An Icon is at once an object, an image, and a symbol. Its material qualities are as important as what it represents. To be ‘iconic’ is to represent and embody something unique and undefinable that delivers an immediate effect. It involves a physical encounter with an art object, a sublime experience which is often heightened by media representation.
How does contemporary art help us rethink the notion of an artistic icon in the 21st century? What is the role of the museum in both addressing and conferring the iconic status of art? These are questions Louvre Abu Dhabi seeks to answer five years after opening its doors to the world, with its second Art Here exhibition and art prize, centred on the notion of “The Icon”.
Afra Al Dhaheri draws out notions of time and adaptation, rigor and fragility in her work. Her practice is rooted in her experience growing up in Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE. She practices repetition in her works as a method of prolonging times and uses it as a tool to create new experiences with every phases of her process. With Weighing the Line, Al Dhaheri explores materiality by confronting the viewer with a volume of knotted and backcombed cotton ropes hanging down from the wall. Here, she emphasizes the creation of a line through the weight of the rope that pulls it down, establishing tension that forms the line. The artist examines the way we collectively acknowledge invisible boundaries, and the struggle we face when trying to detangle societal conditioning, as to untie a knot. She also reflects on hair - here the ropes - as the keeper of memories, preserving time, culture and social norms.