Is This Tomorrow?, a collaboration between Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery, London opens in Concrete

Is This Tomorrow?, a collaboration between Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery, London opens in Concrete

The landmark exhibition, Is This Tomorrow?, opened in Concrete on 6 November, revealing five experiential collaborations between leading artists and architects, including Phoenix Will Rise, a new site-specific commission by visual artist Rana Begum and Marina Tabassum.

A collaboration between Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery, London, Is This Tomorrow? is curated by Whitechapel Gallery chief curator Lydia Yee, and responds to timely contemporary issues to offer speculative visions of the future. Interdisciplinary installations, environments, and pavilions by Rana Begum and Marina Tabassum, Amalia Pica and 6a, Cao Fei and mono office, Mariana Castillo Deball and Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, and Hardeep Pandhal and APPARATA  reveal the expansive potential of collaboration between art and architecture, and investigate universal topics including borders, privacy, living space, and our relationship with technology.

The opening was followed by a Majlis Talk by FOLIO, which featured curator Lydia Yee in conversation with visual artist Rana Begum and Aga Khan Award for Architecture winner Marina Tabassum, who discussed their installation, Phoenix Will Rise, which was unveiled in The Yard. The Bangladeshi artist and architect collaborated on a new iteration of the installation, which was presented at Whitechapel Gallery in London during the original iteration of Is This Tomorrow? from 14 February – 12 May 2019.

‘Focused on hope’, Phoenix Will Rise was created specifically for The Yard in Alserkal Avenue. Tabassum says: “It is a place of refuge - a space for reflection - contemplation. The highlight of the installation is Rana Begum’s beautiful art piece around the central oculus that catches light and frames the sky. The architecture builds around it to create a setting and atmosphere of repose, all the while appropriating the context Alserkal Avenue.”

Begum, who is represented by The Third Line gallery in Alserkal Avenue, says: “We live in a world where the boundaries between disciplines are increasingly blurred, and where technology enables us to connect with each other wherever we are. This collaboration is exciting because it pushes boundaries in a playful way, while simultaneously inviting the viewer to consider space in relation to location and existing elements. I have found it interesting to engage with Marina Tabassum’s vision and experience of space, form, colour and light.”

6a architects (UK) and artist Amalia Pica (Argentina) explore the way architecture proscribes our relationship with animals through a maze-like environment made of an enclosure, blurring the boundaries between human and animal. Exploring another relationship, the one between people and technology, mono office (China) and Cao Fei’s (China) prototype for a machine that dispenses objects and emotions represents and imagines possible futures. Mariana Castillo Deball’s (Mexico) sculptural work relating to the Mesoamerican calendar, Tonalpohualli, is brought together with Tatiana Bilbao’s (Mexico) architectural exploration of the human need to be isolated—yet communally connected. Hardeep Pandhal (UK) and APPARATA (UK) study what happens to architecture when political systems collapse, or become outdated.

Is This Tomorrow? is based on the seminal exhibition This is Tomorrow, which took place at Whitechapel Gallery in 1956. Envisioned by architect and critic Theo Crosby, the exhibition brought 38 artists and architects together into 12 groups, including Eduardo Paolozzi, Erno Goldfinger, Richard Hamilton, James Stirling and Alison and Peter Smithson, and is now widely considered a watershed of post-war British Art. Is This Tomorrow? expands on the vision of the original exhibition by showcasing the works of international practitioners, all of whom were born after the original exhibition took place.

Is This Tomorrow? runs until 23 November, and takes place in and around Concrete, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture-designed building shortlisted for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal, says: “Alserkal Arts Foundation is delighted to partner with Whitechapel to share such an important and groundbreaking exhibition with our audiences in Dubai and the UAE. Our presentation of Is This Tomorrow? not only furthers our mission of championing collaborative, socially engaged, and multi-disciplinary practices, but also reinforces Dubai’s position as an epicentre for a broader dialogue on the role of architecture in the region.”

Lydia Yee, exhibition curator and chief curator at Whitechapel Gallery, says: “It is an honour for Whitechapel Gallery to work in partnership with Alserkal Arts Foundation to present a version of the exhibition Is This Tomorrow? This is a fitting context for an exhibition that explores the potential of artists and architects to collaborate on their vision of the future, and one that will reach a dynamic and diverse new audience for the project in the UAE.”

Vilma Jurkute, Director of Alserkal, adds: “Is This Tomorrow? will be the cornerstone of our November programming, much of which will explore the confluence of art and architecture, as a reflection and celebration of Concrete having been shortlisted for the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. This exhibition raises important questions about how art and architecture can work together, and reveals new realms of potential that can be achieved when practitioners collaborate – questions and ideas we’ll further explore through related programmes throughout Alserkal Avenue.”

The Dubai iteration of Is This Tomorrow? is a collaboration between Alserkal Arts Foundation and Whitechapel Gallery, London. The exhibition is co-commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery, London and MAAT, Lisbon.


(Image credit: Rana Begum & Marina Tabassum, Phoenix Will Rise (2019), site-specific installation in The Yard, Alserkal Avenue. Photography by Mustafa Aboobacker. Courtesy Alserkal.)


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About Alserkal

Founded by Emirati businessman and patron, Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, in 2007, Alserkal is a socially responsible cultural enterprise, which is deeply engaged with the arts locally, regionally and internationally. Through Alserkal Avenue, its renowned cultural district of contemporary art galleries, non-profit organisations and homegrown businesses, Alserkal has cultivated a creative economy in Dubai, supporting cultural production and spearheading disruptive business models, including the OMA-designed Concrete, a state-of-the-art exhibitions and alternative space. In addition, Alserkal supports public art commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes through its non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation.


About Alserkal Arts Foundation

The Alserkal Arts Foundation supports socially engaged, multi-disciplinary practices and facilitates cross-cultural exchange through its four core initiatives: public art commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes. The Foundation offers cultural practitioners – either based in Dubai, or whose practice critically investigates themes pertinent to the region's artistic community – opportunities for research, scholarship, and artistic production. All of Alserkal Arts Foundation’s activities are supported by Alserkal, an Emirati family business spearheaded by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal.


About Whitechapel Gallery

For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world class artists from modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle, Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George and Mark Wallinger. With beautiful galleries, exhibitions, artist commissions, collection displays, historic archives, education resources, inspiring art courses, dining room and bookshop, the Gallery is open all year round, so there is always something free to see. It is a touchstone for contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.