A show for our times

The landmark exhibition ‘Unity in Diversity’ celebrates art’s ability to build bridges across divides, while reminding us of what we can achieve when we set aside our differences 

An exclusive, first-time collective art exhibition in Dubai is offering visitors a wonderful opportunity to view a richly diverse and exciting range of works under one roof on topical themes that are well suited to the unprecedented times in which we’ve all been living.

Titled ‘Unity in Diversity’, the show runs from September 28 to October 12 in the upper studio of Dubai Opera House – a sublime space located directly above the theatre, well suited to showcasing the exceptional display of exhibits, which includes oil paintings, calligraphy and sculptures, among others. 

The groundbreaking exhibition is a first-time project for the newly created Khawla Art & Culture Foundation, which was set up by the renowned calligrapher, artist and poet, Her Highness Sheikha Khawla Bint Ahmed Bin Khalifa Al-Suwaidi, wife of H.H. Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s National Security Advisor.

In line with the show’s theme, visitors will find a total of 50 works by 40 artists hailing from 10 different countries spanning the continents, with the unique style of each participant celebrated, from their individual treatment of the media with which they work to the themes they choose to explore. An additional 24 works by Sheikha Khawla herself, on show for the first time in the UAE, are undoubtedly a highlight.

A spokesperson for Khawla Art & Culture explained that the theme of the show was deeply rooted in the events of the past 18 months and their impact on us all as a global population. “When the pandemic arrived, we collectively found ourselves facing the same threat, the same enemy, which meant we had to find a way of uniting and consider putting to one side other regional or internal issues,” he said. “The Khawla Art & Culture Foundation believes that art is one of the strongest tools in existence for bringing people together peacefully, with an unrivalled ability to build bridges across divides. Against that backdrop, we’re delighted to be holding what is clearly a highly relevant exhibition.”

Plenty of thought went into the choice of venue for the show, with Dubai Opera House’s iconic status, architectural prowess and cultural significance proving to be a winning combination. The artworks are carefully and immaculately displayed, with thought and precision, along the length of the space, and Sheikha Khawla’s exhibits showcased in a studio one floor up.

The spokesperson added that Dubai itself also checked all the boxes as the ideal location for a show exploring the themes of unity and diversity.

“Dubai is currently home to expats of around 120 nationalities, with the eclectic workforce providing a fantastic example of how people can come together in a well organised, well regulated market to be successful on both a personal and national level,” he said. “The emirate really does reflect the title of the show and, at a time when there are still problems in the region, it’s a great example of what unity in diversity can achieve.”

Hopes are high that the exhibition will prove to be a draw for international visitors, coming at a time when many art lovers across the world have shared their desire to step out of a solely virtual world and view some glorious artworks in person. “The opportunities to stand in front of the works, viewing them to scale and taking in the texture and colours – those feelings have been sorely missed and demand for a return to physical shows is definitely there,” the representative said.

The mix of participating artists is as exciting as it is varied, with a wealth of talented creatives involved from Italy, Morocco, Syria, Pakistan, Argentina, Iran, Lebanon and the UAE itself, to name just some. In keeping with the themes, some artists’ work reflects their own diverse journeys, whether through crossovers of styles or due to major life changes, such as emigration. Unsurprisingly, given Sheikha Khawla’s passion for the genre, calligraphy is to the fore in the show, given a variety of treatments and displaying fascinating experimentation.

“That’s one of the wonderful aspects of the show – it’s of our time, pushing boundaries and championing diversity, while also reaffirming everything that the foundation stands for, which includes supporting international artists and highlighting the region’s cultural heritage to enrich lives around the globe,” the representative said. “We look forward to welcoming visitors from near and far to this landmark exhibition.”

 ‘Unity in Diversity’ runs until October 12 on the upper floor of Dubai Opera House, Dubai, UAE.

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