A Message from Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba

This exhibition represents an important “first” for the United Arab Emirates. Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates is the first-ever major touring exhibition of Emirati art abroad. The debut of this exhibition in the United States underscores a shared appreciation for culture and the arts, and demonstrates the deep friendship between our two countries.

Before the UAE was founded, local people used spoken forms of art, such as Arabic poetry and storytelling, to convey the hardships of daily life and share lessons from one generation to the next. Today, visual arts may dominate the scene, but woven through this exhibition is a timeless story that resonates across cultures: preserving traditional values in a rapidly changing world.

At the nexus of the UAE’s efforts are national initiatives designed to revive traditions while offering opportunities to experience art and culture in new ways. Nothing exemplifies this effort more than Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, which will be home to the Zayed National Museum, Maritime Museum, and other national treasures, and will also feature local branches of the world-renowned Guggenheim Museum and the Louvre. Dubai will highlight the arts with the forthcoming Modern Art Museum & Opera House District. Sharjah, meanwhile, already hosts internationally recognized events like the Sharjah Biennial.

The UAE is proud to reveal a glimpse of its artistic heritage and contemporary talent to the United States with this special exhibition. This display, showcasing over fifty carefully chosen artworks, will take visitors on a visual journey from the UAE’s founding in 1971 to its rapid development into a vibrant regional art hub.

We are honored to have collaborated on this important initiative with Ambassador Stuart Holliday and the entire team at Meridian International Center. Together with the artists, we invite you to become inspired and discover the UAE through your own eyes.

Yousef Al Otaiba

Ambassador to the United States

Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C.