Emirati design and heritage exhibited at Warehouse421 opening


Anyone with even the slightest interest in arts and design flocked to Abu Dhabi last weekend to attend the opening of the capital’s newest culture space, aiming to bring forward the essence of design that originated in the UAE and now presented to the public.

“The Foundation is committed to supporting emerging artists, building new audiences within the cultural sector, connecting Emirati artists with international audiences, and supporting innovative efforts to preserve and share the nation’s cultural heritage,” says Iman Alkhoori, communications manager at the Salma bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.


“In alignment with Abu Dhabi’s Vision 2030 the Foundation aims to develop Warehouse421 as a place that will nurture, advance and enhance the creativity for and throughout the UAE art community.”

Commissioned by the Foundation, the Warehouse421 was designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The architects selected two existing warehouse spaces within Mina Zayed Port, Abu Dhabi’s oldest and main port, and transformed them into a single exhibition space with the intention to preserve and regenerate parts of the city’s history and heritage.

“BIG’s design for Warehouse421 is the unlikely hybrid of generic industrial modernism and traditional Arabian architecture. The new art gallery forms the first step in re-creating the industrial Mina Zayed port site as the birthplace of an authentic contemporary Arabian vernacular,” said Bjarke Ingels, founding partner at BIG in a release.

The architect held a talk during the first day of the opening as part of Abu Dhabi Art’s ‘Talks’ programme, highlighting the firm’s list of innovative projects that allow the public to play an integral role in the design.

Read our coverage of Bjarke Ingel’s talk in the upcoming days 

As the epicenter of Mina Zayed, Warehouse421 will serve as the main gallery, hosting key exhibitions which will continue to run beyond the duration of the launch event. Exploring the themes of memory and transformation, two elements which play a strong part in the growth and establishment of Abu Dhabi as well as the 44 years of the UAE’s history, the exhibition of photographs and three dimensional models create visual representations of the early beginnings and the value placed on maintaining such foundations.

Through a series of photographs spanning 49 years, Lest We Forget: Emirati Family Photographs 1950-1999, presents an examination of the ideals of memory and creative expression, curated by Michelle Bambling, who also curated an exhibition under the same name as part of the 55th annual Venice Biennale in Venice.

Shared with the public for the first time, this extensive collection of family photographs by and of the first generations of Emirati citizens can be viewed. Along with this exhibition, an accompanying book details histories and details which present transcriptions of the inter- and intra-generational collaboration moving from grainy black and white prints, to glossy coloured polaroids.

Another exhibition which aimed to artistically explore the idea of transformation, as well as highlight the actuality of Mina Zayed and Warehouse421 is ‘1:100 The Warehouse Reimagined’ which presented various artistic representations of 3-dimensional warehouse models. All works had been submitted in response to an artists’ call at the beginning of the year to imagine transformations exploring the preservation in revolutionary cities.

The third key exhibit is titled ‘Mina Zayed: Through the Lens of Jack Burlot’ which takes viewers through a day in the life of people in the Al Mina area. Personal moments are visually captured by the French photographer Jack Burlot, who first visited Abu Dhabi in 1974, providing an unobserved insight into their homes, way of living, daily happenings, qualities and characteristics.

A short distance from, yet within the overall exhibition programme of Warehouse421, is an additional warehouse which showcases a selection of works from the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship program. On for a limited time past the opening weekend, the exhibition ‘Art, Process & Practice’ presents the individual developments and procedures of creating art.

Additionally, a temporary pedestrianised road outside of the warehouse was added to the overall event to enable visitors to explore the creative market where 25 leading designers in the Arab region showcased products and installations housed in temporary recycled shipping containers. Designers such as Khalid Shafar, Aljoud Lootah, Nadine Kanso and Etqaan all showcased their latest designs and installations.



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