboration with the Middle East Institute. This constellation of work gives a glimpse of the art scene here, from those who’ve been breaking new ground in art for decades, to those who are rising stars of the new generation of artists in the Emirates. After working with many of these artists myself over the last decade, I’m eager to see their work in such a different context, in the US, and through the eyes of its residents.”
“This partnership between the Middle East Institute and The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery reflects our institutions’ belief in the value of collaboration and bridge-building across cultures,” said Kate Seelye, vice president for arts and culture at the Middle East Institute. “By co-presenting an exhibition in Washington, DC with a regional institution, we are able to gain from their expertise and insights to provide Washington audiences with a new lens on the transformations the UAE has experienced over the past 50 years.”
The featured artists are: Ebtisam Abdulaziz, Afra Al Dhaheri, Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Hashel Al Lamki, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Asma Belhamar, Alaa Edris, Lamya Gargash, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Kazem, Solimar Miller, Augustine Paredes.
About the Middle East Institute’s Arts and Culture Center
The center facilitates cross-cultural understanding through exhibitions and cultural programming, including panel talks, film screenings, readings and performances that underscore the role of the arts in the Middle East. Founded in September 2019, the MEI Art Gallery serves as the Center’s anchor. It promotes the work of Middle Eastern artists by exhibiting socially engaged art from the region and serves as a platform for diverse communities to begin a cross cultural dialogue around the power of the arts to transcend difference and to drive social change globally. Our gallery is D.C. ‘s only dedicated to contemporary and modern art from the Middle East.
The Middle East Institute was founded in 1946 to promote knowledge and understanding of the region among U.S. citizens and to advance ties between the peoples of the two regions. Alongside our Arts and Culture Center, MEI also houses a Policy Institute, a source for non-partisan expert analysis seeking solutions to the region’s most challenging issues, and an Education Center, offering classes, academic resources, and professional development services to foster regional understanding. Our centers reflect our dedication to promoting understanding of the region through a wider lens.
Munira Al Sayegh is an independent curator and cultural instigator based in the United Arab Emirates. She is the founder of Dirwaza Curatorial lab, an Abu Dhabi-based creative incubator and projects partner.Read more
Al Sayegh is a published author and prominent voice in the region on the importance of non-institutional thinking to build regional art movements from the bottom-up.
In 2012, she joined NYU Abu Dhabi’s FIND project (2012) and currently sits on the advisory board for the university’s art gallery.
From 2014 she has joined and pioneered curatorial initiatives across Art Dubai where she curated the Residents section (2019) and started the Now series, looking at non-government funded creative platforms in the region. She recently served as lead tutor and curator for Campus Art Dubai.
Her curatorial solo debut was Bayn: the In-Between (2017), at the third edition of UAE Unlimited. That same year, she curated and developed the program series for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence. Later, she curated the Talks Program in Abu Dhabi Art. In 2020, Al Sayegh premiered The Cup and The Saucer commissioned by Warehouse421 (Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Foundation), where she has also led in-house public programs.
Most recently she has advised sculptural commissions for the Expo Dubai 2020 Public Art Programme.
Al Sayegh is part of the UAE Ministry of Culture Visual Arts Committee as well as Dubai Collection’s Steering and Curatorial Committee.