The Art Gallery at New York University Abu Dhabi recently announced a major solo exhibition of work by internationally-renowned sculptor Diana Al-Hadid. The Syrian-born artist’s 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 7,000 square foot gallery.
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 Al-Hadid’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 Al-Hadid’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 coloured shimmering wall panels, Al-Hadid responds to the Renaissance triptych, Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello. Like Uccello, Al-Hadid experiments and expands the pictorial space in her panels, oscillating between painting and sculpture.
Artist Diana Al-Hadid said: “It’s an absolute privilege to work with the NYU Abu Dhabi gallery staff. They have a deep respect for artists’ needs and a tremendous depth of appreciation for the work itself. 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. This is a time for students to be fearless and develop a voracious appetite for experimentation, discovery and risk. I am honoured to have my work in this environment and I hope it will stimulate some engaging conversations.”
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). The exhibition derives in part from an exhibition at The Secession in Vienna, where Al-Hadid premiered the Phantom Limb sculpture.