It was the launch of Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates, a groundbreaking cultural diplomacy program that brings Emirati artwork and artists to the United States (US). The exhibition shares the UAE’s rich history and culture and tells its story of rapid development through the works of 25 notable Emirati artists.
Over 50 paintings, sculptures, photographs and other artwork comprise the exhibition, which will be on public display in DC through July 13, 2014 before a national tour through 2015 that will include stops in Texas, California and Washington. Emirati artists whose works are featured in Past Forward will also conduct educational outreach, lectures, and workshops.
The exhibition was formally opened at the White-Meyer House at Meridian International Center during a gala reception attended by senior US government officials, members of the diplomatic community, business leaders and other friends of Meridian and the UAE. During the event, Meridian International Center President and CEO Ambassador Stuart Holliday stressed the value of cultural diplomacy to increasing dialogue and relationships between communities.
“This is a very exciting venture for Meridian,” said Holliday. “Cultural diplomacy is a powerful tool to find common ground, build lasting relationships, and foster respect. Through this exhibition, Americans can experience the UAE’s diverse heritage and build the foundation for greater understanding between our two countries.”
In remarks delivered during the exhibition’s opening, UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba discussed how Past Forward captures the energy and diversity of the country’s emerging art scene.
“Today is a proud day for the UAE as we launch the first major touring international exhibition of contemporary Emirati artwork,” he said. “The artwork featured in this exhibition embodies the creativity radiating throughout the UAE, and captures the story of our young – but rapidly developing – nation. Art has nourished our culture, informed our thinking, and allowed the UAE to become the modern, open and tolerant country that it is today.”
*Lead image: Artist Maitha Al Mehairbi. Credit, photographer Nick Khazal