Public Art Progamme

Public Art Progamme

Expo 2020 Dubai

Monira Al Qadiri, Chimera, 2021. Aluminium, iridescent automotive paint, 450 x 470 x 490 cm. © Monira Al Qadiri. Commissioned by and collection of Expo 2020 Dubai. 

July 4, 2021
Public Art Progamme
October 1, 2021–March 31, 2022
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With less than four months until the next World Expo opens its doors to the world, “Chimera,” a gigantic, iridescent, oil drill–shaped permanent sculpture by Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri launches Expo 2020 Dubai’s striking Public Art Programme.

Expo 2020 has commissioned leading local, regional, and international artists to create 11 contemporary artworks in public spaces across the Expo 2020 site through its initiative, which marks the first curated permanent open-air contemporary art exhibition in the UAE. 

Alongside Monira Al Qadiri, the other commissioned artists are Hamra Abbas, Afra Al Dhaheri,  Shaikha Al Mazrou, Abdullah Al Saadi, Asma Belhamar, Olafur Eliasson, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Khalil Rabah, Yinka Shonibare, and Haegue Yang. 

The artworks will form lasting landmarks on the site, located across the Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity districts, and Expo 2020’s two parks. The programme is curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh and designed in alignment with the ambitious urban plans of the Expo 2020 site to be repurposed, with more than 80 percent of its infrastructure to live on in the future city of District 2020. The programme is curated as a platform for contemporary art in the neighborhood, with 11 permanent substantial public artworks interwoven within its urban fabric and the possibility for many more pieces in the future.

The conceptual framework of the Public Art Progamme of Expo 2020 Dubai is inspired by the famous Arab mathematician, astronomer, and physicist Ibn al Haytham’s seminal work, Book of Optics (c. 11th century CE). Ibn al Haytham has been called “the father of modern optics” for his significant theories and foundational principles regarding optics and visual perception. The concept of the programme provides a prism to view contemporary art creations and a context that allows an exploration of the philosophical aspect of Ibn al-Haytham’s theories on visual perception, including his definitions of vision, recognition and the impossibility of envisioning a full picture of reality within oneself without the power of imagination. Ibn al-Haytham argued that perception is never complete without prior knowledge, comparative measures, memory, and imagination. Our immediate perceptual experience of vision must be accompanied by the imagined,  so we may recognize the form of things.

Looking back at the history of the arts and its complex and rich connection with science and philosophy in this region during the historical peak of trade and intercultural relations beginning in the 9th century CE might assist us in re-thinking concepts and ideas that are pertinent to explore in the world today. Recalling Ibn al-Haytham today inspires us to understand the relation between the imagined and the perceived, and  to explore the common among humans while understanding their cultural particulars.

The first permanent artwork revealed onsite at Expo 2020 is a gigantic iridescent sculpture by Al Qadiri that references the shape of an oil drill. Its magnified size and reflective colour make it seem like a futuristic creature from outer space. The artist creates aesthetic connections between pearls and oil, through their colour, materiality, symbolism, ecology and economy in order to reimagine the past, present and future of the wider Gulf region. Al Qadiri is a Kuwaiti visual artist, born in Senegal and educated in Japan. She lives and works in Berlin. 

A special part of the programme is curated by Muneera Al Sayegh and Mohammed Al Olama with two works, located next to the UAE Pavilion, that explore the role of monuments in the local landscape and their connection with memory, architecture and nature. 

Within the urban experience of the Expo 2020 Dubai site, the Public Art Programme aims to inspire the visitor to create their own personal comprehension and a critical reimagining of the world.  We are inviting our visitors to interact and engage on a global stage to discover and share ideas, visions and narratives. 

With over 190 participating countries, Expo 2020 Dubai will run from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, inviting visitors from every corner of the globe to discover a wide range of cultural and artistic initiatives dedicated to broadening horizons and bringing people, communities and nations together.

Curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Press Office 
On-call contact, [​at​] / T +971 56 688 9509 
P.O. Box 2020, Dubai, UAE

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July 4, 2021

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