Internationally-renowned sculptor Diana Al-Hadid’s work will be showcased in her first major solo exhibition in the Arab world, taking place at The Art Gallery, New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), from early March. FACT learns more about the intriguing work going on display…

If you ’re into the art of sculpture then you’re likely to have come across the name Diana Al-Hadid. Born in Aleppo, Syria in 1981, and grown up in Ohio, USA, Diana now lives and works in New York City. Her work transforms renaissance and classical imagery into contemporary sculptural forms that appear to be decaying or resurfacing, often in a cascade of white, melting gypsum. Her towering sculptures, spectral wall pieces, and surreal bronzes will fill the 7,000sqft Art Gallery at NYUAD.

phantom limb

The exhibition takes its title from a central work, Phantom Limb, a term referring to the sensations that a missing arm or leg is still present, and able to move. The title captures the character of much of Diana’s work, which evokes memory and long cultural history through a visceral, materially-focused working technique. The theme of memory and its physical manifestations in art and architecture runs throughout the artist’s work. The monumental sculpture of Phantom Limb is framed by two major wall insets: The Sleepwalker and Still Life. The first draws from the 4th Century BC bas-relief Gradiva, while the latter is a reworking of Hans Memling’s 1475 painting Allegory of Chastity. This ensemble travels from the artist’s recent show, The Fates, at the Secession Vienna. These “fates” anchor a series of related sculptures, alongside the world-premiere of an epic new triptych of wall panels.

For these brightly colored, shimmering wall panels, Diana responds to the renaissance triptych, Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello. Like Uccello, she experiments and expands the pictorial space in her panels, oscillating between painting and sculpture. Maya Allison, founding Director of the Art Gallery, and Chief Curator, at NYUAD, says: “I’m delighted that we have this opportunity to present a major solo show of Diana Al-Hadid’s work. Art is always better seen in person, and Al-Hadid’s sculptures in particular have a remarkably visceral presence in the gallery. “She uses source imagery from ancient and renaissance art, and one has the sense that she has worked every element by hand, channeling some ancient shared artistic memory. The mix of art historical references and creative immediacy will bring many different audiences into dialogue – and that is at the core of why the Art Gallery exists: to generate both intellectual and creative activity around museum-quality exhibitions,” she adds

still life

To accompany the exhibition, NYUAD Art Gallery will publish a scholarly catalogue, with texts by Renaissance and contemporary art historians and curators: Reindert Falkenburg (NYU Abu Dhabi),Alistair Rider (University of St. Andrews), and Sara Raza (Guggenheim). “It’s an absolute privilege to work with Maya and the NYU Abu Dhabi Gallery staff,” Diana Al-Hadid says. “They have a deep respect for artists’ needs and a tremendous depth of appreciation for the work itself. I’m confident the exhibition will come together beautifully in their capable hands and will reflect their ambition and generousity of spirit. “It is imperative that university galleries maintain a high standard so students can continually have direct access to challenging work that can be discussed in a critical context,” she continues. “This is a time for students to be fearless and develop a voracious appetite for experimentation, discovery and risk. I am honored to have my work in this environment and I hope it will stimulate some engaging conversations.”

If you’re looking for an intellectual, artistic experience with great historical references – this is where you’ll find it!

GO: Phantom Limb opens March 6 and will be on display until May 28. Call (0)2 628 8000 or visit www.nyuad-artgallery.org for more information.