Saadiyat to inspire new era of rapproachment
Abu Dhabi, June 1, 2008
The emergence of the cultural district of Saadiyat Island, the 27 sq km island lying offshore the capital of the UAE, is heralding a new era of cross-cultural rapprochement, according to one of America’s most distinguished art historians.
Speaking on the sidelines of a public symposium in Abu Dhabi on the work of Pablo Picasso, Irving Lavin, professor emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute of Advanced Study, hailed the initiative and its associated cultural education programme as “a great act of imagination.”
‘Picasso Abu Dhabi: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris’ is being presented by Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), one of Abu Dhabi’s leading developers and the name behind Saadiyat Island and its cultural district, in conjunction with Mubadala, a wholly-owned investment vehicle of the government of Abu Dhabi.
“Many US scholars are studying Islam and the culture of Islamic countries because we have realised that we collectively have a lack of understanding about this. This phenomenon is not, however, being reversed to the same extent in this part of the world, but it will be,” said Professor Lavin.
“The Saadiyat Island Cultural District project, with its inclusion of European and Western art, will encourage greater study of the West which will inspire a new age of rapprochement which hopefully will work. Then none of us will have the excuse to be quick to say that we don’t understand each other. In this context, the initiative represents a great act of imagination.”
Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District will be home to the world’s largest single concentration of premier cultural institutions including the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a performing arts centre and maritime museum.
Professor Lavin was making his first visit to the UAE as guest speaker at a public symposium held in the Emirates Palace to explore the works of Pablo Picasso.
The symposium, during which Professor Lavin shared the stage with Anne Baldassari, director, Musée National Paris, Picasso, coincided with the opening of ‘Picasso Abu Dhabi: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris,’ the Arab world’s first exhibition of Picasso’s works.
He described the public exhibition, which runs until September 4, as “astonishing” and said it represents a visual autobiography of the Spanish master’s work and life.
“This exhibition is 99 per cent the legacy of Picasso’s own studio and that is what makes it truly astonishing. These are works which, coming from his own enormous repository, had particular meaning for him. Together they are an autobiography of the man and his life,” he said.
Professor Lavin said the exhibition, which features 186 paintings, sculptures and drawings, has universal appeal and will help ignite local interest in modern art even among those knowing little about the subject.
“Those who are just beginning to explore the subject are the best people to visit,” said Prof. Lavin, “By visiting they will get, in one place, an insight into the whole history of modern art.”
He praised Baldassari’s “innovative” curatorial vision, saying, “Anne’s arrangement of certain pieces – sometimes bringing together works which on the surface would appear unassociated, fires the imagination and really makes you think,” he said.
Abu Dhabi is the second destination on the exhibition’s nine-nation international tour; however, Baldassari says, the presentation at UAE capital is unique:
“I strive to ensure that every exhibition is different and certainly the Abu Dhabi showing varies quite considerably – not least because some works are exclusive to it. So, this is a distinct exhibition and one which I believe fits well with the UAE capital’s arts education programme.”
‘Picasso Abu Dhabi: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso,<
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