SHARJAH / HH Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, witnessed the launch of ‘Maraya Art Night’ exhibition at the Maraya Art Centre - the contemporary visual art space in Al Qasba - on the 11th of March.

Photo above: Crown Prince of Sharjah checking the artworks on display and in the picture Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi / Courtesy of Maraya Art Centre

In the presence HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qassimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation, HE Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of (Shurooq), and Hisham Al Madhloum, Head of Art Directorate at the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah, Ahmed Aburahima, vice president for Vice President – Government Relations, Human Resources & Shared Services at Emirates Integrated Telecommunications company – du, the opening night saw a huge turnout of UAE’s art community, public figures, media representatives, and members of the public, all of whom commended the rich variety of works as well as depth of artistic expression on display.

Attendees of the opening night also made use of the opportunity to speak to the artists, who included Adel Abidin, Khalid Shafar, and Alaa Edris about the inspiration behind their works and message that they wish to convey.

image Crown Prince of Sharjah during the inauguration and in the picture Marwan Al Sarkal, Giuseppe Moscatello and Khalid Shafar / Courtesy of Maraya Art Centre

Finnish-Iraqi artist Adel Abidin’s exhibition, ‘Blueprint‘ explores the manufactured and globalised nature of ‘Arab’ identity in the post Arab Spring era by using the language of an architectural blueprint drawing. Curated by Sara Raza the exhibition takes the form of a sweeping interactive drawing and sound installation that has transformed the Centre’s principal exhibition gallery into a pseudo factory, providing visitors with a uniquely immersive experience.

Speaking about the experience of working with Maraya Art Centre, Abidin commented, “Maraya Art Centre has been very extremely supportive of my artistic process. They have immense respect and understanding of my work and it has been a pleasure collaborating with them. I have only the greatest respect for the immensely important work being done by the Centre; through their efforts Maraya Art Centre and the emirate Sharjah is increasingly becoming a haven for the contemporary arts and an incubator of the country’s talent.”

Sara Raza also commented on Adel Abidin’s exhibition, saying, "Blueprint is a metaphor for the construction of identity and how this relates to space and contemporary culture in a post-Arab Spring era. Abidin's exploration to reveal the idea of the "real" or "authentic" nature of identity takes viewers on a journey that employs the language of a manufactory. The use of informal architecture and sound and the mock factory ambiance examine issues of labour and consumption in reference to fast track globalisation that is occurring in the Arab world."

image From the “Maraya Art Night” exhibition / Courtesy of Maraya Art Centre

Located on the lower ground, ‘Naturally re-oriented' an installation by Emirati furniture and objects designer Khalid Shafar, takes its viewers on a journey about recycling and the past. Shafar commented, “Naturally re-oriented gave me the opportunity to showcase my work in a new setting beyond functional furniture. It allowed me to explore further the topic of recycling versus craft in the form of design installation where nature was the catalyst for all the installation elements and materials. The installation also bridges the gap between Design & Art and created a dialogue between the static objects and viewers. It celebrates local culture through a creative natural approach providing the international audience of Sharjah Biennale a new perspective of UAE design.”

In addition, Barjeel Art Foundation presented ‘RE: Orient’ exhibition. Set up as a conversation about the development of art in the Arab region between the 1950’s and 1970’s, the exhibition explores how the intrinsic nuances and guiding paradigms for modernity are continuously reviewed, replenished and reoriented. Through ‘RE: Orient’ Barjeel is giving its visitors the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the pivotal period of change that these three decades represented in the large majority of Arab countries, and how this change impacted the subjective frameworks of the region’s artists.

image From the “Maraya Art Night” exhibition / Courtesy of Maraya Art Centre

“Maraya Art Night” presented as well two special projects located outside the Centre. Lighting up Maraya’s exterior, a cinematic billboard project by contemporary Saudi Arabian artist Ayman Yossri Daydban explore non-linear narrative and take on new meanings within an art, architecture and cinematic context, through the juxtaposition of film stills taken from popular Middle Eastern cinema.Titled “Change” the project aims to expand the definition, scope, and application of public art and will also feature works in public spaces in Dubai.

The second project of note unveiled on the occasion, is site-specific installation of black boxes placed throughout Al Qasba, by Emirati visual artist Alaa Edris. Known for creating research projects that explore social issues, semiotics and tradition within contemporary UAE culture, Edris’ boxes appear ordinary at first glance, but are fact discreet audio-visual recording and filming devices, set to record and collect public data. The project aims to explore the themes of privacy and surveillance, which will is being gathered with the aim of a curated exhibition inside Maraya Art Centre in the future.

image From the “Maraya Art Night” exhibition / Courtesy of Maraya Art Centre

Maraya Art Centre

The Maraya Art Centre is an innovative arts space and in the region, showcasing curated exhibitions and public programmes that aim, to promote and encourage emerging artists and creative communities in the UAE and greater Gulf. A non-profit art space and cultural platform located in Al Qasba, Sharjah, the Maraya Art Centre is an initiative by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), with the purpose of promoting young artists from both the Arab region and the international art scene. Officially launched in March 2010, it is one of the UAE’s most spectacular venues for contemporary visual arts. A three-storey art centre, established over 1500 square meters located in the heart of UAE’s cultural capital, it includes the Maraya Art Gallery on the third floor, the Barjeel Art Foundation on the second floor, which features the private collection of Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, and Maraya Community, which offers a diverse range of programmes and educational activities, on the first floor.

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