Get involved in 421’s ‘Winter 2023 Program: RE/COLLECT THIS’ featuring exhibitions, workshops and plenty of free activities


New art season features four major exhibitions and over 20 public programs investigating contemporary modes of memory-making.

PARTNER CONTENT: 421, Abu Dhabi’s independent platform dedicated to supporting emerging creative practices, has announced a new line-up of events for its “Winter 2023 Program: RE/COLLECT THIS”, running in tandem with new exhibitions that support emerging artists from the region. The season also includes over 20 artist-led workshops, talks and special events that explore contemporary modes of memory-making.

The winter program is on until 21 March and features “And The Mirrors Are Many”, a group exhibition curated by Mona Al-Jadir that is the result of the 421 Curatorial Development Program, and “Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions”, the first solo exhibition of Mahshid Rafiei, the inaugural recipient of the 2023 edition of the 421 Artistic Development Program.

“The Winter 2023 Program at 421 features four major exhibitions that present the work of emerging artists and creative practitioners from the UAE and across the region,” said Faisal Al Hassan, Head of 421. “Two of these exhibitions, ‘And The Mirrors Are Many’ and ‘Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions’, are the result of two of our capacity-building programs: the Artistic Development Program and the Curatorial Development Program, respectively, which are important initiatives that we launched in 2020 as part of our new strategic vision to catalyse the UAE’s arts ecosystem. The other two exhibitions, with 100/100 and Art Dubai, are the result of long-term partnerships that we’ve established to strengthen and promote an accessible and growing creative ecosystem.”

The public programmes offer an opportunity for people to collectively reflect on the ways that Eurocentric, hegemonic methods of remembering can influence collective self-perception, and ultimately, how we imagine and build our futures.

Apart from workshops and performances, the new season also features home-cooking sessions, cultural tours and excursions and professional development courses. There is also a three-day film programme and a performance symposium, all offering new perspectives on the formation of alternative ways of remembering.

The season also includes a group exhibition curated by multidisciplinary artist, curator and researcher Dania Al Tamimi, “A Biography of a Passage”, presented at Art Dubai in March, and an exhibition featuring the work of 100 designers selected in the fourth round of the 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters design competition.

All exhibitions are open to the public and free to attend. Most of the talks, workshops, and special events are free of charge unless otherwise stated on the 421 website. The venue is open 10am to 8pm, Tuesday to Sunday, and is located in Mina Zayed.

Here’s a rundown of the key exhibitions, workshops, and special events to look forward to at the Winter 2023 Program.


Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions


421’s Winter 2023 Programme
Mahshid Rafiei. Chora, 2023. Of Mythic Proportions exhibition at 421/Abu Dhabi. Courtesy of 421. Photography by Seeing Things/Ismail Noor

The exhibition features a large-scale installation of six newly commissioned works that take up the exhibition space’s Gallery 1. Exploring the myth of origin and the aesthetic processes of its conservation, Of Mythic Proportions includes sculptures and sound pieces where elements are intentionally hidden to offer a deceptive reading and ask visitors to consider how art provides a stand-in for what might be missing. Through this play on illusion and perception, Rafiei suggests that illusion is not the antithesis of truth, but a co-conspirator, guiding us in a world of loss. This exhibition emerged from Rafiei’s research into the UAE’s conservation efforts and the relationship between heritage and nationhood.

Of Mythic Proportions is the inaugural presentation of the 2023 edition of the Artistic Development Program, which is organised in collaboration with pedagogical partner The Institute for Emerging Art. The exhibition will run until 8 May at 421.


And The Mirrors Are Many


421’s Winter 2023 Programme
Installation view: And The Mirrors Are Many exhibition at 421/Abu Dhabi. Courtesy of 421. Photography by Seeing Things/Ismail Noor

The exhibition investigates institutional repositories of memory – the museum, the memorial and the archive – and poses the questions: why do we remember, and how? By examining these contemporary modes of remembering, the exhibition considers the relationship between remembrance and history. The exhibition takes its title from the Mahmoud Darwish poem, “On the Last Evening on This Earth”, as it reflects on the persistence of catastrophic events that continue to inscribe upon the present through traces, armatures and echoes.

“And The Mirrors Are Many” spans a range of mediums, including sculpture, video, and installation to photography, printmaking and textiles. Artists participating in the exhibition include Rand Abdul Jabbar, Nasser Alzayani, Maitha Abdalla, Sara Smarrazzo, Dima Srouji, Emii Alrai, Vikram Divecha, Rohini Devasher, Mirella Salamé, Moza Almatrooshi, Hadeyeh Badri, Reem Al Menhali and Fatima Uzdenova. Artists Fatima Uzdenova and Reem Almenhali will also present performances throughout its runtime. The exhibition is also accompanied by the 200-page publication “Future Perfect, Catastrophe and The Contemporary”, featuring contributions from Rohit Goel, Frank Ruda, Walid Sadek, Mays Albaik, Ala Younis, Isaac Sullivan, Veeranganakumari Solanki and Rico Franci.

Don’t miss the free special guided tours of the exhibition led by the curator herself, Mona Al-Jadir. The 45-minute tour includes an in-depth discussion around the themes of the exhibition and an overview of the artworks on display. The tour also includes a performance by artist Reem Almenahli.

Held on selected Saturdays, tours can be booked in advance on the 421 website for the following dates: March 11 and 18 and April 8 and 22. For tailored university tours, send an email to [email protected].

The exhibition will run until 8 May at 421.


Round 4: 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters Exhibition


421’s Winter 2023 Programme
Installation view: Round 4: 100/100 Hundred Best Arabic Posters exhibition at 421/Abu Dhabi. Courtesy of 421. Photography by The Frei

This year’s edition of the 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters competition drew thousands of submissions from over 40 countries. Selected entries will be presented at an exhibition at the 421 campus. The 100 design-focused posters celebrate the diverse cultural aesthetics and rich creative landscape of the region, and demonstrate the plasticity of the Arabic language in its lively relationship to design. A marker for culture, heritage and history, the exhibition acts as a critical archive of Arab-born design and type.

The 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters is founded by a group of academics and students from Cairo that features the Arab world’s visual culture through selecting and highlighting the best Arabic posters from the region. ⁠The exhibition will run until 5 March at the Outdoor Plaza of 421.


A Biography of a Passage 


421’s Winter 2023 Programme
Tilika D’Souza. Reef Memories, 2019. Watercolor on cotton paper. Courtesy of 421. Photography by Seeing Things/Ismail Noor

The group exhibition will feature the work of 10 emerging artists from the region. It will be presented at Art Dubai, which marks its second year of collaboration with 421. The exhibition examines the concept of time as the binding element to the definition of the biography of objects, the active archival of lives, and the solidification of experiences. Al Tamimi pulls together artworks that ask: does time move through you, or do you move through time? The exhibition will be held from 3-5 March at Art Dubai.


The Living Archive


421’s Winter 2023 Programme

As part of the Winter 2023 Season, 421 invites visitors to head to the front desk to pick up recycled “seed paper”, which includes various fruit and vegetable seeds to be planted in the pots located in 421’s Courtyard 4. The seed paper should be planted after writing a meaningful memory on it. A unique activity that explores the relationship between memory and life, this collaborative community installation accumulates and grows over time, carrying the collective memories of all participants. An unofficial archive of this project will be published when the season concludes. Participation is free and open to all.


Talks, Workshop, and Special Events


421’s Winter 2023 Programme

The Winter 2023 Program includes an exciting lineup of workshops, talks and special events, which kicked off in February with artist Augustine Paredes leading a one-day intensive workshop, “Remember to Forget to Remember”, that invited participants to explore alternative techniques using photographs, personal archives, objects and poetry. “Introduction to Palestinian Tatreez” also takes place in February, led by Joanna Barakat, who will introduce the history of this traditional practice.

In March, artist Fatema Al Fardan will lead a one-day experimental writing workshop, “List it Out”, that explores list-making as part poetry, part prose and part autobiography. “Excavating 421: Archiving the Present” with artist Hala El Abora, also in March, will include an excursion around the 421 neighbourhood to explore and unearth the urban environment in Mina Zayed.

Also in March is a second iteration of the “421 Neighborhood Food Tour” in Mina Zayed, which takes participants on a journey through the histories of various UAE migrant communities who have made Abu Dhabi their home. The anticipated “Jamming Sessions: Homecooking Series” is also back, this time bringing a mother-daughter duo to lead a homemade Za’atar-making session.

March will also see a special collaboration with Cinema Akil, including a three-day programme of film screenings, panel discussions and talks celebrating Arab cinema, taking place mostly outdoors in the 421 Plaza. The three-day course “The Artist Toolkit: Strategies for Applying to Open Calls” led by mentor Jolaine Frizzell will address the challenges artists and creative practitioners face when applying for open calls, grants and other career opportunities. The season also includes a number of exciting Culture Bus trips to various cultural destinations such as Maraya Arts Center, 1971 Design, Sharjah Biennial 15, March Meeting, Art Dubai and more.

For more details about the Winter 2023 Program, visit the 421 website.


Capacity Building Programs


421’s Winter 2023 Programme

Artists are invited to apply for the 2024 cycle of the Artistic Development Program. Open to UAE-based early-mid career artists and creative practitioners, the programme offers recipients a AED 10,000 participation grant and guidance from experienced art educators, interlocutors and curators to produce a new body of work that will be presented in a solo exhibition next year. The programme focuses on the conceptual development, realisation and production of projects for the exhibition with scheduled group crits and discussion circles to support artists selected for the programme. Examples of this programme’s outcomes include the Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions exhibition.

Applications are accepted online until 26 March. For more information, visit 421.online/en/opportunities/artistic-development-program.


The Docent Program


421’s Winter 2023 Programme

Graduate and postgraduate students are invited to apply for the Docent Program at 421, an initiative that gives young professionals a unique opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge for a future career in the arts. The programme provides specialised training with industry professionals, educators, and curators to be able to conduct engaging and accessible exhibition tours to 421 visitors.

The programme also includes training around how to engage with people of determination, families and children, and other community groups who book guided tours through the 421 gallery spaces. To learn more about this programme, visit 421.online/en/opportunities/docents-program.


Internship and Mentorship Program


421’s Winter 2023 Programme

The 421 Internship and Mentorship Program offers early career development support and professional preparation opportunities for emerging creative professionals from diverse backgrounds. The programme takes place on-site, and offers selected participants the opportunity to be immersed in a cultural centre’s operations across various departments.

The internship will run from July to December. Three applicants will be accepted for this cycle of the programme. Interns can choose to apply for the following departments: Administration and Project Management, Communications and Marketing, Learning Initiatives and Programs, Exhibition Design, Public Programs and Community Engagement, and Events and Operations.

This is a paid opportunity. Applications are accepted until 29 March. To learn more, visit 421.online/en/opportunities/internship-and-mentorship-program.


How to get involved


421’s Winter 2023 Programme

The 421 Winter 2023 exhibitions, And The Mirrors Are Many and Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions will run until May 8. The exhibitions are open to the public and free to attend, while most of the talks, workshops and special events are free of charge, unless otherwise stated on the 421 website. Entry fees depend on the nature of the activity. 421 is open 10am to 8pm, Tuesday to Sunday, in Mina Zayed.


For more information about 421 and to register, visit www.421.online.

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