Marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates, Between the Sky and the Earth: Contemporary Art from the UAE brings together 12 artists reflecting the diverse contemporary art ecosystem in the UAE today. With roots in the Gulf, the Levant, Southeast Asia, and the United States, the artists — all of whom now call the UAE home — challenge standard narratives about the Emirates through an intergenerational dialogue exploring their social, cultural, and natural landscapes.
Through works focusing on subjects like the environment, consumerism, and the impact of rapid urbanization, the featured artists explore themes of permanence and transience, time and memory. In the process, they offer a sample of the multi-faceted community of practitioners contributing to the UAE’s dynamic cultural output on the occasion of its Golden Jubilee — the community that shares the space Between the Sky and the Earth.
Afra Al Dhaheri’s work is rooted in her experiences growing up in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE – a place of recent and rapid change. Working across various mediums including mixed media, sculpture, drawing, painting, installation, photography, and printmaking, she explores notions of time and adaptation, rigor and fragility. She is especially fascinated by the tensions imbued in hair, often using rope as a stand-in for the raw, organic material, as seen in School Braid No. 2. In To Tame and Contain, the rigidity of concrete balances the delicate intricacies of rope, juxtaposing strength and vulnerability.
The exhibition is curated by Munira Al Sayegh and has been organized in partnership with The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, with special thanks to the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C.