Press Releases


Warehouse421 Brings Home for the First Time Recent Exhibitions Shown by the UAE to the World at the Venice Biennale

‘Untold Stories Retold – Recent Exhibitions from the UAE’s National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale’ presents the UAE’s efforts to showcase the nation’s art, architecture and culture on a global stage

Warehouse421 announces its newest exhibition, ‘Untold Stories Retold - Recent Exhibitions from the UAE's National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale’ running until 24 June.  Developed in Partnership with the National Pavilion UAE-La Biennale di Venezia, this exhibition brings to the UAE for the first time two recent exhibitions curated for UAE’s National Pavilion at the 2016 Architecture and 2017 Art editions of the Venice Biennale, otherwise known as the ‘Olympics of the art world’.

‘Transformations: The Emirati National House’ and ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play’ were originally featured as part of the Venice Biennale’s 15th International Architecture Exhibition and 57th International Art Exhibition respectively. ‘Untold Stories Retold’ will bring these stories back home, enabling many members of the UAE public to experience them for the first time while learning about how the UAE’s unique heritage and contemporary culture is presented and communicated to international audiences at the prestigious cultural event in Italy.

 ‘Untold Stories Retold’ will commence with an overview of the UAE’s involvement in the Venice Biennale, which began with its participation in 2009, and evolved in 2013 when the UAE Government signed a twenty-year agreement establishing a permanent National Pavilion for art and architecture – cementing the nation’s position as the region’s leading voice in the creative arts. The content of the two exhibitions from 2016 and 2017 will be reinterpreted for the space at Warehouse421.

Offering a rare glimpse behind-the-scenes into the making of a National Exhibition, ‘Untold Stories Retold’ will inform audiences about the Venice Biennale and about the ways in which the UAE’s participation serves as a powerful platform for cultural exchange, showcasing the country’s rich artistic and architectural scene international audience.

Laila Binbrek, Coordinating Director of the National Pavilion UAE, explained “The UAE’s participation in the Venice Biennale is a powerful example of the UAE’s commitment to participating in the global artistic and architectural dialogue.  Each year, the National Pavilion UAE oversees the production of a significant amount of original research which informs each exhibition and the accompanying publications.  We are so pleased that, by bringing these exhibitions back to the UAE, we are able to share these inspiring stories and deep thinking with new audiences.”

Faisal Al Hassan, Manager at Warehouse421, welcomed the upcoming show, saying “We are delighted to present these fascinating exhibitions to the UAE public following their successful runs at the Venice Biennale. We hope that this exhibition will help raise public awareness on the outstanding work the UAE is doing in bringing the Nation’s culture to an international audience. The themes of both exhibitions are fully aligned with our mission to promote and nurture the talents of local artists and creative professionals, while encouraging a broader segment of the community to engage with culture by increasing understanding of art and architecture practices in the UAE.”

The first of the returning exhibitions is ‘Transformations: The Emirati National House’ (2016), which explores the development and history of the sha’bi (folk) house, and the contemporary experiences of families who still live in these neighborhoods today. Sha’bi houses were introduced to offer permanent homes to the UAE’s population from the 1970s onwards, as part of a national development plan; they were constructed from a standard model, and over the years, residents made their own modifications, reflecting changing lifestyles in the UAE. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding President of the UAE and former Ruler of Abu Dhabi, is closely associated with the history of these unique dwellings, having overseen the construction of the first Sha’abi houses as a gift to the nation during the earliest years of the UAE Federation. The exhibition contains archival materials, technical architectural analysis and a series of commissioned images by Emirati photographer Reem Falaknaz. It was originally curated by Yasser Elsheshtawy, a noted expert on regional architecture and urban planning.

The second is 2017’s ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play’, a group show presenting works by five UAE-based artists: Nujoom Alghanem, Vikram Divecha, Sara Al Haddad, Lantian Xie and Dr. Mohamed Yousif. It explores the concept of ‘playfulness’ as a connecting thread across multiple generations of artistic practice in the UAE, through diverse installation works. The exhibition was originally curated by independent curator and writer Hammad Nasar, and is in keeping with Warehouse421’s agenda to encourage the talents of local creatives and offer a welcoming space in which they can practice their craft.

The Venice Biennale is a 123-year old annual event which attracts over half a million visitors from an array of countries, backgrounds and creative disciplines. A truly global gathering, more than 85 countries present their own national pavilion in its alternating art and architecture exhibitions.

For each edition of the Venice Biennale, the National Pavilion UAE appoints and works with a curator to develop a six-month exhibition exploring aspects of the UAE’s art or architecture. The UAE has hosted a national exhibition in the Venice Biennale’s International Art Exhibition since 2009 and its International Architecture Exhibition since 2014. In 2013, the UAE Government signed a twenty-year agreement establishing a permanent national pavilion for art and architecture at the Venice Biennale. Supported by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, the National Pavilion UAE is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.

The ‘Untold Stories Retold’ exhibition takes place at Warehouse421 in Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed area and will run from 7 March until 24 June 2018.