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  • Sep 29, 2020

UAE Pavilion Will Feature Land Artist at the 59th Venice Biennale

Portrait of (left) MAYA ALLISON and (right) MOHAMED AHMED IBRAHIM. Photo by Augustine Paredes / Seeing Things. Courtesy the National Pavilion UAE, La Biennale Di Venezia.

*updated September 30, 2020

The pioneering Emirati painter, sculptor, and land artist, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, will represent the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the 59th edition of Venice Biennale in 2022. The presentation will be curated by Maya Allison, the executive director of New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.  

Active since the 1980s, Ibrahim was one of the first experimental artists in the UAE’s contemporary art community. He has been a member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society since 1986 when fellow artist Hassan Sharif recruited him to join. In 1997, he established the Art Atelier at the Khor Fakkan Art Centre. In his installations, paintings, and hand-made objects, Ibrahim expresses the long history of the region's civilization and his profound connection to the mountainous landscapes of his hometown, Khor Fakkan, located on the eastern coast of the UAE, far from the major urban enclaves in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. His works are in the collections of numerous institutions, including the Sharjah Art Foundation, Art Jameel, the British Museum, and the Centre Pompidou. 

In the announcement by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, which is the commissioner of the UAE Pavilion, Ibrahim explained: “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.”

Maya Allison commented that, “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.”

For the first time, the selection committee for the UAE Pavilion at the Venice Biennale adopted an artist-led approach by choosing Ibrahim first, who then proposed Allison as the curator. The artist and curator previously worked together when Allison curated the major group exhibition “But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Art Community 1988–2008” at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery in 2017, which featured the avant-garde generation. 

The 59th Venice Biennale, originally slated for 2021, has been rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will run from April 23 to November 27, 2022.

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor.