The National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) today unveiled its exhibition at the La Biennale di Venezia, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset, inaugurated by Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth.
Curated by Maya Allison, Executive Director of The New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, the exhibition presents a major new work by Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim – a room-filling sculptural form made up of 128 abstract and organic elements.
Al Kaabi said, “The Ministry of Culture and Youth has always considered the UAE’s participation in Venice as a point of pride for the nation and a vital element of our cultural narrative. Between Sunrise and Sunset weighs in on the cross-cultural exchange. Furthermore, it celebrates our identity in a creative fashion. This exemplifies our approach as regional cultural leaders, while also accelerating grassroots institutions’ roles as a bridge from the UAE to the world.”
The new work resonates with La Biennale’s theme The Milk of Dreams, which focuses on the connection between bodies, the earth, and metamorphosis. Ibrahim’s sculpture clusters human-sized, tree-like forms to fill the exhibit space. The commissioned artwork is derived from the artist’s deep connection to the physical environment of his hometown of Khor Fakkan – a city at the edge of the rocky Al Hajar mountains where they meet the waters on the east coast of the Emirate of Sharjah in the UAE. The title, Between Sunrise and Sunset, refers to his experience of the light there, where the mountains cast the town in afternoon shadow, obscuring the sunset on the west coast of the UAE. The color of the sculpture shifts from bright playful colors and forms to subdued black and white elements, and suggests undulating movement of bodies, mutation, and metamorphosis. The artist created the work from raw papier-mâché and natural materials including dirt, leaves, tea, coffee, and tobacco.
Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, artist, said, “My appointment to represent the UAE in Venice is a great honor and comes with great responsibility. Over the years and now more than ever, Maya has played a special role in delving deeper into my practice. This is certainly a fruitful way to mark our fifth exhibition together for the National Pavilion UAE at the Biennale Arte 2022.”
The show presents Ibrahim’s contemporary practice, drawn from his intimate relationship with the UAE’s landscape. The exhibition’s accompanying book is a retrospective of Ibrahim’s life and work to date, and situates the artist in a global art-historical frame. The National Pavilion UAE launched this book during the inauguration, marking the first comprehensive monograph on the artist. Titled, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim: Between Sunrise and Sunset / Works 1986-2022, it is co-edited by Maya Allison, and Cristiana de Marchi, artist, curator, and poet. With extensive essays from scholars, curators, and fellow artists, this book surveys Ibrahim’s biomorphic abstraction paintings of the 1980s, his Land Art experiments and immersive installations of the 1990s, and the evolution of his sculptures to date, and includes a comprehensive biographical timeline.
Allison said, “It is a privilege to have earned the trust and opportunity to be part of Ibrahim’s work process, and of course to have the incredible experience of developing and presenting Between Sunrise and Sunset in Venice with the National Pavilion UAE.”
Laila Binbrek, Coordinating Director, National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia, said, “National Pavilion UAE’s driving purpose is to tell the nation’s untold stories. This year, we are excited to reveal this new commission, which builds on Ibrahim’s multidecade practice, and records several decades of the UAE’s under-documented art history through Ibrahim’s first-ever monograph.”
The inaugural ceremony was attended by Noura Al Kaabi; Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation; Omar Obaid Al Shamsi, UAE Ambassador to Italy; and H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Chairman of UAE Unlimited and Patron of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and of the British Museum in London.