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Abstraction and Calligraphy − Towards a Universal Language

17 February – 12 June 2021

In collaboration with Centre Pompidou

What’s the driving force behind Cy Twombly’s emotive expressions? Behind Kandinsky’s vibrant canvases?

Abstract artists set out to form a universal language that could be understood by all. That idea was influenced by the calligraphy of Asia and North Africa.

There was something about eastern script that fuelled the imagination of western artists. The Arab world was full of signs and symbols they could draw from. Both raw and precise, expressive and restrained, calligraphy unlocked a new way for them to express the inexpressible: emotion, empathy, ideas.

For visitors of all ages, this exhibition is a rare chance to appreciate masterworks by Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Lee Ufan, André Masson, Dia Azzawi and Jackson Pollock, alongside contemporary works by Sanki King, Mona Hatoum, and a monumental installation by eL Seed.

In this first exhibition of 2021, we explore masterworks from the Centre Pompidou, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and others – many shown here for the very first time – and discover how East and West come together on the same canvas.

Nasser Al Salem, An Adornment of Stars, 1984. Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais. Image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CC

Jean Dubuffet, Donnée (Non-lieu H 10) [Data (Non-place H10)], 1984. Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist RN-Grand Palais. Image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI © ADAGP, Paris, 2021.

Paul Klee, Oriental Bliss, 1938. © Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi. Photo: APF

Exhibition sponsored by Montblanc

Cultural Programme for Abstraction and Calligraphy – Towards a Universal Language
All complimentary

This year, expression is in the spotlight with the Abstraction and Calligraphy exhibition. From symbols to letters and images to brushstrokes – the exhibition celebrates the search for a universal mode of expression that can be understood by everyone.

Online Talk:
Abstraction and Calligraphy – Towards a Universal Language
Online calligraphy demonstration and talk
Pop-up Performance: Unlock the Language of Music

Young visitors guide

Abstraction and Calligraphy
Towards a Universal Language

Explore online content

Exhibition's virtual tour
Video: Highlights of the Exhibition
Watch Now
Focus on Contemporary art
Abstraction between East and West
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