Monday, 9 March 2009

The (Dis) United Arab Emirates Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

The UAE is the first Gulf country to be offered its own national pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Taking place from June to November 2009 this is a fantastic opportunity for the UAE to showcase its most talented artists and promote itself as a creative leader in the region. Assembling the best from each emirate (and we all know who they are really ... ) will be an invaluable exercise in cultural presentation to an international audience largely unfamiliar with the artistic output of the UAE. As such it is essential that a strong, positive and cohesive national pavilion is created......

Er........ apparently not!

There will now be two pavilions: the official 'UAE Pavilion' organised from Dubai and an additional 'Abu Dhabi Pavilion' otherwise known as the 'Adach Platform for Venice'. According to the usual maelstrom of rumours, this parting of the ways seems to be a product of hissy fits on both personal and federal levels and has also affected which artists will feature.

The UAE Pavilion will remain in the national pavilion category while Abu Dhabi has inserted itself (presumably at great cost) into the 'collateral' category which focuses on a particular theme.

What an embarrassing waste of an opportunity. Unless of course the underlying conceptual intention is to convey the deep cultural significance of petty inter-emirate feuding to a global audience.

It will certainly be confusing for the geographically challenged who will judge the UAE's cultural output on the officially named pavilion curated by Dubai while wondering where the country of Adach is. Those who do realise they are witnessing the UAE divided will be confused and most certainly amused at the absurdity while several will never take the UAE seriously again. Not a great entrance to the most prestigious art event in the world is it??


  1. Hello there,
    I've just read an article in the latest FT "How to spend it" magazine on art in the Middle East and had to think about you. It's called "Bridging the Gulf" and talks about the thriving art scene in the region. It mentions several up and coming artists and the fact that galleries in the Middle East seem to be more cashed up than those in the west... the credit crunch you know... See if you can find it online and if not, I can scan it and email it to you.