press release

The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence
March 7–July 29, 2017

The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence is the second exhibition of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection. It brings together more than twenty artists of different nationalities and generations who have emphasised performance, process, and human presence in their practice. The Creative Act offers a transcultural perspective on these defining aspects of contemporary art by highlighting interconnections among artists working in various corners of the globe since the 1960s. The works on view reveal common sources of inspiration, lines of influence, and distinctive contributions. Two commissions featured in the exhibition underscore the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s commitment to supporting the production of new work by living artists.

Performance, Process, Presence

Since the 1960s many artists have adopted performative practices. Sometimes they are the central protagonist and undertake carefully choreographed or spontaneous actions. Other times they simply provide instructions to participants. No matter the approach, performances can unfold in a given time and place, remaining afterward as recordings and documentations. They can also serve primarily as the means for creating discrete objects. The artists in the exhibition stress the importance of process. They produce works that reveal aspects of how they were made, place materiality at the forefront, and allow for transformation over time or in response to viewer interaction. The Creative Act also explores the theme of human presence, manifested by the appearance of the artist or others in the artworks. Some bear visible traces of the physical acts undertaken to realize them. Many works focus on particular locales, among them Abu Dhabi, London, New York, Paris, and Tokyo. Both individually and collectively, they take the viewer on a journey that sheds light on the creative process while inviting reflection on history and the present.

Exhibition Chapters

The exhibition unfolds through a series of chapters, each exploring the three themes. The first chapter presents novel approaches to painting realized through physical actions and the use of everyday materials. This chapter showcases artists working in France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom in the 1960s and includes artworks that stress the role of the viewer in their completion. Among the artists featured in this section are Rasheed Araeen, Julio Le Parc, Motonaga Sadamasa, Niki de Saint Phalle, Shiraga Kazuo, Tanaka Atsuko, Jean Tinguely, Günther Uecker, and Jacques Villeglé.

The second chapter examines conceptual art practices in the United Arab Emirates since the 1980s. The artists in this section—Ebtisam Abdulaziz, Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Mohammed Kazem, and Hassan Sharif—recast routine actions and interrogate issues of personal and social identity through performances captured and preserved in photographs.

The third chapter brings together a series of installations made since 2000 by Susan Hefuna, Anish Kapoor, Anri Sala, and Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian. Their multimedia works draw visitors into powerful sensory encounters and address the impact on art of historic and contemporary sociopolitical events and shifts.