Meridian International Center and the UAE Embassy Unveil First-Ever Exhibition of Contemporary Emirati Art to be Shown in the United States

May 22, 2014

Media Contacts: Monique McSween | (202) 939-5882
and Kari Mattes-Ritz | (202) 939-2290


Past Forward Exhibition Premieres in Washington, DC; Will Travel Across US Over Next 18 Months

Washington, DC (22 May 2014) – Meridian International Center and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched 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 tells the story of the UAE’s rich history, culture and rapid development through the works of 25 notable Emirati artists. Past Forward represents the first major touring exhibition of Emirati art in the world.

Over 50 paintings, sculptures, photographs and other artwork comprise the exhibition, which will be on public display in Washington, DC through July 13, 2014. The exhibition will then go on a national tour through 2015, and will include stops in Texas, California and Washington. In addition to being on public display while touring the US, Emirati artists whose works are featured in Past Forward will conduct educational outreach, lectures, and workshops.

The exhibition was formally opened at the White-Meyer House at Meridian International Center during a gala reception that was 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 Ambassador 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,” said Ambassador Al Otaiba. “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.”

Additional support for Past Forward is being provided by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and Etihad Airways. The exhibition is co-curated by Dr. Curtis Sandberg, Senior Vice President for Arts and Cultural Programs at the Meridian International Center, and Noor Al Suwaidi, a renowned expert on contemporary Emirati art.

For more information, please visit the Past Forward website and follow the hashtag #PastForward  for updates.


About Meridian International Center 
Headquartered in Washington, DC, Meridian International Center is a premier international leadership organization that provides valuable insight and experiences across borders, cultures, and sectors.

Meridian works with U.S. Department of State, partners in the government, private, NGO, and educational sectors globally to create lasting international partnerships through leadership programs and cultural exchanges. Meridian also connects U.S. and foreign governments with the private sector to respond to global challenges and sustain impact.

Meridian’s mission is to create innovative exchange, educational, cultural, and policy programs that advance three goals:

  • Strengthen U.S. engagement with the world through the power of exchange
  • Prepare public and private sector leaders for a complex global future
  • Provide a neutral forum for international collaboration across sectors

About The United Arab Emirates
The UAE is a source of stability, tolerance, innovation, and growth in the Arabian Gulf and around the globe. The United States and the UAE are reliable allies, with historical and present-day shared security and economic interests. In fact, the UAE is the largest export market for US goods in the Middle East and more US naval vessels visit UAE ports than any other port outside the United States.  The United States and the UAE also enjoy growing social and cultural ties, and many US institutions in education, healthcare and the arts have formed collaborative partnerships with UAE entities.  For more information:

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