Expo 2020: How the ambitious public art program aims to strengthen the UAE’s heritage – News


Earlier this month, Expo 2020 unveiled its first permanent art installation – a gigantic, iridescent oil-drilling sculpture by Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri, which marked the launch of the creative initiative of Expo 2020 – the public art program. The initiative will bring together 11 artists from the United Arab Emirates and around the world, while marking the country’s own imprint on the global cultural map. With the Expo’s theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, the public art program aims to capture this very essence, to bring together global perspectives to foster the idea of ​​cultural dynamism.

The highly anticipated event will open to the public from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. Dr. Hayat Shamsuddin, Senior Vice President, Arts and Culture, Expo 2020, is responsible for the public art program, bespoke design and arts and crafts as well as the first Emirati opera house. She identifies art, especially public art, as an important way to enable Expo 2020’s broader mission to bring people from all over the world together, to imagine the world of tomorrow. “We have 191 countries coming together for Expo 2020. So the world will be in Dubai and the world will have a dialogue in Dubai. The works will encourage and facilitate this discourse. Much thought has gone into how these public works of art were positioned around the Expo site. There is a conceptual narrative behind the artwork, ”says Dr Hayat, an Emirati.


At the heart of this initiative is the concept of imagination. Dr Hayat says the philosophy of the project is to highlight how humans connect with each other, what they share in common, and how they come together through the power of imagination and storytelling.

“The United Arab Emirates has always been a center of connection between peoples and civilizations. So we wanted a strong narrative behind the public art program, which captures that UAE spirit, ”adds Dr Hayat. “The curator of public art for Expo 2020, Tarek Abou El Fetouh, organized the program in a way that tells the story of this point in the universe – our point in the universe – by incorporating the links that we have with the rest of the world. “

Abou El Fetouh firmly believes that where language cannot communicate the message, art can bridge the gap. “Over time, many philosophers have tried to bring together what is common between people, between human beings who inhabit different parts of the world. And they all agreed that the main skill we all have in common is the power of the imagination. And when you think of the imagination, you immediately think of art and creativity, ”says the curator of Egyptian origin. “As part of Expo 2020, different countries from all over the world will come together in one place, so we wanted public art to be centered on a common thread that we as humans share. “

The public art program, which is inspired by the famous Arab mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn Al Haytham’s Book of Optics (c. 11th century), will feature never-before-seen contemporary art pieces for visitors to engage and exercise their imaginations. “If we translated the title of the book literally from Arabic, it would translate to ‘The Book of Landscapes’. It’s a deeply intriguing and scientific account of visual perception, ”explains the Brussels-based art curator. “The book explores the philosophical notion that whatever you see in your reality, you see only part of it and compose the rest in your mind, using the power of the imagination, prior knowledge and other influences of this type “, adds Abou El Fetouh. .


As the first permanent outdoor art exhibition held in the United Arab Emirates, the public art program is a primary means by which the legacy of Expo 2020 will be continued in the years to come. “The beauty of this program is that the speech will continue even after the Expo closes. Countries can go, but the discourse and knowledge exchange will continue to take shape. And you’ll see it in the public domain, as a key to your imagination – to a shared imagination, ”said Dr Hayat, adding that it was a natural progression to weave these beautiful, permanent works of art within the site. Expo, which will be transformed into District 2020 – a city of the future and a model global community.

These works will play an essential role in the definition of this new district, interweaving the visual arts with the architectural landscape of the city. “You have the open space, you have the fantastic architecture, and then you put creativity into it, which spawns great landmarks that become attractions for years to come. They are part of that moment in history, ”says Dr Hayat.

Today, the UAE is a center of creativity and knowledge in the region and a melting pot of different cultures. Dr Hayat says this philosophy will most certainly be reflected in the program. “We are truly a global hub. I represent the UAE as much as Tarek or Monira. We represent all of the United Arab Emirates today and we are very connected with the world. It was imperative to communicate this aspect of our identity as a nation through the arts at the Expo, ”she adds. “And Monira [Al Qadiri] is a fantastic example of a global citizen who represents our modern societal fabric.


Monira Al Qadiri, the first artist to unveil her permanent work at Expo 2020, is from Kuwait, was born in Senegal and educated in Japan. “Sometimes I like to call myself a mutant,” she jokes. “My parents are from Kuwait but have Iranian and Saudi ancestors, and they studied in Russia. So there has always been a Russian influence in our house. I studied in Japan, so that’s where my ideas were formed. This is where I became an adult. I also lived in Beirut, the Netherlands and now I live in Germany, ”the artist tells us, acknowledging the intrinsic influence his global education has had on his contemporary works.

The gigantic sculpture by artist Chimera was unveiled at the Expo site on July 4. “Creating this piece as a permanent work of art in a public space, within the Expo 2020 site, was a dream. Such opportunities are rare for contemporary artists in the region. Usually you see monuments on Gulf history, pearl diving boats, camels, tents, coffee makers. But very rarely do you see permanent works of our contemporary life and our recent past, ”she says.

Chimera, which refers to a mythical being, is a futuristic work of art based on the shape of an enlarged oil drill with domed elements that resemble pearls. The sculpture is how the artist imagines the history of the Gulf region, merging the pre and post-oil eras into one body. “It is coated with this pearly and oily color, through which I wanted to represent a link between the past, enter the post-oil present and finally, towards the future, diversify the economy beyond oil, where Dubai has made strong progress, ”explains the Kuwaiti artist. She also mentions being deeply inspired by the works of Japanese artist Tar Okamoto, who created a very large sculpture for Expo 1960 in Osaka. “This is one of the works that I have always admired – the idea that this event gave birth to a huge work of art, which became an emblem of his practice. The monument is now part of Osaka’s history.

In an age when great images are at your fingertips, there is something about public art that is very rewarding not only for the viewer, but also for the artist. “It has a very different dimension that you, as an artist, have to think about. How do you want people to feel when they look at your work for years to come? What do you want them to think about? It’s not just about following the trend of the day, ”says Al Qadiri. “The work of art will live there for many, many years. It will be part of the cityscape, of people’s memories, of their identity, of their feelings about a specific place where they live or work. I am as excited about Expo 2020 as I am about the legacy it will leave.

Alongside Al Qadiri, the other artists who will also be featured in this program are Hamra Abbas, Afra Al Dhaheri, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Abdullah Al Saadi, Asma Belhamar, Olafur Eliasson, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Khalil Rabah, Yinka Shonibare and Haegue Yang, capturing the various facets of the contemporary art landscape.

[email protected]

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.