The bustling capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, is set to receive a vibrant artistic makeover courtesy of a new initiative launched by the Department of Culture and Tourism. The ambitious Public Art Abu Dhabi project aims to reimagine the emirate’s public spaces and landscapes by commissioning works from local and international artists. Focusing on reflecting the city’s unique cultural identity, the initiative will infuse Abu Dhabi’s streets, parks, and landmarks with diverse artworks, ranging from traditional sculptures to cutting-edge digital installations.

“The artworks will appear across the city, from tunnels and roundabouts to bridges and parks,” Saood Abdulaziz Al Hosani, Undersecretary of DCT — Abu Dhabi, said during the initiative’s launch ceremony on Monday evening. “Artists will take inspiration from Abu Dhabi and highlight our modern heritage and natural landscape. Abu Dhabi’s most valuable treasure is its people. That is why community engagement is so important.”

The launch of Abu Dhabi’s Public Art initiative on March 20th was a momentous occasion, marked by the unveiling its first installation on the exterior wall of the Cultural Foundation. The mesmerizing multimedia piece, titled Wave, was created by the innovative artistic collective D’strict and features rolling tides and ebbing waves washing over a beach in a stunning display of illusory visual trickery.

Showcased initially at Coex K-Pop Square in Seoul, South Korea, Wave is just the first of many artworks installed across Abu Dhabi as part of the initiative’s annual commissions.

Slated to take place in November 2024 across various modern heritage locations in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and Al Dhafra, the event will showcase the works of more than 50 artists hailing from across the region and the Global South. This initiative will go beyond mere exhibition and celebration of art, however. The Public Art Abu Dhabi biennial will also focus on conserving and preserving critical architectural and urban spaces that are significant for their historical, aesthetic, and scientific value.

“We want to ensure we protect and sustain Abu Dhabi’s cultural heritage,” said Rita Aoun, Executive Director of the Culture Sector. “We have inscribed 30 intangible heritage elements. We have mapped Abu Dhabi’s historic environment record. We mapped historical buildings, cultural landscapes and modern heritage that allow us to understand the significance of a place, its history and social fabric. We have recorded 1,250 cultural landscapes and protected 64 historical buildings, including the Cultural Foundation.”

Rand Al-Hadethi is an art, culture, and fashion writer who approaches all her creative endeavours with a penchant for storytelling. She explores the intersection of fashion, culture, and society and sheds light on talent and cultural movements across the Middle East and the world. Rand also publishes a bi-monthly themed substack newsletter called WebWeaver™. To reach Rand, email her at rand@khamsa5.com or follow her on social media @rundoozz.
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