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Abdullah Al Saadi to Represent UAE at Venice Biennale 2024

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Abdullah Al Saadi and Tarek Abou El Fetouh. Photography by Daryll Borja. Image courtesy of National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia

Abdullah Al Saadi has been selected to represent the UAE at the 60th Venice Biennale in 2024. His solo exhibition will be curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh.

A pioneering figure in the UAE’s contemporary art scene since the 1980s, Al Saadi explores the UAE’s landscape and his own family history through painting, drawing and performance as well as collecting and cataloguing found objects.

The artist’s presentation at the National Pavilion UAE will mark his return to the biennale following his project participation in the main exhibition at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017, when he exhibited Al Saadi’s Diaries (2016), consisting of 30 years of his diaries recorded on notebook pages and packed into tobacco or sardine tins. His other notable works include Stone Slippers (2013), The Purl and Silk Journey (2015) and My Mother’s Letters (1998–2013).

Al Saadi commented: “I am honoured to represent my country and show my work at the UAE National Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2024. Since I was a student, four decades ago, art has been an integral part of my daily life. My art is the result of interactions with places, people, ideas, and aesthetics that I encounter every day where I live and in my journeys. I find myself driven to document these experiences visually or in written diaries and contemplations, seeking to transfigure the ordinary with the passage of time.”

The exhibition’s curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh, who collaborated with Al Saadi on his public intervention in Expo 2020 Dubai entitled Terhal, was selected for the role by the artist. Currently the senior curator and director of the performance department at the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), he has previously worked as a co-curator of the Sharjah Biennial 9 as well as curator of the public art programme at SAF. He has also curated exhibitions at Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing, the Museum of Modern Art Warsaw and Ashkal Alwan, Beirut.  

El Fetouh said: “In his rich and diverse artistic practice, whether drawings, maps, diaries or objects, Abdullah’s visual language remains recognizable through his passionate longing for immersion in nature; he constructs a unique relationship with landscapes, which goes beyond the familiar. I am delighted to be working with him once again, curating his solo exhibition for the National Pavilion UAE in Venice.”

Laila Binbrek, director of the National Pavilion UAE, said: “Abdullah’s central position within art history of the UAE is also reflected in his participation in two previous National Pavilion UAE group exhibitions, in 2011 and 2015. It is incredibly gratifying to include his work once again in this year’s Pavilion, this time for a solo exhibition. We look forward to sharing yet another untold story of the UAE in 2024 through the lens of Abdullah’s work.”

The exhibition will be on view in April 2024 at the National Pavilion UAE’s permanent space at the Arsenale – Sale d’Armi in Venice.

The 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia will take place from 20 April to 24 November 2024, conceived by Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa.