T he UK and the UAE have had a longstanding historical relationship. The start of the season has been marked by a flurry of activities between the two countries, with indication of more to come. Last week, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation attended the launch in central London of the Emirates Society, brainchild of His Excellency Sulaiman Al Mazroui, the UAE Ambassador to Britain, and in the presence of Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister for Culture, as well as His Excellency Dr Zaki Nusseibeh Minister of State, His Excellency Muhamad Khalifa Al Mubarak Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, His Excellency Saif Saeed Ghobash DCT Director General, and Rita Aoun, Executive Director of Culture of DCT.
This is an initiative to broaden links between the two countries, and a marker of not just the longstanding relationship but also of the fact that Britain currently accounts for the largest foreign direct investment into the UAE. The mission of the Society is to promote an understanding of Emirati Culture and strengthen ties between British and Emirati businesses through cultural and social events. With evidence of bilateral collaborations abounding in the UK – from DP World’s London Gateway, to the Manchester City football team, and Masdar’s clean energy investments in Scotland - Emirati links in Britain are here to stay and feed into Britain’s need to create new business opportunities in light of Brexit.
On the art side, Somerset House is currently hosting an exciting Design Biennale in its magnificent premises, and one of the chief attractions is a work by Emirati Tinkah.ae – a provocative installation entitled Time is Subjective. It refers to the speed of change throughout the seven Emirates and captures the viewer through the use of hour-glasses seemingly suspended in mid-air which rotate intermittently and give new meaning to the concept of ‘shifting sands’. “Time can feel so tactile, something you can almost touch,” the designers explain. “Our project elevates the UAE’s primary texture, desert sand, in the controllable element of passing time.” The UAE, Tinkah says, “is in a constant state of motion, achieving milestones no one thought possible.” While a year feels like forever in our youth, as we get older it seems to pass in a blink. This subjectivity should give cause for reconsidering how we experience the passage of time.
Meanwhile, a new gallery has been born and re-named at the British Museum. The Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Gallery of Europe and the Middle East features some fascinating artefacts and relics, some of which date to the Bronze Age and remind us what able craftsmen our progenitors were. My eye was caught by a superb neck-piece which would have been a burial item of a person of high status, and also two precious cups dating to the later stages of the Early Bronze Age. These vessels would have been in the grave of a specific person so they must, in life, have been associated with someone who was a guardian of sacred knowledge and may have played an important role in certain rituals.
With the Tenth Anniversary edition of Abu Dhabi Art coming up on November 14 and the continued success of Louvre Abu Dhabi, the synergies will undoubtedly continue to bear fruit.