Between the Sky and the Earth: Contemporary Art from the UAE

December 3, 2021 – March 31, 2022
MEI Art Gallery

1763 N ST NW

Alaa Edris, States, 2016. Digital C print, 65 x 90 cm, series of 7. Courtesy of the artist.

Alaa Edris, States, 2016. Digital C print, 65 x 90 cm, series of 7. Courtesy of the artist.

The Middle East Institute (MEI) Arts and Culture Center, in partnership with The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, is proud to announce the opening of Between the Sky and the Earth: Contemporary Art from the UAE at the MEI Art Gallery at 1763 N Street NW, Washington DC. Now open to the public to mark the United Arab Emirates’ 50th anniversary on December 2, the exhibition brings together 12 artists whose different concepts, mediums and backgrounds, reflect the United Arab Emirates’s diverse contemporary art scene.

This exhibition, conceptualized by independent Abu Dhabi-based curator, Munira Al Sayegh, introduces an intergenerational dialogue between artists who explore their social, cultural, and natural landscapes. With roots in the Gulf, the Levant, Southeast Asia and the United States, the artists—all of whom call the UAE home—examine themes around permanence and fluidity, time and memory through a range of subjects such as the environment, consumerism and the impact of rapid urbanization on individuals and societies. In the process, they offer a sample of the multi-faceted community of practitioners contributing to the UAE’s dynamic cultural output.

“I have chosen works that combine playful irreverence alongside a rigorous investigation of a vibrant UAE from the perspective of different nationalities who make it their home,” said curator Munira Al Sayegh. “In the process, this exhibit challenges standard narratives of the Emirates and speaks to the intricacies present  in the country’s art ecosystem.”

Between the Sky and the Earth also marks an important collaboration between two art galleries with similar missions—the MEI Art Gallery and The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery. Both provide a platform for the exhibition of thought-provoking artists from the Middle East and internationally alongside programming and scholarship focused on encouraging debate and deepening understanding.

“This partnership between the Middle East Institute and The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery reflects our institutions’ belief in the value of collaboration and bridge-building across cultures,” said Kate Seelye, vice president for arts and culture at the Middle East Institute. “By co-presenting an exhibition in Washington, DC with a regional institution, we are able to gain from their expertise and insights to provide Washington audiences with a new lens on the transformations the UAE has experienced over the past 50 years.”

Speaking on behalf of The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, Executive Director Maya Allison said: “We are delighted and honored to play a role in the realization of this exhibition in collaboration with the Middle East Institute. This constellation of work gives a glimpse of the art scene here, from those who’ve been breaking new ground in art for decades, to those who are rising stars of the new generation of artists in the Emirates. I deeply admire these artists; I’m very eager to see their works presented in a different context, in the US, and through the eyes of its residents.”

The featured artists are: Ebtisam Abdulaziz, Afra Al Dhaheri, Tarek Al-Ghoussein,  Hashel Al Lamki, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Asma Belhamar, Alaa Edris, Lamya Gargash, Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Mohammed Kazem, Solimar Miller, Augustine Paredes