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Public Art Abu Dhabi Launches With a Promise to Advance the Creative Legacy of the Emirate

d’strict. WAVE, 2020. Cultural Foundation, Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi. Photo: Courtesy of the artists

Public Art Abu Dhabi is the latest initiative in the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT), Abu Dhabi’s ongoing commitment to commissioning work for the emirate in an effort to advance its cultural legacy. The wide-reaching enterprise hopes to enhance infrastructure and improve livability while supporting art and creativity within the region.

“Public art is where creativity and infrastructure meet, and Public Art Abu Dhabi represents our commitment to enhancing the urban and cultural fabric of the emirate, bringing artistic expression into the everyday lives of our residents and visitors,” commented HE Saood Abdulaziz Al Hosani, the undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, in a press release discussing the project. The chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, added, “DCT Abu Dhabi’s promise is to promote, protect and progress the emirate and transform Abu Dhabi into a global center for culture.”

The initiative was launched on March 20 with the unveiling of WAVE, a public digital media artwork by the artistic collective d’strict. Using an anamorphic illusion technique, the 2D installation recreates perpetually surging three-dimensional waves and was first showcased at COEX K-Pop Square, Seoul, South Korea. WAVE is a perfect representation of how the program hopes to engage the community with artistic expression infused with the emirate’s cultural identity to provide a sense of belonging 

d’strict. WAVE, 2020. Cultural Foundation, Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi. Photo: Courtesy of the artists

Public Art Abu Dhabi will receive an investment of over $35 million annually, reflecting the leadership’s commitment to propagating and supporting Abu Dhabi’s creative industries. The three major long-term projects under this heavily funded initiative include Public Art Abu Dhabi Biennial, Manar Abu Dhabi, and direct artist commissions. Contributing towards the conservation of significant architectural and urban spaces, and enhancing their value to the community emerges as the overarching aim of these projects. 

Public Art Abu Dhabi Biennial, launching in November 2024, will be led by Reem Fadda, Director of the Cultural Foundation and Abu Dhabi Cultural Programmes, and the renowned independent curator Galit Eilat. According to Eilat, “The Biennial will commission and exhibit a vibrant, inclusive and varied selection of artists rooted in the UAE and the region, while also keeping with its mandate on including artists from all over the world.” 

With Manar Abu Dhabi, the DCT will be creating a public art platform that features light art sculptures and installations in the archipelagos and mangroves of Abu Dhabi. In an effort to celebrate the natural beauty of the emirate, viewers will be treated to an immersive water journey connecting the shores of different islands. These efforts to celebrate all that Abu Dhabi is through creative expression are furthered by the plan to execute a series of yearly direct commissions across the emirate’s landmarks, including tunnels, roundabouts, bridges, parks, and more. Each of these contributions to the cultural legacy of Abu Dhabi will find inspiration from the UAE capital’s distinctive identity. 

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