UAE National Pavilion Announces Artists for the 2017 Venice Biennale


The UAE National Pavilion has announced the five UAE-based contemporary artists who will be participating at the 57th International Art Exhibition at la Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennale) 2017. Commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, the exhibition will run from May 13th to November 26th, 2017, with a preview from 10th to 12th May, 2017.

The exhibition, titled “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play”, will present works by five artists who are nationals and long-term residents who call the UAE home: Nujoom Alghanem, Sara Al Haddad, Vikram Divecha, Lantian Xie and Dr. Mohamed Yousif.

Curated by Hammad Nasar, this exhibition will explore a strand of artistic practice in the UAE through the analogy of play. Featuring existing works, re-fabrication of ‘lost’ works and new commissions, the exhibition will stage a set of nested questions: Where does ‘playfulness’ in artistic practice come from? How and where is ‘play’ nurtured? What does ‘play’ do?

“We are delighted to work with this group of contemporary artists in shaping an exhibition that stages an inter-generational conversation,” says Hammad Nasar. “Through the artists’ diverse and distinctive practices, we believe that this exhibition will bring to life wider cultural and societal ideas around how ‘play’ functions in the world – as a source of vitality and a method of navigation.”

The accompanying publication will serve both as an additional site of the exhibition, and as its speculative expansion, with newly commissioned texts by contributors including: Aisha Bilkhair; Uzma Rizvi; and Murtaza Vali; with further contributors to be announced shortly. Artists, architects and creative writers have also been invited to intervene, and respond to the themes of the exhibition, with new commissions by: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh & Hesam Rahmanian; Deepak Unikrishnan; and WTD magazine.  

In line with the curatorial premise, several cultural institutions across the UAE have been invited to act as interlocutors in exploring the themes of the exhibition. Some of the confirmed institutions include Sharjah Art Foundation, The Art Gallery at NYU Abu Dhabi, Alserkal Programming, Tashkeel, Maraya Art Centre and Warehouse421. By developing these themes in ways they deem relevant, this distributed mode of programming will extend, expand, critique, reflect and respond to the myriad issues that the exhibition may catalyze.  More information on the institutions’ programs will be announced soon; members of the public can also follow the story using the hashtags#positionsinplay, #uaeinvenice and #nationalpavilionuae.

“We see this exhibition as a contribution and extension to an ongoing conversation that continues beyond the time of the exhibition, and the programming generated by each institution as a starting point for ongoing discussions,” says Khulood Al Atiyat, Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage at the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. “These events will take multiple forms, including artist talks, workshops, game sessions, a film series, or artist interventions.”

The International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale is one of the world’s most prestigious arts events and brings together countries from around the world, attracting more than half a million visitors to each edition. 2017 will mark the UAE’s fifth participation at the International Art Exhibition.