The Venice Biennale is one of the most important international contemporary art exhibitions. Founded in 1895 by the Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita de Savoia, the exhibition was originally held solely in the Padiglione Italia at the Giardini, which was renamed the Central Pavilion in 2009. Since its expansion, the Giardini also hosts an additional 30 national pavilions, built by participating countries themselves. Everyone in the art world doesn’t want to miss this huge art exhibition in one of the most beautiful and art historically rich sites in the world. We took a look at the pavilions from the Arab world.
Pavilion of Iran: The Great Game & Iranian Highlights
The Iran participations at the 56th Venice Biennale is divided in two parts: The Great Game and Iranian Highlights. Curated by Marco Meneguzzo and Mazdak Faiznia, The Great Game includes works by 40 artists from India to Iraq, dealing with social and political questions, to investigate the geopolitical struggle for power and influence in the area. The idea of this exhibition comes from the consideration that the geographical area of these countries is, in fact, a historically unique territory. Iranian Highlights presents the work of four Iranian artists: Samira Alikhanzadeh, Mahmoud Bakhshi Moakhar, Jamshid Bayrami and Mohammed Ehsai, from different generations, genders, and expressive tendencies and instruments, who in this case are brought together by their will to display the wealth and complexity of Iranian art, which by its very nature is cosmopolitan, receptive, and accommodating as well as aware of its own cultural heritage.
Pavilion of Iraq: Invisible Beauty
‘Invisible Beauty’, curated by Philippe Van Cauteren, Artistic Director of S.M.A.K., Ghent, features five contemporary artists from across Iraq and the diaspora. Two generations of Iraqi photographers, in the shape of Latif Al Ani and Akam Shex Hadi, visual artist Rabab Ghazoul, ceramicist and sculptor Salam Atta Sabri and painter Haider Jabbar. ‘Invisible Beauty’ refers both to the unusual or unexpected subjects in the works that will be on display and to the invisibility of Iraqi artists on the international stage. The relationship of art to survival, record-keeping, therapy and beauty are among the themes raised by the exhibition. It reveals art generated by a country that has been subjected to war, genocide, violations of human rights and, in the last year, the rise of Isis. The systematic demolition of the cultural heritage of Iraq by Isis, has made it more important than ever to focus on artists continuing to work in Iraq. Van Cauteren made his selection following a journey to Iraq.
Pavilion of Egypt: Can You See
The installation at the Egyptian Pavilion consists of five three dimensional shapes that forms letters of the word PEACE covered with grass. Designed by the Egyptian artists Ahmed Abdel-Fatah, Maher Dawoud, and Gamal El-Kheshen. The artists focus on the concept of peace, emphasizing the notion of inner peace. The installation which presents the word “PEACE” is created in a 3-dimensional form which is covered with grass. The visitors will go through a virtual journey which will allow them to immerge themselves in an atmosphere of harmony and peace. However, technology of the 21st century will enable to enhance the value of this virtual journey and the confrontation between the two eternal choices of the human life: light/virtue and dark/vice. This will be possible through the use of tablets attached to the installation, allowing the visitors to use the augmented reality mobile application, as they will be asked to select between the two different paths of life, in order to experience the embodied results of their choices. The two possible choices represent the path of human knowledge which tends to lead to the truth and inner peace and serenity. The experience of the journey throughout the exhibition can be re-lived by the visitors, reusing the mobile application, in different places and environments. This way, the message of peace will spread, which further caters to the basis of the “Can You See?” project. This experience can be shared with those who did not have the opportunity to visit the pavilion, by downloading the application from the following link: www.biennalevenezia-egypt.com
Pavilion of UAE: 1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) pavilion will showcase the works of 14 Emerati artists, curated by Sheikha Hoor Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, president and director of the Sharjah Art Foundation. The exhibition will show the diversity and the history of the art scene in the UAE. “Looking back at exhibitions from the 1980s, I have come across a number of interesting art works, mainly sculptures and paintings by now-established artists, as well as works by lesser known ones,” said Al Qasimi. “It is important to state here that the focus is on the art works not the artist. My aim is to show the diversity of art practices, and the history of the art scene in the UAE at this period in time.” Work by Ahmed Al Ansari, Moosa Al Halyan, Mohammed Al Qassab, Abdul Qader Al Rais, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah, Salem Jawhar, Mohammed Kazem, Dr. Najat Meky, Abdulraheem Salim, Ahmed Sharif, Hassan Sharif, Obaid Suroor, Dr. Mohamed Yousif, and Abdulrahman Zainal.
The 56th Venice Biennale will run till November 22, 2015. More information here.