Warehouse art at Abu Dhabi

Warehouse art at Abu DhabiWarehouse421 / Image Credit: Courtesy of Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation

Abu Dhabi's art scene is expected to get a boost this month, with a new cultural destination coming online. Inspired by similar concepts around the world, Warehouse421 in the capital's Mina area is part of a project by Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation that aims to convert industrial spaces to creative venues for artists to hold workshops and exhibitions.

''An opportunity came when we found out that some of the industrial operations of the port in Mina Zayed are being moved to the new Khalifa Port,'' explains Khulood Al Atiyat, Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage of the foundation. ''Some warehouses are becoming vacant. We saw that as a chance for the foundation to implement one of its missions, which is to support emerging artists as well as find creative ways to capture and disseminate the cultural heritage of the UAE.''

The cultural significance of Mina Zayed (Arabic for Zayed Port) comes from the venue's history and value as the main gateway for trade in the emirate for the past 40 years. Having opened in 1972, it is Abu Dhabi's oldest commercial port.

Warehouse421, therefore, aims to breathe new life into a location that is near and dear to Emiratis. Iman Al Khouri, Communications Manager at the foundation, says the project is in line with Abu Dhabi's Vision 2030 to diversify the economy and boost creativity in the UAE art community.

''The foundation is committed to supporting emerging artists, connecting Emirati artists with international audiences and supporting efforts to preserve and share the nation's cultural heritage,'' says Al Khouri.

Set to be launched on November 19, Warehouse421 could open doors for similar projects and encourage more developers to look at renovating public spaces, says Al Atiyat. The weekend programme from November 19-21 will offer a series of events for visitors of all ages, featuring art exhibitions, workshops and live performances.

What to expect

During a recent visit by Property Weekly, the venue's exterior appeared ready, but interior work was still in progress. Al Atiyat says they are preparing four exhibitions to be unveiled during the inauguration: Mina Zayed through the Lens of Jack Burlot (until March 19); 1:100 The Warehouse Reimagined (until March 19); Lest We Forget (until June 18); and Art: Process and Practice (until January 23).

Mina Zayed through the Lens of Jack Burlot is a photographic showcase featuring the daily lives of people who live in Mina Zayed and those who often visit its different markets. The 1:100 exhibition displays three-dimensional reimaginations of the exterior of Warehouse421. Lest We Forget showcases Emirati family portraits from 1950-1999, depicting the everyday life of Emiratis and their celebrations. Art: Process and Practice will showcase a selection from the Salama Bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship programme. There will also be a series of workshops covering a variety of crafts such as print-making.

''Given the growing cultural dialogue here, the events from November 19 will introduce visitors to explore various worlds of creative expression, and in turn create dynamic spaces for all audiences,'' says Al Atiyat.

The event is open free of charge to the public. Visitors can also expect live music performances, urban acts, food and beverage offerings and designer markets.

''It will be an opportunity for the people of Abu Dhabi and the people of the UAE to experience arts and culture in various forms rather than just fine arts or the traditional forms of art,'' says Al Atiyat. ''This is a glimpse of what Warehouse421 will be offering in the future.''

More renovations

The Abu Dhabi-based foundation, which develops initiatives in the areas of education, arts, culture, heritage and health, is also converting another warehouse in the same block to be the future home of one its programmes, the Salama Emerging Artists Fellowship.

''The exhibitions that we have planned now have been created by the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. However, in the future there will be an opportunity for external entities to come to us and present their ideas to use this space, so that's something we're always open to,'' says Al Atiyat.

''Warehouse421 is designed to support existing initiatives in Abu Dhabi and in the UAE in general, so it supports the overall ecosystem of galleries and venues for exhibiting, as well as performance spaces.''

Warehouse421's architecture is by Bjarke Ingels Group, an international firm that has been working on parts of Mina Zayed, transforming a number of warehouses into new spaces and functional venues.

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: Sarah Diaa, Special to Property WeeklyPW


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