Alserkal Programming and UAE Unlimited announce partnership to showcase UAE-based artists at Concrete

27 August 2017

Curated by Karim Sultan, with Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian named as guest artists, the show will take place from 5 March until 1 April 2018


Alserkal Programming has announced a partnership with UAE Unlimited to create the 2018 edition of the annual exhibition that showcases the work of emerging UAE-based artists. The exhibition, curated by Sharjah-based artist and curator Karim Sultan, will take place in Concrete from 5 March to 1 April 2018.

Following the unique format of mentorship that UAE Unlimited has adopted since its inception in 2015, Dubai-based artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian have been selected as guest artists and will work in an advisory capacity with emerging artists from the UAE to develop new artworks for the exhibition. The guest artists live and work together out of their Dubai-based studio and are known for their ingenious use of materials, working across various mediums. Their practice resonates strongly with young artists from across the UAE.

“His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan and Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal have a shared vision of nurturing and supporting emerging artists from the UAE. Their commitment to the arts is reflected in the work of UAE Unlimited and Alserkal Programming respectively. We look forward to bringing the immense talent of contemporary artists and curators from the UAE to Concrete — a multi-disciplinary space that was designed with museum-grade exhibitions in mind,” said Vilma Jurkute, Director of Alserkal Avenue.

The partnership between Alserkal Programming and UAE Unlimited will not only offer emerging UAE-based artists the opportunity to work with more established artists to create works of relevance to the local area, but they will also have their work shown in a world-class exhibition.

“Alserkal Programming’s commitment to the UAE’s art scene has made this partnership a natural one; the organisation has made an indelible contribution to artists and curators in the UAE. A space like Concrete raises the bar for the artists and curators in the region, giving them the freedom to create innovative works,” said Shobha Pia Shamdsani, Executive Director of UAE Unlimited.

The emphasis on learning and exchange extends to the curator as well; Laura Metzler, a respected UAE-based curator, has been named senior advisor on the project to assist Sultan and provide guidance through the six-month-long process. The exhibition will feature works by the guest artists as well as new commissions by selected emerging artists from the UAE.

In keeping with previous years, the March 2018 exhibition has a central theme — language and its use as a medium for communication. The theme aims to enable artists to create works that engage with the development of shared languages.

Explaining the significance of the theme, Sultan, who is also the director of Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, said, “When an artist uses language in their work, they cannot assume that their audience will understand a particular reference, or share the same language as them. The artists in this exhibition will be challenged to produce works that negotiate spoken, written, and visual languages, and that take into account a multiplicity of visual and cultural histories, and experiences of home and migration.”

Concrete – a multi-purpose and multi-disciplinary space — was conceptualised as an adaptable venue, and designed by Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). Its ability to accommodate a wide range of artistic mediums makes it the ideal location for the show, which aims to feature a diverse range of visual arts disciplines, from paintings to multimedia art.

UAE Unlimited, supported by His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, is a platform focused on nurturing the new generation of Emirati and UAE-based artists. The platform aims to support artists by assisting them in the creation and production of new projects alongside organising exhibitions to provide them with national and international exposure and opportunities for wider representation at this stage in their careers.



Editor’s Notes:

About Alserkal Avenue

Alserkal Avenue is a vibrant cultural district in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai, and is home to a community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, home-grown and entrepreneur-led businesses, and community spaces across 500,000sqft and 90 warehouses. Alserkal Avenue provides an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the United Arab Emirates. As one of the region’s foremost destinations for contemporary art, and home to Dubai’s risk-takers, makers and wide-ranging creative communities, Alserkal Avenue provides cultural experiences for local, regional and international audiences through its extensive year-round programming. Alserkal Avenue is home to Concrete, a multi-disciplinary exhibitions space conceptualised and programmed by Alserkal, as well as the artist residency program of Alserkal’s non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation. Alserkal Avenue was established in 2007 by Alserkal following the visionary thinking of its founder, Emirati businessman and cultural patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, who sought to cultivate a vibrant creative community and support cultural production in Dubai.

About Alserkal Programming

Alserkal Programming is a platform for exhibitions, public art commissions, performances, films, talks and workshops that critically and creatively investigate themes pertinent to the region's arts community. Together, these programmes provide a platform to support the development of new ideas, open dialogue and collaboration across disciplines. The annual programme is thematically developed to focus on a particular issue, bringing artists and professionals from different fields together to examine a concept through wide-ranging means and perspectives.

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About UAE Unlimited

Established in 2015, UAE Unlimited is an Abu Dhabi-based satellite platform supported by H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, who is a prominent patron and collector of the arts.

UAE Unlimited supports emerging Emirati and UAE-based artists by producing and promoting their works through strategic collaborations with art and culture organisations across the country. The initiative thrives on creating opportunities for young and emerging UAE-based talent, thereby contributing to the overall cultural production in the UAE.

Recognising the importance of supporting and allowing young artists and curators to develop their skills, UAE Unlimited selects senior advisors who serve as mentors, not only for the artists but also for the curator. Artists and curators are encouraged to experiment and develop new practices, processes and techniques.

Employing this approach, UAE Unlimited has hosted a major annual exhibition every year since its founding, showcasing newly commissioned artworks based on selected themes. Recent exhibitions include "Al Haraka Baraka" with Maraya Art Centre Sharjah in 2016 with Mohammed Ibrahim Al Mansoori as guest artist, followed by "Bayn" with Warehouse421 Abu Dhabi in 2017 with acclaimed artist Manal Al Dowayan.

Shobha Pia Shamdsani is the Executive Director of UAE Unlimited; she is also the Art Adviser & Director of the Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art Collection of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan.

Instagram: @uaeunlimited

About Concrete

A multi-disciplinary space conceptualised by Alserkal Avenue, Concrete is the first building in the UAE to be completed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), founded by Rem Koolhaas. Located in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, Concrete is an adaptable venue whose ability to metamorphose to bring creative visions to life makes it suitable for international, museum-grade exhibitions as well as events across art, design, fashion and the performing arts.

Facebook, Instagram: #Concrete


His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan

His Highness Sheikh Zayed, (b. 1988) is the grandson of the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan. He graduated from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK, receiving his Master of Arts with Honours in Middle East Studies and Modern History. With a keen interest, and a sense of duty to enhance the civic life of his country, Sheikh Zayed has sought to develop the artistic and creative voices of emerging generations, and support their efforts to enrich the cultural life of the UAE.

With this ideal in mind, HH Sheikh Zayed has garnered his talents and interests to become, at 29, one of the youngest, and most prominent patrons of the arts in the UAE. He is a keen collector of Middle Eastern Art, both Modern & Contemporary, and including works from India, Iran & Turkey. In 2015, he established UAE Unlimited (formerly UAE Unlimited Arab Exploration), an open exhibition platform committed to the promotion of his country’s creative and artistic wellspring; within the UAE and internationally. UAE Unlimited is now in its third year of operation and has successfully begun its mission to positively impact the life and career of emerging artists. HH Sheikh Zayed is a Patron of the Centre Pompidou & the British Museum, and is on their Middle Eastern Acquisition Committees. He is also a Patron of the Sharjah Art Foundation and Honorary Patron of Art Dubai. Sheikh Zayed and UAE Unlimited have generously donated artworks from prominent UAE artists including Mohammed Kazem, Mohammed Ibrahim Al Mansoori and Ammar Al Attar to the Centre Pompidou and the British Museum.

HH Sheikh Zayed also serves on the Board of the Make A Wish Foundation-UAE Chapter and is Chairman of the Sultan bin Khalifa al Nahyan Humanitarian and Scientific Foundation, and is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Sultan bin Khalifa Thalassemia Award.

Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal

Founder of Alserkal Avenue, Alserkal Programming and Alserkal Residency, and patron of the arts

Abdelmonem is the driving force behind Alserkal Avenue, a cultural destination that houses the most prominent contemporary art galleries in the region. In 2015, he launched Alserkal Programming, the not-for-profit arm of Alserkal Avenue, which supports locally-based and international artists through commissions and public programmes. As a natural extension of the programming arm, Abdelmonem established Alserkal Residency in early 2017. The Residency is designed to give artists, writers, curators, and researchers the opportunity to critically reflect on and experiment with their practice within the context of Dubai.

Concrete opened in Alserkal Avenue in 2017, commissioned by Abdelmonem Alserkal and designed to be a space for alternative programmes and museum-grade exhibitions. Concrete is the first building to be completed in the UAE by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), which was founded by Pritzker Prize-winner Rem Koolhaas.

Featured in Surface magazine's 2016 Power 100, Abdelmonem serves on numerous boards of prestigious art institutions around the world, including the British Museum's Contemporary and Modern Middle Eastern Art Acquisition Group; the Tate's Middle East and North Africa Acquisition Committee; and the Guggenheim's Middle Eastern Circle. Abdelmonem and the Alserkal family have long been supporters of the arts and have been awarded the Patron of the Arts award twice, in 2012 and 2013, by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Vilma Jurkute

With a degree in International Business from Grenoble Graduate School of Business, Vilma has spent the last decade developing creative industries across New York, Chicago, London and Dubai. She joined Alserkal Avenue in 2011 and in her time with the organisation, she has been instrumental in its evolution and responsible for overseeing the Avenue’s physical expansion in 2015 as well as the inauguration of Concrete in 2017. Vilma also launched Alserkal Programming in 2015, and Alserkal Residency in 2017, affirming the organisation’s commitment to the development of arts and culture in the region. She has been a vocal supporter of growing a creative economy, and a strong advocate for its importance in social development and identity within the MENASA region. Vilma serves on the advisory boards of the Global Cultural Districts Network and the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation. Vilma is currently pursuing an Executive MSc in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford, UK.

Shobha Pia Shamdsani

Art Advisor to HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan and Executive Director of UAE Unlimited since its inception in 2015, Shobha Pia Shamdsani has brought three successful UAE Unlimited exhibitions to life through working closely with the curator and the exhibition teams.

Raised in the UK, Shamdsani’s early studies guided her toward a career in interior design and art advisory. Shamdsani has handled prestigious large-scale complex interior design projects in Abu Dhabi, creating exclusive designs from artistic wall treatments to custom joinery and luxurious furnishings for her clients. She has had extensive experience working with artisan painters, craftsmen, and engineers in all aspects of interior design.

As the art advisor to HH Sheikh Zayed since 2011, Shamdsani has complete management responsibility for all aspects of his private collection. In this collaboration with the Chairman, she has built a collection of Middle Eastern modern and contemporary art, which includes Turkish, Iranian and Indian art works. She has, in this capacity, represented HH Sheikh Zayed at the acquisition meetings of the Centre Pompidou & the British Museum. Shamdsani is a Patron of Sharjah Biennale 2017 and Art Dubai, and is on the Alserkal Avenue Programming Committee.

Shamdsani has travelled widely, from a childhood in Singapore, to living and working in London and Abu Dhabi and credits these diverse cultural experiences for her unique appreciation of art.

Karim Sultan

Karim Sultan is the director of Barjeel Art Foundation. He has recently curated exhibitions such as The Sea Suspended at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, and Short Century (co-curated with Suheyla Takesh) at the Sharjah Art Museum, as well as Collection Barjeel at Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris (co-curated with Philippe van Cauteren of SMAK Belgium), and Between two rounds of fire, the exile of the sea at the American University Museum in Washington, D.C. Previously, he has been a contributing editor at Kalimat Magazine, and has worked with a number of arts organisations and initiatives in the Gulf region since 2012. His interests are focused around developing fluency with art histories and contemporary approaches to modernism in the Arab region. In addition, Karim is also a practicing and performing artist who works with sound, music, photography, video and installation.

Laura Metzler

Laura Metzler is the curator at Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah. She received her MA from the American University of Beirut and her BA from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to holding this position she was the Associate Director at Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut and The Third Line in Dubai. Recent projects include Sadik Al Fraji's Once Upon a Time: Hadiqat Al Umma, Collectivity: Objects and Associations in the UAE Art World and the launch of the Maraya Project Space. She has also worked on projects including exhibitions of artists such as Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Hayv Kahraman, Hassan Hajjaj, Rayyane Tabet, Haig Aivazian, Etel Adnan, Slavs and Tatars, and Monira Al Solh among others.

Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian

Ramin Haerizadeh (born 1975, Tehran), Rokni Haerizadeh (born 1978, Tehran) and Hesam Rahmanian (born 1980, Knoxville) have lived and worked together in Dubai since 2009. They work independently and together propagating a form of collaboration that doesn’t suppress individualism. The seeds of their language were sown as early as 1999 in Iran. Their practice offers up a novel redefinition of the collective, as theirs is constantly growing and contracting to incorporate friends, writers, and artists at large. It entails the use of both low and high art references, and freely embraces ‘what is considered marginal, wasted, wrong, messed up, useless, and taken for granted’. Their individual practices differ stylistically while political and social commentary become inherently subversive in a common reflection. The exhibitions they conceive are as much insights into their daily practice which they designate as the ritual of living and working together.

Their immersive and multimedia installations build upon their perception of life as a theatre while also making their process visible. Generally, their proposals begin with the ‘creatures’ that the three artists become, both physically and mentally, and whose very beings are the roles that are eventually played. Placing emphasis on the importance of ‘reporting on our time’, they wish to bring attention to the urgencies of the present moment while opening up questions over a spectrum of subjects such as views on art and culture, gender fluidity, and power mechanisms. ‘The conglomeration of things actually asks us to look at what is in front of us’ comment the artists, demanding time for contemplation. The artists seek to encourage the viewer to recognise the reality of interdependency and the value of solidarity with others. Therefore, they create a sense of alienation or estrangement from reality with depersonalised individual subjects (creatures) and inhomogeneous crafted objects. In doing so, they aim to exorcise the sentimentalism, resulting in an emotional distance to elicit from the viewer astonishment rather than empathy and ultimately allowing for critical analysis.

Recipients of the Han Nefkens Foundation/MACBA Award, the artists will stage a solo exhibition at the MACBA in Barcelona in October 2017. Recent solo exhibitions include The Birthday Party (2015) at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, Slice A Slanted Arc Into Dry Paper Sky at the Zurich Kunsthalle (2015), Those Who Love Spiders, and Let Them Sleep in Their Hair at Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art in Copenhagen (2015) and Another Happy Day (2017) at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. They also participated in The Restless Earth (2017) for the Milan Triennale in association with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and contributed to the National Pavilion of the UAE at the 57th Venice Biennale's catalogue as an extended site of the exhibition. They took part in the Liverpool Biennale (2016), and the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Gallery in Brisbane (2015).

A facsimile of their artist book Her Majesty? was published by Editions Patrick Frey in 2016 and a monograph of their work Ramin Haerizadeh Rokni Haerizadeh Hesam Rahmanian was published by Mousse Publishing in 2015.