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This Kuwaiti Artist’s Sculpture is Dubai Expo 2020’s First Permanent Public Artwork

Monira Al-Qadiri. Photo: Raisa Hagiu/Courtesy of the artist

A giant iridescent, drill-shaped oil sculpture named “Chimera” has launched Expo 2020 Dubai’s Public Art Program. The program features 11 other artworks from the UAE, the Middle East, and beyond, and this sculpture is designed by Kuwaiti artist Monira Al-Qadiri.

Located across the Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity districts, Expo 2020’s two parks, the 11 contemporary artworks are part of the future city of District 2020 as the first curated permanent open-air art exhibition in the UAE, providing a valuable, long-term addition to the UAE’s artistic scene and boosting Dubai’s position on the global cultural map.

Alongside Al-Qadiri, other commissioned creatives include Kuwaiti artist Hamra Abbas, Emirati artists Afra Al-Dhaheri, Shaikha Al-Mazrou, Abdullah Al-Saadi and Asma Belhamar, Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, Berlin-based visual artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Palestinian artist Khalil Rabah, British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare and South Korean artist Haegue Yang.

Expo 2020 Dubai’s Public Art Program takes inspiration from Arab mathematician, astronomer, physicist, and “the father of modern optics” Ibn Al-Haytham’s seminal work, Book of Optics published in the 11th century. The program allows an exploration of the philosophical aspect of Ibn Al Haytham’s theories on visual perception, including his definitions of vision, recognition and perceptions of reality.

‘Chimera’ by Monira Al Qadiri. Photo: Commissioned by, and collection of, Expo 2020 Dubai

Tarek Abou El-Fetouh, public art curator at Expo 2020, said that he is thrilled to be launching the Public Art Program with Chimera. “Her bold sculpture with its magnified size and reflective color makes it seem like a futuristic creature from outer space. Through this sculpture, the artist attempts to merge the pre- and post-oil eras into one body. She creates aesthetic connections between pearls and oil, through their color, materiality, symbolism, ecology, and economy in order to reimagine the past, present, and future of the wider Gulf region,” he explained.

Indeed, the work connects the Gulf’s history of pearl diving to its present as an oil-rich economy. While pearl diving is often thought of as a pre-historic practice distinct from today’s use of oil, Al-Qadiri’s attention to the two industries draws out their similarities: men diving down to the seabed to extract its wealth, much like drills that now reach farther down in search of oil.

Al-Qadiri stated that she is very proud to be among the 11 artists from around the world selected to be part of this program that “invites visitors to access new perspectives through art in public space.”

With over 190 participating countries, Expo 2020 Dubai will run from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.

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