Art without borders
It’s less an exhibition and more a statement of intent — an artistic teaser campaign for what might well be the most significant cultural event in the history of the UAE. Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection is designed to offer visitors a foretaste of the nature and calibre of works that will be on display when the museum opens to the public next year.
Works from 18 international artists, spanning 50 years, have been assembled to perform a dual purpose: they aptly summarise the Guggenheim’s collection, which has been carefully assembled over the last five years. And they also confirm the institution’s role as a champion of artistic expression from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region. What this exhibition underlines, says programmes manager Sheikha Maisa Al Qassimi, is that this isn’t merely a branch of the New York museum, but a thriving cultural hub with its own mission and identity.
“The exhibition was curated by Susan Davidson, senior curator at Guggenheim New York, Sasha Kalter-Wasserman, assistant curator, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and myself. As such, it will represent the future museum, and provide a flavour of the contemporary work that will be on offer,” she says.
“The works selected are designed to be representative of the museum; a transcultural collection of artists and media that is arranged in a thematic way.”
Those themes are Activated, Celestial, Perceptual, Reflected and Transcendent, and they help take visitors on a non-linear journey through different interpretations of light. The exhibition includes Otto Piene’s “Hanging Light Ball” (1972) installation, “Angela Bulloch’s 6 Chains: Permutation B” (2002) and, perhaps most intriguingly of all, Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room”, which in Maisa’s Al Qassimi’s words, is “an experience that will live long in the memory”.
The more immediate neighbourhood is represented by the likes of Iranian artist Y.Z. Kami, whose “Endless Prayers XVIII” (2008) is a spiralling collage of paper on canvas, while Rachid Koraïchi from Algeria offers “Path of Roses” (1995-2005), a painted steel installation inspired by the writings of Sufi poet and scholar, Rumi.
“It is very important not to place local or regional art under an umbrella,” says Maisa. “The works have been arranged in themes so there is a dialogue between regions and disciplines. Each work exists for itself, irrespective of the geography. That, really, is what the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is trying to achieve. We hope people are challenged by that and, importantly, motivated to come back and explore more.”
Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection runs from November 5 to January 19, 2015