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The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Abu Dhabi

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The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

  • The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi Abu Dhab UAE (map)

The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Art Community, 1988-2008

The spring exhibition at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery surveys one of the most important artistic communities in this country’s history.

Community has played a key role in every modern art historical breakthrough, with artists banding together around manifestos or turning to one another for support when art institutions rejected their innovations. Art communities grow out of critical and creative exchange among peers and mentors.

But We Cannot See Them focuses on one community of artists, sometimes called “the five”, at an intersection of visual artists, writers, and filmmakers based in the UAE. Its members identified with a “new culture” of encouraging radical, formal and conceptual experimentation.  Eventually, some of these artists founded the celebrated Flying House.

In tandem with this exhibition, The NYUAD Art Gallery is publishing of a book of interviews with the artists. Together, the exhibition and book begin the process of tracing this pivotal artistic community in the key years of its formation.

But We Cannot See Them is curated by Maya Allison, with Exhibitions Curator Bana Kattan, with research and program development by Programs Curator Alaa Edris. It includes archival material and videotaped interviews with members of the community, alongside artworks from the 1988 through 2008, as well as a reading room of work from other important members of the community, including Cristiana De Marchi, Adel Khozam, and Nujoom Al Ghanem.

Artists include: Hassan Sharif, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammed Kazem, Hussain Sharif, Vivek Vilasini, Jos Clevers, and Ebtisam Abdulaziz with contributions from Cristiana De Marchi, Adel Khozam, Nujoom Al Ghanem and Khalid Albudoor.

The title of the exhibition is drawn from a poem written by a key member of the community, poet and filmmaker Nujoom Al Ghanem.


The NYUAD Art Gallery presents museum-quality exhibitions of art and culture across historical and contemporary topics, with a special emphasis on subjects of both regional concern and international significance. Through focused exhibitions, events, and publications, the NYUAD Art Gallery serves as a catalyst and locus of intellectual and creative activity, linking the University with the Abu Dhabi public and a worldwide community of artists, curators, and scholars. Supported by a museum-trained staff, the curatorial platform supports scholarly and experimental installations, artists’ projects, guest curators, and landmark exhibitions. The forthcoming exhibition programme centres on three themes: landscape and the built environment, Islamic art and culture, and art in global dialogue.

Event Information:

2 March-25 May 2017

Location: The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

Open: Mondays –Saturdays, 12:00 - 20:00

+971 2 628 8000



Image captions:

Hassan Sharif
Cardboard and Coir, 1999, Variable dimensions (as shown: 100 x 220 x 180 cm) 
Courtesy Estate of Hassan Sharif and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde

Earlier Event: February 4
Warehouse 421
Later Event: March 7
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi