The Minister of Foreign Affairs and honorary patron of the Abu Dhabi Festival, the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF), Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, launched its Art at Embassies program at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Embassy in Paris. The program titled “The Evolution of the UAE Art Scene” is part of the festival organized under Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, Assistant to the President of the UAE Red Crescent for Women’s Affairs and Head of Higher Committee for the Ataya Initiative.
The event will open with an engaging panel discussion and will have in attendance renowned curator Maya El Khalil, editor and writer Melissa Gronlund, and Emirati conceptual artist Maitha Abdalla. The panel discussions will have panelists discuss the UAE and how its Art has evolved for over 50 years.
The panel will focus on the evolution, impact, and contributions of UAE Art to the world. It will also provide a platform for enriching discussions, with the aim of providing varying perspectives from the panelists. As part of the intentionality of the program, it will promote the discussion of cultural diplomacy and cross-cultural dialogue. Participants are expected to learn about the UAE’s culture and art and how they have evolved.
Present at the event was Hend Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to France, whose opening speech echoed the symbolic nature of Arts and culture in the embassy’s mission. He said that Arts and culture are essential parts of the UAE’s embassy mission in France. To him, it is “a fertile ground on which our bilateral relationship with France has flourished. They are at the heart of both our societies and therefore constitute a pillar of Franco-Emirati diplomacy. ADMAF could not have chosen a better country than France to launch its program.”
In her remark, the founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Founder and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival, Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, expressed her elation for partnering “with the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in France to launch the first event of our latest landmark initiative, Art at Embassies.”
She said that the program demonstrates the commitment of the organization to ensuring cultural integration and exchange. This, he believes, will help sustain the relations and interactions between different cultures and ensure the celebration of Arts and culture.
While commenting on the place of Art at the embassy, she said, “Art at Embassies seeks to strengthen cultural partnerships and cultural diplomacy, opening doors for Emirati artists to showcase their talents on the global stage while challenging perspectives through the exchange of ideas—spreading knowledge to inspire profound change and foster greater understanding among nations.”
Alkhamis-Kanoo spoke about the panel and how it would help explore the beauty of the arts in the UAE with special talents such as writer and editor Melissa Gronlund and curator Maya El Khalil. According to Alkhamis-Kanoo, they both “have each played a pivotal role in the success of ADMAF’s historic publications, Portrait of a Nation II and Art of the Emirates II. Joined by gifted Emirati artist Maitha Abdalla, their valuable insights reflect how art enables us to explore the depths of our shared humanity and celebrate the rich diversity of our civilizations, encompassing the very essence of the initiative, which seeks to unite people through shared experiences.”
ADMAF has a rich history with France. Its history with France dates back in time and was essential in making the program a reality.
The Abu Dhabi Festival held in 2016 celebrated France and had the Orchestre de Paris featuring cellist Xavier Phillips and organist Thierry Escaich present. The Little Prince, known as the world premiere of an orchestral concert adaptation of the pillar of French literature, was also present at the event.
More so, there were landmark events that reaffirmed these collaborations. They include “the co-production of ‘Resurrection’ with the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and the co-commission of opera star Joyce DiDonato’s ‘EDEN, featuring stage direction by acclaimed French stage director Marie Lambert-Le Bihan.”
The event isn’t the first cultural program held in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi has been the home of cultural festivals and exhibitions, which have continually fuelled advanced-level interactions and healthy relations between Abu Dhabi and other countries.
In the past, it has hosted French artists whose country has remained a great cultural ally, as well as the popular ballet dancer Sylvie Guillem, the super-talented composer Gabriel Yared, and the exceptional graphic designer Philippe Apeloig.
While ADMAF’s love for the UAE remains known, it has extended its goodwill for the arts to other countries and regions of the world. This can be seen in its various exchange programs and the stories of its successes with international tours.