421 exhibition
Part of the Winter 2023 Program, the exhibitions support emerging artists from the MENASA region and include solo and group exhibitions exploring memory, remembrance, time, and language.

The exhibitions include And The Mirrors Are Many, a group exhibition that is the result of the 421 Curatorial Development Program; Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions, the first solo exhibition for artist Mahshid Rafiei; Round 4: 100/100 Best Hundred Arabic Posters; and Biography of a Passage, which will be presented at Art Dubai 2023. 

And The Mirrors Are Many

And The Mirrors Are Many, curated by Mona Al-Jadir from, 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. It reflects on the aesthetics, techniques, provenance, and language that are deployed in the process of memory-making. 

Fatima Uzdenova. Museum of Banishment, 2019. Installation; floating bookshelves featuring bibliography and sculptures, quilted blanket and matching pillow, silver headpiece with braided hair, engraved silver breastplate. Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of 421

Taking its title from the Mahmoud Darwish poem, “On the Last Evening on This Earth”, the exhibition reflects on the persistence of catastrophic events that continue to inscribe upon the present through traces, armatures, and echoes. 

Recent global demands for the restitution and reparation of displaced artifacts, as well as the rising calls for the decolonization of museums around the world, including the need for the inclusion of forgotten and ignored histories, means that these institutions are now facing an existential crisis; some might argue that they are struggling to adjust to change while searching for their place in the future.  As the region enters what seems like a future-focused cultural-production boom, it is essential for individuals and institutions to collectively interrogate these questions that influence our understanding of the past, the present and dreams of the future.  

Featuring annotations spread across the gallery spaces and new commissions, 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, Sarah Smarrazzo, Emii Alrai, Vikram Divecha, Rohini Devasher, Mirella Salamé, Moza Almatrooshi, Hadeyeh Badri, Reem Al Menhali, Dima Srouji and Fatima Uzdenova.

Part of the exhibition And The Mirrors Are Many at 421, Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates. Image courtesy of 421

And The Mirrors Are Many is emerged from a year-long journey as part of the 421 Curatorial Development Program in collaboration with The Bombay Institute for Critical Analysis and Research (BICAR) and with mentorship from curator Sabih Ahmed.  

Of Mythic Proportions

Mahshid Rafiei’s first solo exhibition, Of Mythic Proportions is the result of the 421 Artistic Development Program. Featuring a large-scale installation of newly commissioned works that take up the entire space in Gallery 1, the exhibition explores 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 us 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. 

Installation view: ‘Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions’. Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates 2023. Image courtesy of 421. Photography by Ismail Noor, Seeing Things

Rafiei’s work draws on long periods of research into fields such as language, literary theory, and material histories. This exhibition emerged from her research into the UAE’s conservation efforts and the relationship between heritage and nationhood. Of Mythic Proportions presents a body of work that meditates on how aesthetic processes of transformation operate in these tangible and intangible methods of conservation, and how they manifest in our sensory environment. 

Installation view: ‘Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions’. Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates 2023. Image courtesy of 421. Photography by Ismail Noor, Seeing Things

Of Mythic Proportions is the inaugural presentation of the 2023 edition of the Artistic Development Program, which is organized in collaboration with pedagogical partner The Institute for Emerging Art. 

Installation view: ‘Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions’. Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates 2023. Image courtesy of 421. Photography by Ismail Noor, Seeing Things

The Round 4: 100/100 Hundred Best Arabic Posters

This year marks over eight years of partnership between 421 and 100/100: Hundred Best Arabic Posters. The Round 4: 100/100 Hundred Best Arabic Posters was started 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. ⁠

Installation view: ‘Round 4: 100/100 Hundred Best Arabic Posters’. Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates 2023. Images courtesy of 421. Photography by The Frei

Supported by 421, this year’s edition of the Round 4: 100/100 Hundred Best Arabic Posters competition drew thousands of submissions from over 30 countries. The selected design entries, which are part of the 4th edition of the competition, are currently on view at 421 until March 5, 2023. 

Installation view: ‘Round 4: 100/100 Hundred Best Arabic Posters’. Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates 2023. Images courtesy of 421. Photography by The Frei

An exercise in experimental crowd-sourced design, the exhibition presents 100 design-focused posters and celebrates the diverse cultural aesthetics and rich creative landscape of the region. It demonstrates the plasticity of the Arabic language in its lively relationship to design, as it molds itself structurally around shifting design dictations. A marker for culture, heritage, and history, the exhibition acts as a critical archive of Arab-born design and type. 

Biography of a Passage

Biography of a Passage is an offsite exhibition presented by 421 at the 2023 edition of Art Dubai. Curated by Dania Al Tamimi, the exhibition features the work of eight emerging artists from across the region and seeks to de-essentialize our understanding of time. 

Image courtesy of Poras Dhakan and 421

Time is used to quantify, measure or compare the duration of events or the intervals between them. It is perceived as an indefinite continuous chronology of occurrences in the past, present and future, regarded as a whole. How can time be defined, if not bound by our constructed notions of it as a linear and quantifiable unit of temporal sequence?

Tilika D’Souza

Time is observed through the evidence of its passing. Biography of a Passage draws on time as a binding element in the biography of objects, the active archiving of our lives, and the solidification of our collective experiences. The participating artists explore the distortion of memories, using materials and elements from the land and the sea; detangle the physical body and the psyche through its relation to the environment; and investigate contrasts between the infinity of time and the finite bodies that pass through it. 

Victoria Parrucci

The tension between being and remembering is pivotal to the research that leads this exhibition. The works displayed examine the poetics of our relationship with the elements around us and reflect on the shifts and interchanges that are in constant motion and that are dependent on the cycles that mark them. Beyond the materiality of media presented here, the works in this exhibition take on the role of witness through documentation, where observations attempt to measure the unmeasurable and imagine a multilayered reality beyond our sense of perception. 

Doha Aboelezz

Participating artists are Doha Aboelezz, Liane Al Ghusain, Sara Al Haddad, Nasser Alzayani, Poras Dhakan, Tilika D’Souza, Victoria Parrucci, and Ayman Zedani.  

Winter 2023 Program

Running in tandem with the exhibitions, And The Mirrors Are Many and Mahshid Rafiei: Of Mythic Proportions, the Winter 2023 Program: RE/COLLECT THIS responds to the ideas presented in the exhibitions and offers an opportunity 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. Audiences can attend artist-led talks, workshops, and performances; homecooking sessions; cultural tours and excursions; professional development courses; a three-day film program; and a performance symposium, all offering new perspectives on the formation of alternative ways of remembering.

About 421

421 is an independent, anti-disciplinary platform dedicated to emerging artists and creative practitioners in the UAE and across the region. A site for research, learning and experimentation, 421 provides a nurturing environment for emergent creative practices and those who want to harness the arts as an agent for social inquiry and transformation. 421 encourages practitioners to explore the potential of public spaces as a means for progress and community engagement through a wide-ranging programmatic model that facilitates artistic exchange and critical dialogue. 

Located in Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed, 421 presents a year-round program of exhibitions, talks, workshops, special events and educational initiatives that offer accessible learning opportunities to the wider community and the general public. Many of the 421 programs are organized in collaboration with local, regional and international partners, engaging children, students, educators, and creative professionals in a participatory approach to artistic and creative practice. These programs are designed to develop artistic and creative skills, supporting the growth of the UAE’s creative ecosystem. 
Previously known as Warehouse421, 421 was established in 2015 inside a renovated warehouse that was repurposed as an exhibition and community space featuring galleries, studios, courtyards, co-working spaces, a library and cafe, and a public, outdoor plaza that serves as a multipurpose venue for film screenings, symposia, performances, art installations, and other special programs. The 421 campus is also home to a number of permanent art installations commissioned for major exhibitions that were previously presented inside the 421 galleries. 

For more information visit www.421.online