Friends of Abu Dhabi Art formed to support the Emirati arts scene - GulfToday

Friends of Abu Dhabi Art formed to support the Emirati arts scene

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Nadia Sehweil (left) and Nadine Maalouf.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Abu Dhabi Art has announced the formation of Friends of Abu Dhabi Art, an initiative created to facilitate new models of public cultural philanthropy and help support the dynamic art eco-system in the UAE, through Abu Dhabi Art.

Launching with an inaugural group of more than 40 dedicated art enthusiasts, Friends of Abu Dhabi Art will this year support Abu Dhabi Art’s Beyond: Emerging Artists, curated by guest curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, Founders of Art Reoriented, a multidisciplinary curatorial platform.

Anyone looking to actively support artists and the art ecosystem in the UAE can apply to join the initiative via the webpage as well. All members are required to pay an annual fee for membership, with funds raised enabling the commissioning of new art works through Abu Dhabi Art.


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Benefits for membership include opportunities to attend private talks by appointed curators and artists, as well as artist studio visits and events, private tours at the Abu Dhabi Art Fair in November and the commissioning of new work in Abu Dhabi. Key members will act as an advisory group for Friends of Abu Dhabi Art, overseen by co-heads Nadine Maalouf, Co-Founder of 81 Designs and Nadia Sehweil, CEO of Bodytree Wellness. The annual Abu Dhabi Art programme has been chosen as the first initiative to be supported by Friends of Abu Dhabi Art this year, signposting future engagement with both emerging and established artists in the UAE in future.

formed 11  Emirati artist Rawdha Al Ketbi’s presentation at Abu Dhabi Art 2019.

Dyala Nusseibeh, Director, Abu Dhabi Art, said: “As a group of cultural philanthropists brought together by a shared desire to support art in the Emirates, Friends of Abu Dhabi Art will strengthen and enhance our existing Beyond: Emerging Artists programme this year in exciting new ways.”

Commenting on the newly formed initiative, Maalouf said: “Friends of Abu Dhabi Art … have all joined because of a commitment to supporting art in the UAE and we look forward to ensuring the wider community is engaged and connected to the thriving local art scene.”

Sehweil said that “Friends of Abu Dhabi Art is not limited to financial support. It is an endeavour to encourage independent activity by community members for the benefit of the local art ecosystem.

“Friends of Abu Dhabi Art will play a significant role in strengthening Abu Dhabi Art’s programming, as well as provide a platform for funding, knowledge exchange, and networking initiatives for the different players in the sector through Abu Dhabi Art.”

formed 3 Director of Abu Dhabi Art Dyala Nusseibeh.

Abu Dhabi Art had already announced that Bardaouil and Fellrath will commission three new works by emerging UAE-based artists Hashel Al Lamki, Maitha Abdalla and Christopher Benton, for Beyond: Emerging Artists, which will be showcased at the fair at Manarat Al Saadiyat from November 17 - 21. Bardaouil and Fellrath launched Art Reoriented in 2009 in New York and Munich. They are Curators of the Lyon Biennale in 2022, and Affiliate Curators at Gropius Bau in Berlin.

Nusseibeh has been the Director of Abu Dhabi Art since 2016. She spent a year at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi followed by four years at the Saatchi Gallery in London as Head of Education. In 2013, she became founding Director of Art International Istanbul, managed by leading fair organisers Angus Montgomery, a position she held until 2016 when she joined the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi.

Born in Beirut, Maalouf has lived in Riyadh, Florida, Montreal and New York before settling in the UAE. 81 Designs is a social enterprise that brings both art and humanity together by showcasing the talents of refugee women artisans. Maalouf is also an advisory board member of Art Dubai. Bodytree Wellness is Abu Dhabi’s first premier holistic movement, health and wellness facility, established in 2007. Sehweil, who is its CEO, is also a Board Member of the Palestinian Museum in Ramallah.

Beyond: Emerging Artists is an annual initiative that launched in 2017. It provides three emerging artists in the UAE with a platform from which to develop their practice and realise ambitious art projects. Al Lamki was born in the UAE, and his practice focuses on social innovation, sustainability, environment and philanthropy. Born in 1989, mixed media artist Abdallah’s art is marked by an atmosphere of reminiscence and nostalgia.

She is a graduate of the Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship, in partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design, and is also one of the founders of Bait 15, an artist-run gallery and studio in Abu Dhabi. Benton (b. 1988) is a UAE-based American artist working across sculpture, photography, and film. His work has been presented at Dubai Design Week, the Fikra Graphic Design Biennial and Jameel Arts Centre. He is currently pursuing his MS in Art, Culture, and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, through the support of Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. Abu Dhabi Art emphasises diverse public engagement programme, including art installations and exhibitions, talks and events that take place in different locations throughout the year. The culmination of the year-long programme is the Abu Dhabi Art event in November. The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) strives to put Abu Dhabi’s culture and tourism sectors on a growth trajectory. Its vision is defined by the emirate’s people, heritage and landscape.

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