Dubai to host ‘Photographs in Dialogue UAE - 1971 - UK’ exhibition

Photo: WAM

‘Photographs in Dialogue UAE – 1971 – UK’ will trace the diplomatic relationship between the United Kingdom and the UAE in the 1960s and 70s, in the lead up to the foundation of the UAE in 1971.

The exhibition will bring together stories of leaders and officials from both countries as they worked together on plans to end the UK’s formal presence in what was previously known as the Trucial States, which led to the birth of a new country – the UAE.

The event is yet another addition to Dubai’s vibrant cultural landscape that has been shaped and inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

The exhibition is also an example of the increasing collaboration between local and international institutions that is enhancing Dubai’s cultural and artistic environment and raising its status as a global destination for culture.

‘Photographs in Dialogue’ will include a group of photographs lent from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London and a group of photographs from collections in the UAE, supplemented by objects and archival material. These include a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II taken by Cecil Beaton in 1968, and a rare series of photographs of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (then Ruler of Dubai) taken by Rex Coleman for Baron Studios in 1961.

As well as illustrating many key moments in the lead up to the formation of the UAE, the exhibition will showcase the continued importance and special nature of the relationship between the UAE and the UK. ‘Photographs in Dialogue’ will also allow visitors to consider how photography was made and collected before the digital age, and to engage with the ways in which photographs have been important in preserving, archiving and understanding national stories.

‘Photographs in Dialogue’ is the Etihad Museum’s first international collaboration on an exhibition, and the first collaborative project in the Middle East for the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition will be on display at the Etihad Museum, Dubai, from 17 March – 12 December 2020.

‘Photographs in Dialogue UAE – 1971 – UK’ is curated by Dr. Michele Bambling Visiting Associate Professor, NYU Abu Dhabi, Clare Freestone, Curator of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery and Dr. Edward McDonald-Toone, International Partnerships Manager, National Portrait Gallery.

Hala Badri, Director General of Dubai Culture, highlighted the importance of this exhibition and its role in enriching public opinion and knowledge about the nation’s history, as well as raising awareness of the most important narratives in the shared histories of both the UAE and UK. She commented: "The collaborative nature of the cooperation in organizing this exhibition reflects the strong cultural relations that already exist between the UAE and the UK. This exhibition is a platform where civilizations, history and culture converge and its prestigious location of the Etihad Museum is also symbolic of these elements. All these factors contribute to the enhancement of the value of exploring history as well as laying foundations for a positive future."

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: "Portraits offer a special insight into the link between history and the stories of individual people. ‘Photographs in Dialogue’ will offer an unmissable insight into the importance of photographs as records of the role of Emirati and British leaders at a momentous time in the UAE’s history. The National Portrait Gallery is thrilled to work in conversation with the Etihad Museum and with the support of the British Council on the exhibition, which is our first ever collaboration in the region."

Waseem Kotoub, Senior Programme Manager, Culture and Sport Programme, British Council Gulf added that the exhibition was an opportunity to strengthen ties between the two nations: "The UK-Gulf Exhibition Programme aims to build cultural bridges and create opportunities for museums and galleries in both the UK and the Gulf. We hope that this programme will develop strong relationships and leave a lasting legacy".

The UAE Ambassador to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Mansour Abulhoul, said: "I am thrilled that these two cultural heavyweights from the UAE and the UK have teamed up to create what is sure to be an enlightening exhibition. Cross-cultural initiatives such as this underline the strength and collaborative nature of the UAE-UK relationship, and we welcome the enthusiastic involvement of key UK cultural and political institutions in bringing this historic exhibition together."

The British Ambassador to the UAE, Patrick Moody, said: "I am delighted at this new project between one of our best-loved UK museums - the National Portrait Gallery and the UAE's Etihad Museum. It is another example of the British Council supporting new cross-cultural connections between the UK and the UAE. The two museums will bring to the UAE what I am sure will be a fascinating exhibition about Britain and the formation of the United Arab Emirates, giving us all a chance to learn about and explore our shared history."

‘Photographs in Dialogue’ is generously supported by the British Council, DCMS and GREAT through the UK-Gulf Culture and sport programme.

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