The organisers of Abu Dhabi Art chose 23 March to announce that Monira Al Qadiri “has been commissioned to provide works for the visual campaign of Abu Dhabi Art 2018”. Surely this couldn’t have been timed to compete for the attention of the local press with Art Dubai (22-24 March)?
Probably just a complete coincidence. It’s a significant statement, though; Monira Al Qadiri – Kuwaiti, born in Senegal, largely educated in Japan – is genuinely a big name in contemporary art in and around the Gulf, an original thinker and cross-media artist with a very relevant take on the oil economy.
Abu Dhabi Art will be displaying works from her oil-bit sculpture series Spectrum 1 & 2, Amorphous Solid Ghost, and Alien Technology.
Alien Technology (2014, above) is a large-scale public sculpture originally commissioned by the Arab Fund for Art and Culture and displayed in the Al Shindagha Heritage Village; it’s a huge drill bit with an iridescent sheen that hints at the Gulf’s pearling economy and its replacement by oil. The drill bit is the basis of the wealth of the region, largely unseen – it’s usually drilling underground, after all – but made dramatically visible here.
The drill bit also figures in the other two series that Abu Dhabi Art is taking. Amorphous Solid Ghost (2017) again starts with oil drill heads, but this time uses iridescent Murano glass. The “amorphous solid” in question is the scientific name for frozen liquid sand – the actual material that glass is made of – and conflates the meaning with the ever-changing methods of wealth production and energy generation, and the cultural legacy that they both helped found.
And Spectrum 1 & 2 summarise her thinking quite effectively. Originally displayed at Jeddah’s ATHR gallery in 2016, they are a series of 3D printed objects based on the heads of oil drills and presented as “an alien intruder that dramatically changed the historical narrative of an entire region”.
Selected works from these series will be on display at Abu Dhabi Art in November. Monira Al Qadiri said she was honoured to be featured at the art fair: “My work attempts to blend past, present and future in the Gulf, and I feel this is a perfect opportunity to highlight and reflect on these topics”.
Abu Dhabi Art Director Dyala Nusseibeh described Monira Al Qadiri as “a fascinating artist” and said “we are excited to be collaborating with her for this year’s edition of Abu Dhabi Art.
“Her oil drill sculptures, painted with pearlescent hues, are compelling. Re-presented out of context, they allude to a fictional archaeologist in an imagined future, unearthing artefacts of beauty. We are asked to consider the Gulf in the ‘post-contemporary’ – to imagine a world that has moved beyond oil consumption and forgotten its pearl diving heritage, a future in which the tools of our time have become obsolete objects of beauty.”