Artist Nadim Karam explains his work to Festival Patron, HE Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture, Community & Youth Development; HE Farouk Hosny, former Egyptian Minister of Culture; HE Alain Azouaou, Ambassador of France; and The Rt Hon David Willets, UK Minister for Universities & Science meet.

- Art fairs are not the only attractions in the UAE. For the cognoscenti there is the well-established Abu Dhabi Festival (ADMAF), which, on the one hand, imports the likes of Valery Gergiev, Placido Domingo or Wynton Masalis, and on the other, caters to young graduates and a local community from Gayathi to Ras Al Khaimah. Through its world-class Main Programme, artists are brought together from the four corners of the world in ground-breaking performances, concerts and exhibitions. Partnering with a staggering sixteen institutions, ADMAF connects the cultures of the world in the universal language of artistic expression. Long may it continue.

Tropicalia Pioneer Gilberto Gil blends the rhythms of the world in sold-out show at Emirates Palace.

As Art Dubai was winding down, I was able to make the short journey to Abu Dhabi to attend an extraordinary performance by Gilberto Gil, iconic father of Brazilian Tropicalia. An adoring audience swayed to music from the backstreets of Bahia, to Jamaica, to Copacabana, and even a few fusion numbers alongside the lovely Egyptian Dina El Wedidi. Presided over by the newly-appointed Culture Minister H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mabarak Al Nahyan (formerly Minister of Higher Education), H.E. Huda El-Khemis-Kanoo (Festival Founder), several Ambassadors, ADF Advisor Princess Irina Zu Sayn Wittgenstein Berleburg and various other luminaries, no one was able to resist the beat!

HE Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo, ADMAF Founder.

Before going down to the state-of-the-art Emirates Palace Auditorium however, I was able to take in yet another important exhibition. 25 Years of Arab Creativity has travelled to Abu Dhabi from its original, sprawling home at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris where it filled even the Zaha Hadid Pavilion. Here it appeared in a reduced and differently curated version by Ehab El Labban and ADMAF. This second incarnation featured new works by Khaled Hafez and prize-winning Waheeda Malullah from Bahrain, and showcased an additional section called “Three Generations” – ten works by Emirati artists that provide a revealing snapshot of local art. I was delighted to see that some of my favourite pieces had travelled from Paris: Abdulnasser Gharem’s Insha Allah, Saudi Maha Malluh’s canvas, the two Mystic Dance gestural paintings, and last but not least, Nadim Karam’s superb 2012 Closets and Closets. I could look at this work till dawn and still find something to discover! The only small disappointment was the lack of a suitable space to accommodate Ayman Baalbaki’s amazing tent, which features lovers’ texts as a many-layered statement.

The flowing thread through all these superb offerings is the hand of its founder, H.E. Huda Kanoo who tirelessly and magically conjures – year after year – a cultural programme that is the envy of other growing capitals.