Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Art for Art’s Sake

The Mystery of Abu Dhabi International Sculpture Symposium
Art - Officers Club 022
Some sculptures are more vulnerable to the elements than others.

Several months ago, on one of my first bicycle rides, I discovered a paved lot dotted with sculptures. I photographed them through the fence.
I wondered: what’s the story?
Weeks later I found my way into the lot and rode among them as I explored the Abu Dhabi Armed Forces Officers’ Club. It was too hot then to stay out riding; I had to head home. 

I vowed to come back when I had more time to take photos of these mysterious, ghostly pieces of art.

Art - Officers Club 092
Field of Dreams

Art - Officers Club 002
Fabricio Dieci – Italy
The weather cooled and I’ve returned and solved the mystery – at least part of it. I had many questions. Where did they come from? Who made them, and why? How long have they been there? I could see that they were made by different artists, to be installed in public places. But where? For the new Ladies’ Beach under construction nearby? And, why are they exposed to the corrosive salt air and sand-laden winds? I’ve seen what look like sculptures at a construction site across town, covered with protective wrapping. What will happen if these are left out too long?

Art - Officers Club 009

My first clue came when I discovered a signature. Most of the pieces were signed and dated – 2010. In 30 minutes I took 101 photos, including signatures when I could find them. Getting ready to leave, I noticed chunks of marble along the edge of the pavement. Could these pieces have possibly all been made onsite? In fact, that began to seem more logical to me than transporting them here, only to leave them out in the elements. My curiosity was piqued.

Art - Officers Club 008
Jo Kley – Germany

I went home and immediately downloaded the photos and began “googling” the artists’ names. An Italian, whose website was in Italian. An Austrian. A German. A Bulgarian.

Then I found it. They are eighteen sculptures by eighteen different artists, and a nineteenth mystery sculpture. They are the result of the Abu Dhabi International Sculpture Symposium 2010. ADISS was directed by His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan - the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and President of Zayed University (ZU) to help establish Abu Dhabi as the Middle East’s leader in culture and the arts. From February 27th to April 7th, 2010, a group of selected artists produced commissioned works based on proposals. The criteria was that the work be:

Art - Officers Club 056
Konstantin Dimopoulos – Australia
“Inspired by the U.A.E., its history, and its culture, and be linked to the theme of ADISS: ‘Bridging Societies Through the Language of Art.’

Art - Officers Club 001
Elements of "LOTUS"
Masahiro Hasegawa - Japan
are installed in the Officers' Club roundabout.

The website goes on to say, “At the conclusion of the Symposium, the new monumental sculptures will be permanently placed at selected public spaces throughout Abu Dhabi, which will complement His Highness Sheikh Mohammed's vision for a cultural city with artistic landmarks."
Now my questions about who, what, when, why and where the sculptures were created have been answered.

Art - Officers Club 044
Billy Lee - UK
Was once shiny, now getting rusty.

More questions remain.
Why were they not installed? Who will take possession of these monumental works of art, when will that happen, and where will they be installed? What will happen to them, if too much time goes by? Will they be forgotten? That’s hard to believe. But a few of them, the ones made of metal, are already seriously weathered. Sun, sand, salt and heat have taken their toll. Why have they not been protected or moved, installed, cleaned, maintained and enjoyed by the public?

The ADISS website call for inquiries for the 2011 ADISS is the most recent update. Perhaps, as happens with so many arts efforts, funding ran out or people’s energy was directed elsewhere. It happens. But still, something should be done with these amazing sculptures. If nothing else, auction them for the benefit of Zayed University.

SUP with Terry 015
It's not easy to find unless
you know where it is.

For now, this fascinating field of mysterious artwork is there for you to see.

 If you can find it.

You can read all about the sculptures and see them when they were new at

Click to enlarge


Lori Cardon said...

This is one of my favorite posts! Thanks Anne.

Anne Schreiber Thomas said...

Thanks, Lori. You would love to see this. But ... I wouldn't trade it for a trip to Paris!

Anne Schreiber Thomas said...

I mean, I wouldn't trade the trip to Paris.