UAE: Emirati artist honoured by French government

Her work is recognised for promoting relations between the two countries


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Mon 20 Jun 2022, 4:25 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Jun 2022, 8:20 PM

Emirati artist Alia Zaal Lootah was honoured last month by the French government for her artistic work promoting UAE-France relations.

The French Ambassador to the UAE, Xavier Chatel, officially decorated Lootah with the insignia of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters on May 30, 2022 at an official ceremony at the residence of France.

“I am very honoured to be knighted by the French Ambassador Xavier Chatel on behalf of the French government,” Lootah, a visual artist, curator and researcher, told Khaleej Times on Monday.

“This is a prestigious award and I am very proud to have worked hard to be recognized and to be able to dedicate this success to the UAE government that have supported me along the way.”

Founded in 1957, the Order of Arts and Letters rewards people who have distinguished themselves in the artistic or literary fields, or have contributed to the influence of the Arts and Letters in France and in the world.

Lootah is a multidisciplinary artist who explores memory, history and the changing urban and natural environment of her surroundings. Exploring the connection between vision and perception, her work often tracks the interplay between digital and analogue.

Her paintings are based on personal photographs - of interiors, landscapes and scenes extracted from her visual diary. The transformation of images from one medium to another is seen as an allegory of the perceptions and lenses through which memories pass.

Remnants of a Scene by Alia Zaal Lootah. Photo: The Hunna Art Gallery website
Remnants of a Scene by Alia Zaal Lootah. Photo: The Hunna Art Gallery website

A former assistant curator for Contemporary and Modern Art at Louvre Abu Dhabi, Lootah was recognised by the French government for her essential contribution to the promotion of artistic and cultural exchanges between the UAE and France.

“I was recognized for working so hard for the harmony of Franco-Emirati cultural links,” she said.

Xavier Chatel, Ambassador of France to the UAE, said, "I awarded Alia Lootah the insignia of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters on behalf of French Minister of Culture, as a token of France's recognition of her unwavering commitment to strengthening French-Emirati cultural ties.

"Alia, who speaks French so well, has curated the first contemporary art exhibition at Louvre Abu Dhabi, she has collaborated with the most prestigious cultural institutions in France, she studied at Sorbonne and lived in France. She embodies the density of the cultural relations between France and the UAE."

Through her artistic works, the bilateral relationship between the two nations has been raised to an exceptional level, according to the French government.

The Emirati artist was fully involved in the Franco-Emirati Cultural Program, an ambitious program to prepare and accompany the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, which led her to curate two major exhibitions.

She curated the first contemporary art exhibition that took place at Louvre Abu Dhabi during its opening year in 2017-2018.

In November 2021, Lootah inaugurated the new residence programme of the Maison Oscar-Claude (MOC) in Vétheuil, France. The MOC is dedicated to promoting the memory of Claude Monet, his contemporaries and the illustrious people of this loop of the Seine through its library, its international residences and its creative retreats.

During the first phase of her residency, the artist continued her research on the scientific and neurological aspects of eyesight in relation to art; an interest that she began to explore and study to better understand the eyesight of her father Zaal, whose drawings have fascinated her since her childhood.

She combines different processes of image-recording such as photography, film, and drawing with ‘plein-air painting’, in the manner of Modernist painters from Cézanne to Monet.


A graduate from the College of Fine Arts & Design at the University of Sharjah, Lootah continued her studies at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi where she attained an MA in Art History and Museum Studies. She is fluent in French, and is currently writing a doctoral thesis at Sorbonne Université, Paris, under the supervision of Professor Barthélémy Jobert.

Lootah conducts research on the history and development of the visual arts in the UAE, the effects of globalisation and the Fourth Revolution on the production, terminology and visual identity of visual arts in the UAE and elsewhere in the world. A consequent work is on the cultural links that unite the United Arab Emirates to the rest of the world.

The Emirati’s artwork has appeared in exhibitions across the world, from the UAE to Bangladesh, Germany, Spain, Venice, New York, Bethlehem and beyond. Her paintings have been acquired by the Embassy of the UAE in Washington DC and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and form part of private collections such as that of the Barjeel Art Foundation. In 2010, she won second prize at the Bangladesh 14th Asian Art Biennal.

In 2022, Lootah participated in the "Pathways" exhibition organized by Hunna Art in collaboration with Raffles The Palm Dubai. Currently, she is presiding over her first solo exhibition, "I Saw Time Passing (I)" at Foundry Downtown (Dubai), which will be followed by a second solo show in July 2022 in Vétheuil (France).

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