Ground-breaking painter, sculptor and land artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will represent the United Arab Emirates at the 2022 edition of Venice Biennale, in an exhibition to be curated by Maya Allison (Executive Director of The New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery) for the National Pavilion UAE.
Ibrahim is known for being one of the UAE’s earliest experimental artists and an influential member of the UAE’s now-historic avant-garde art community, which formed in the early 1980s. Through his form-led practice and handcrafted works, he responds to his environment with keen affinity for the natural landscapes of the UAE. Major institutions have acquired his work including the British Museum, Centre George Pompidou, Sharjah Art Foundation, Art Jameel, and Barjeel Art Foundation. His work was included in the Kochi-Muziris Biennial 2016 and numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally.
“I am inspired by the coasts, sierras and mountain lights of my home in Khor Fakkan, where my family has lived for generations,” says Ibrahim. “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. I am delighted to be able to share my locally-rooted practice with a global audience at the Venice Biennale.”
This exhibition marks a move toward a more artist-led approach: the National Pavilion UAE first appointed Ibrahim, following which he nominated Allison to curate the project. Allison is one of the leading experts on the contemporary UAE art scene, where she and Ibrahim had already formed a strong working relationship across several projects, including with The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery’s But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Art Community 1988-2008.
Allison says, “When I first encountered a work by Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, its playful, abstract-yet-organic form electrified my senses. Later, discovering the depth and extent of his legacy was a watershed moment in my study of the UAE’s contemporary art movement, which dates back half a century. 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.”
“Since the UAE’s inaugural pavilion in 2009, understanding and discourse around the UAE’s incredible artistic community has grown immensely, encouraged by the research and platforms that entities like the National Pavilion UAE provide,” says Angela Migally, Executive Director of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, which commissions the National Pavilion UAE. “The UAE has so many artists whose work deserves global recognition, and the Venice Biennale is an opportunity for us to introduce them to an international audience on a new scale. We are making a conscious decision to move towards an artist-led approach for this reason, and Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim—one of the UAE’s most inspiring and unusual artists—is a very fitting choice.”
Mariët Westermann, Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, notes “We are immensely proud that the University’s Chief Curator, Maya Allison, will be curating the National Pavilion UAE at the Venice Biennale. We at NYU Abu Dhabi are deeply committed to contributing to the ever-evolving arts scene in the UAE. Similar to the spirit of the National Pavilion UAE, NYUAD and its Art Gallery shape our scholarly and creative endeavors through an intercultural and multidisciplinary lens. We look forward to the further engagement of our scholars, students, and the public with the work of Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim.”