On December 2, 2021, The United Arab Emirates celebrates its Golden Jubilee and commemorates fifty years of growth, innovation, and the development of a rich arts and culture scene rooted in both local and international initiatives. Between the Sky and the Earth: Contemporary Art from the UAE, curated by Munira Al Sayegh, springs from a collaboration across borders, across an ocean, and between two institutions: The Middle East Institute’s Arts and Culture Center and The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery. We are honored to provide a platform for the UAE’s 50th anniversary message of inclusivity on this important occasion, and to do so through art. 

It is a privilege to work with Abu Dhabi-based independent curator Munira Al Sayegh, who brought her nuanced understanding of the art communities in the UAE to the conceptualization of this exhibition. Behind the artwork in this show are 12 artists for whom the UAE is home, whether they are originally from the Gulf, the Levant, South Asia or the United States.  Among them are the UAE’s most established, inveterate artists, as well artists for whom this is their first international exhibition. 

Through their eyes, a unique picture of the UAE art scene emerges: a place of complexities and new perceptions, of playful irreverence alongside rigorous investigation. Perhaps most surprising – at least to those who know the UAE only through postcards of world-famous architecture – is to see the details and textures of daily life, and our imagined worlds, as rendered by these artists.

The mission of our two institutions overlaps in a key area: to promote dialogue and exchange around and through art. The MEI Art Gallery is a unique platform in the US nation’s capital dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary and modern art, photography, and video from the region. Located in the Dupont Circle area, close to museums, galleries and think tanks, the MEI Art Gallery promotes the work of the most exciting artists emerging from the Middle East and its diaspora in Washington and beyond.

Established in 2014, The NYUAD Art Gallery is the Gulf’s first and only university gallery with a program of scholarly and experimental museum exhibitions. The program seeks to map new territories and ideas through presenting exhibitions by internationally established artists, curators, and scholars at its main space, while its auxiliary venue, the Project Space, is an exhibition laboratory for the university community, and for emerging artists and curators. 

We look forward to this collaboration as an opportunity to create dialogue across borders through modern and contemporary art.

Kate Seelye
Vice President for Arts, Culture, & Communications, MEI

Maya Allison
Executive Director & Chief Curator, NYU Abu Dhabi

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