Emirati Artist Abdullah Al Saadi to Showcase His Work at Venice Biennale 2024

Emirati artist Abdullah Al Saadi has been selected to represent the UAE at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, which will open in April 2024. His solo exhibition will be curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh, an independent curator and cultural producer based in Cairo and Brussels.

Al Saadi is a key figure in the development of contemporary art in the UAE, with a prolific and diverse practice that spans painting, drawing, sculpture, performance, photography, collecting and cataloguing found objects, and creating new alphabets. His work is informed by the UAE’s landscape, heritage, and his own family history, often exploring the relationships between individuals and their natural and social environment.

Emirati Artist Abdullah Al Saadi to Showcase His Work at Venice Biennale 2024
Emirati Artist Abdullah Al Saadi to Showcase His Work at Venice Biennale 2024

A Journey of Discovery and Transformation

Al Saadi’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2024 will showcase his artistic journey of discovery and transformation over four decades. Since the 1980s, Al Saadi has consistently created a distinctive and comprehensive body of work connected to the landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula. He draws inspiration from his own story, his family history, and his surroundings, documenting his experiences visually or in written diaries and contemplations.

Some of his most notable works include Stone Slippers (2013), a collection of slippers made out of stone accompanied by drawings, conveying a visual metaphor of the journey of a wanderer who is constantly travelling in search of something elusive. Another remarkable work is Al Saadi’s Diaries (2016), which was presented at the 57th International Venice Biennale in 2017. The work consists of hundreds of notebooks filled with drawings, writings, and collages that reflect Al Saadi’s fascination with preserved historical manuscripts.

An Honour and a Responsibility

Al Saadi expressed his honour and gratitude for being chosen to represent his country at the prestigious international event. He said: “I am honoured to represent my country and show my work at the UAE National Pavilion at Biennale Arte 2024. Since I was a student, four decades ago, art has been an integral part of my daily life. My art is the result of interactions with places, people, ideas, and aesthetics that I encounter every day where I live and in my journeys. I find myself driven to document these experiences visually or in written diaries and contemplations, seeking to transfigure the ordinary with the passage of time.”

The curator, Tarek Abou El Fetouh, also expressed his excitement and appreciation for working with Al Saadi. He said: “I am delighted to be working with Abdullah Al Saadi on this important project. Abdullah is one of the most influential artists in the region, whose work has inspired generations of artists and audiences. His exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2024 will be a unique opportunity to present his rich and diverse oeuvre to a global audience.”

A Platform for Cultural Exchange

The UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, Salem Al Qassimi, congratulated Al Saadi on his selection and praised his contribution to the UAE’s cultural scene. He said: “The International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is an important international platform for knowledge and cultural exchange. Since 2009, the National Pavilion UAE has firmly established itself as a leading platform for showcasing Emirati heritage and the rich tapestry of the local arts and culture.”

He added: “We will continue to support creative Emiratis as ambassadors for building cultural and creative communication with artists from various parts of the world, in line with the UAE vision and its mission. By empowering the next generation of creatives, we are building common grounds for the different cultures to meet and celebrate their diversity and creativity in the art and cultural fields.”

The National Pavilion UAE is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth. The pavilion is located at Arsenale – Sale d’Armi in Venice.

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