In Conversation With Founder Of Abu Dhabi Arts Society

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Apr 6 2020 / 09:00 AM

The Abu Dhabi Arts society is engaging art enthusiasts from all walks of life. BAZAAR Art discusses with founder Dr. Hamed Al Suwaidi the ways in which the non-profit organisation is shining a light on budding and established artists in the Middle East

In Conversation With Founder Of Abu Dhabi Arts Society
Courtesy of ADAS
Reverend Canon Andy Thompson with Dr. Hamed at Al Suwaidi Majlis. 2019

When was Abu Dhabi Arts Society (ADAS) established and what was the vision you had for the non-profit organisation?

Abu Dhabi Arts Society was established in 2019 with the intent of honouring past Emirati poets and artists, promoting emerging artists from all nationalities and managing and funding cultural projects. ADAS is committed to enhancing the cultural environment of the community by supporting artists who bridge the cultural divide, unifying people and cultures of all backgrounds, and preserving the artistic heritage.

The organisation aims to highlight the beauty of Emirati culture through certain initiatives and special projects. It further promotes non-Emirati and Emirati artists who might not necessarily find the right platform to pursue their creative careers and assembles history projects that shed light on prominent figures who represent the past and the future of the UAE through fine arts, poetry and other mediums.

What are some of the ways the organisation aims to break down cultural barriers?

ADAS aims to break down cultural barriers by integrating homegrown Emirati projects with renowned international projects and showcasing them here in the UAE. For example, we have worked closely with our colleagues in Scotland to develop the first Emirati tartan where the UAE flag colours were woven into the beautiful pattern. 

Many other similar projects have taken place between the UAE and the UK, and they were highly received by both countries. In addition, ADAS strives to broaden the reach of these events to encourage a warm atmosphere based on mutual appreciation and engage art enthusiasts from one generation to the next. When the chance arises, we aim to sponsor cultural exchange programs and promote both Emirati and non-Emirati art and showcase them in the West.

Dr. Hamed Al Suwaidi at Blenheim Palace

How do the events hosted by ADAS aim to connect artists, collectors, scholars and enthusiasts?

We have hosted several networking events related to art that aimed to bring local and international artists, poets and historians from different regions to discuss collaborations. We also arranged for a few private showcases in which we hosted international collectors from the UK to bring and reveal a unique collection of limited art pieces that will be displayed in galleries and museums around the UAE in the near future.

One such example is of an 18th century masterpiece painting titled Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy which was presented to us last July 2019 on permanent loan from Patrick Moody, British Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. This gift was a token of goodwill from the UK to the UAE as a symbol of the enduring friendship between the two countries in the Year of Tolerance 2019.

In your opinion, why is it important to promote art in the Middle Eastern region? 

Culturally speaking, the Middle Eastern region holds an immense heritage of art and has been a major influence and inspiration for artists around the world. The Middle Eastern countries are known for their unique historical museums and with tourism being a key element in many countries, more museums, galleries and other platforms are emerging.      

In what ways do you think visual art, poetry and music can be used to shine a light on traditional and emerging artists?                           

One of the key aspects in which visual arts, poetry and music can highlight the realm of artistry is by providing the necessary tools and resources that artists use to communicate their passion and their message to the world. 

Education and knowledge can have a profound impact on emerging artists who wish to expand their creative mindset. In the UAE, we are proud of many young talents that are emerging that aim to preserve the cultural heritage of the UAE. Many of the prominent UAE figures in the community thrive with their many talents such as poetry, crafts and other skills. They set an outstanding standard for others who are following in their footsteps.

What are the plans for ADAS in 2020?

We have a range of projects and collaborations that we will announce soon. They will include promoting work by prominent Emirati figures (men and women), from the past and sponsoring emerging native and non-native artists who are pushing boundaries with their work and looking for a platform to shine. 

I would like to remind the current art institutes on the importance of investing in artists that might not necessarily find an outlet for their work and provide a stepping stone for them as they are the future of the content artistic creation and expression in the community.

All images courtesy Abu Dhabi Arts Society

From the Spring 2020 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Art