• Summary

    The four artists in this exhibition have developed their practice in the UAE, establishing a strong regional track record, as well as an emerging international presence. They share a speculative practice, extrapolating imagined worlds within existing ones. This page is the archive of the exhibition, where you can find videos, images, documents, and publication downloads.

  • Read the essay

    The four artists in this exhibition have developed their practice in the UAE, establishing a strong regional track record, as well as an emerging international presence. They share a speculative practice, extrapolating imagined worlds within existing ones.

    Each installation offers an imaginary journey derived from the artists’ real-world observations of everyday life. In Raja’a Khalid’s performative installation, a.quiet.wave, she invited viewers to embrace personal well-being as a commodifiable trend, while Kaoud’s playground, Unknown Safety, kept visitors on high alert to ever-present risk. In two very different landscape installations, Between Muddles and Tangles, and_ A Comma, In Arabic_, Zedani and Jumairy each proposed worlds in which our natural bodies and the landscape around us manifest biological or artificial intelligence.

    The exhibition was commissioned and curated by Maya Allison (NYUAD Chief Curator, and Galleries Executive Director). She writes:

    Looking back on this exhibition, even though it is very recent, I see that it captured the nascent anxieties that have emerged so strongly during the COVID-19 pandemic. These artists capture something unique and interconnected in their take on our environment, one that already feels incredibly prescient. both in how they respond to our surroundings, and how they connect to the art scene here.

    For me this exhibition was an opportunity to consider the UAE art scene from the future’s perspective — these artists are already an important part of what will become the UAE’s contemporary art history. There has been an apparently fast rise of contemporary art in the UAE that matches the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of the country since its founding in 1971. The art community, of course, has always existed, but began to create a very proactive grass-roots scene starting in the 1980s and 90s. That first generation’s activity was largely un-known by their international peers beyond the Gulf until around 2009, when the now-acclaimed Hassan Sharif came to the attention of major international curators. By then, the UAE’s Sharjah Art Biennial had long since become a highly-influential leader, while Dubai saw the growth of the commercial gallery sector with the pivotal Art Dubai fair, followed by the launch of a series of international museum projects in Abu Dhabi.

    These three emirates (Sharjah, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi) host what has evolved into a diverse art ecology. Still, few international audiences are aware of the rising generation of contemporary artists living and working in the UAE. The community today, as much as ever, come from a mix of international backgrounds, and very often their work is in dialogue with both where we are, and the many cultures that converge in the UAE. This exhibition and its archive, will, I hope, offer a rare lens onto one specific recurring theme that I’ve observed in this emergent scene, a theme that these four artists in particular express through their distinctly arch, speculative, conceptual practices.