February 20, 2018 - NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery - Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti: Permanent Temporariness
February 20, 2018

NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, Refugee Heritage (detail), 2018. Photos, lightboxes. Photo: Luca Capuano.

Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti
Permanent Temporariness
February 24–June 9, 2018

NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery
Saadiyat Island
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

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The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery presents the first institutional retrospective of the artists and architects Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti. Throughout their work, the duo explores the state of “refugeeness,” a condition meant to be temporary, but that has become permanent for many populations. Their project departs from the traditional reduction of refugees to victims and instead employs a wider interrogation of the present condition of impermanence and displacement affecting a vast number of people living as guests in host countries. Their artwork lies between conceptual speculation and an artistic practice. It is based on spatial interventions in art, architecture, discourse, research, and communal learning, often operating outside the typical art exhibition venue format.

Collaboration is central to the artists’ practice, a process of letting go of a singular artistic agency, and opening conceptual speculations to the community through an on-going conversation. Over the past fifteen years, the artists have conducted dozens of theoretical and pedagogical dialogues, developing a practice that examines displacement, migration, and cultural heritage. They continue to study the decolonization of the architecture of urban spaces under occupation, as well as civic representation and identity in the absence of a nation-state. They founded Campus in Camps, and, with Eyal Weizman, co-founded DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency).

Permanent Temporariness is guest-curated by NYUAD faculty Salwa Mikdadi, who is among the foremost historians of modern art from the Arab world. It is co-curated by Bana Kattan, NYUAD Art Gallery Curator, who recently co-curated the exhibition Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents (NYUAD). 

The exhibition will feature seven installations, three of which are beyond the gallery walls. It reactivates five of their signature installations to date: The Concrete Tent, Common Assembly, Ramallah Syndrome, The Book of Exile, and The Tree School.

Two artworks were developed specifically for this show, from the artists’ current research projects. Living Room is a performance piece arising out of Hilal’s work with a Syrian refugee couple who became active hosts in their refugee camp living room in Boden, Sweden. In her hosting performance, Hilal activates our awareness of what they call “the right to host.” Refugee Heritage is a series of lightbox-mounted photographs taken by a UNESCO photographer Luca Capuano at one of the world’s oldest refugee camps, Dheisheh camp in Bethlehem. Over the last two years, Hilal and Petti led a series of discussions in both refugee camps and elsewhere, on the implications of inscribing refugee history and heritage on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The nomination dossier was published in 2016 in e-flux.

“In Permanent Temporariness, Hilal and Petti present conceptual speculations that examine the state of impermanence and ‘refugee-ness’ beyond victimhood and beyond charitable gestures,” said co-curator Salwa Mikdadi. “They offer the audience new ways of engaging with this critical and timely topic. I am delighted to be working with them again, having presented their work at the Venice Biennial almost a decade ago.”

The exhibition will kick off with a public talk on February 24 between artists Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti and the curators, Salwa Mikdadi and Bana Kattan. 


About the New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery
The NYUAD Art Gallery is an academic museum-gallery that presents exhibitions of art and material culture across historical and contemporary topics, with a special emphasis on subjects of both regional concern and international significance. Through focused exhibitions, events, and publications, the NYUAD Art Gallery serves as a catalyst and locus of intellectual and creative activity, linking the University with the Abu Dhabi public and a worldwide community of artists, curators, and scholars.


Media contacts
Maisoon Mubarak/Danielle DeMartini​​​​​, Brunswick Arts ​​​​​
T +971 56 507 3016 / T +971 56 503 4852​​​ / nyuadag [​at​] brunswickgroup.com

NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery
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Permanent Temporariness
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