With Expo 2020 Dubai readying to open its doors to the world on Friday, four Emirati artists from different generations are finalising the installation of their permanent public artworks on the site.
The artworks by Emirati artists Afra Al Dhaheri, Abdallah Al Saadi, Asma Belhamar and Shaikha Al Mazrou will be exhibited alongside other works by leading colleagues from the region and the world.
The hope is they will create a space for creativity across the Expo site, not only during the six-month duration of one of the world’s most anticipated events, but also for many years to come.
The Public Art Programme is curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh and designed in alignment with the ambitious urban plans that will transform the Expo 2020 site into the future city of District 2020.
The programme is curated as a platform for contemporary art in the neighbourhood, with 11 permanent substantial public artworks interwoven within its urban fabric and offering the possibility for many more artworks in the future.
Al Saadi’s work, Terhal, is a permanent public intervention in a seating area, and embodies the result of his immersion in the unique natural surroundings of Wadi Tayyibah in the emirate of Fujairah.
In this work, the artist’s map-like paintings are inspired by different orientations on stones from the Wadi Tayyibah region.
The stones are organised according to his own symbolic code, in an invitation to discover a kind of poetic archaeological language.
The Plinth by Shaikha Al Mazrou embodies her aesthetic language, which diverts materiality and creates dynamic forms with an interplay of tension and balance, demonstrating the artist’s intuitive, keenly felt understanding of materials and their physical properties.
The work conceptually and formally references plinths, and its form allows the possibility of other artists to create artworks that can be exhibited in relation to it.
Al Mazrou intends the sculpture to function as a tool for future dialogue with other artists, whom she might not know or meet.
A special part of the Public Art Programme is curated by Muneera Al Sayegh and Mohammed Al Olama and includes two works that explore the role of monuments in the local landscape and their connection with memory, architecture and nature.
One work is a large-scale marble sculpture by artist Afra Al Dhaheri entitled Pillow Fort, which is inspired by the tikkay, traditional Emirati floor pillows, revisiting childhood moments of impromptu play when building a pillow tower or a fort with them.
These childhood forts existed within our rooms within our homes, as a space within a space within a space.
The viewer’s presence and interaction are essential in activating this work, which becomes a tool that connects society in a mass recollection of memory.
The other work titled Distorted Familiarities by artist Asma Belhamar confronts perspectives of nature and the built environment, marrying the two realities.
Belhamar speaks to the visual distortion experienced when commuting from mountainscapes into cityscapes, where the change from landscape to architecture and from topography to iconography feels like a journey through shifting scales and times.
Expo 2020 will run from October 1st to March next year, inviting visitors from every corner of the globe to discover a wide range of cultural and artistic initiatives dedicated to broadening horizons and bringing people, communities and nations together.