It's a great time to be an artist in the UAE. You'll see why

Its a great time to be an artist in the UAE. Youll see why
NYUADART exhibition, But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Art Community 1988-2008.

A closeknit community of artists in the UAE is finally getting its due. An exhibition in Abu Dhabi called But We Cannot See goes some way to showcase the works of these giants

By Jasmine Al Kuttab

Published: Thu 25 May 2017, 8:21 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 May 2017, 10:26 PM

One of the more pivotal artistic groups in the UAE, the UAE Avant-Garde community, is showcasing their most significant and influential work in Abu Dhabi.
'But We Cannot See Them,' is an exhibition being held in New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery (NYUAD) until September 2, and is free to the public. According to the website (, "the title of the exhibition is drawn from a poem written by a key member of the community, poet and filmmaker Nujoom Alghanem".
The gallery is currently hosting key artworks by some of the UAE's artistic giants, including works by Hassan Sharif, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammed Kazem, Hussein Sharif, Vivek Vilasini, Jos Clevers and Ebtisam Abdulaziz.
Founding Director and Chief Curator of the NYUAD Art Gallery, Maya Allison, told Khaleej Times that the academic museum has extended the dates of the exhibition to enhance awareness about UAE's 1988-2008 art community.
Allison said, "This exhibition is the product of several years of research and interviews with these great artists." She founded the art gallery in 2014, and was the art gallery chief curator at Brown University in Rhode Island before making Abu Dhabi her home five years ago.
"Academic galleries and museums are common in the US, but not around the world, that's why we wanted to bring this here. We wanted to show the works of the most famous artists in the UAE." Allison said people around the country did not initially know much about the artists for almost two decades.
Nevertheless, sooner or later, tables turned, and these artists began to receive the recognition they deserve. "From 2007 there was a sudden huge shift in the art world in UAE and internationally. The spotlight fell on these artists."
However, she noted, there is still more room for to grow knowledge about the development of the artistic community in the UAE.
"A lot of people in the UAE until this day don't know they exist, so I hope this show will tell the story about this rich and complicated art period."
What is perhaps most special, and certainly uplifting to know about the artists themselves, Allison said, is that through the years, they worked alongside each other, like a close-knit family.
Walking in to the exhibition, viewers will be inspired by the level of work, imagination and talent that has gone into the 30 artworks on display.
Allison said "It wasn't like a club or movement, because they all have their own style, but their friendship kept them going in a way that they became their own curators."
In 2007, the artists founded the Flying House Organisation, and began displaying the Avant-Garde Emirati art to the public, which helped develop the international success of Hassan Sharif and Abdullah Al Saadi, recently featured in the Venice Biennale.
Allison said one of the most vital aspects for spectators to understand is that the artists are part of a cultural intersection.
"Their work engages their experiences in the UAE and the intersection of the different cultures, which is something that shows up in the younger generation today."
The members eventually became some of the most celebrated artists, poets, and filmmakers from the UAE. With spectacular museums and galleries coming up, the UAE is growing into a landmark for art lovers, historians and visionaries. "There are many layers when it comes to being a cultural centre and the job for museums is to protect, preserve and interpret art and cultural history."
Jasmine calls herself a flower child and reports on all things Abu Dhabi.

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