The Abu Dhabi Art fair will bring its non-commercial strand Beyond: Emerging Artists to exhibit during the Venice Biennale. The three artists commissioned for this year’s platform — Maitha Abdalla, Hashel Al Lamki and Christopher Joshua Benton (SMACT ’23) — will show at the Palazzo Franchetti.

This is the first time that Abu Dhabi Art has brought a commissioning strand to the biennale. Last year, it took the Beyond program on tour internationally, bringing it to Cromwell Place in London.

In the installation and film The World Was My Garden, Benton mapped the circulation of dates as a commodity. The work commented on the East African slave trade, its history in the Gulf, and contemporary migration, and was anchored by the striking sculpture of an enchained palm tree, suspended in the air — a bold subject for the Abu Dhabi fair to have addressed in such a forthright manner.

“I am so excited to bring The World Was My Garden to Venice,” says Benton. “European markets and consumer demand played an important role in the story of the date and its global circulation at the turn of the 20th century. My intention with this project is to reroute these circuits by revealing the exploitation inherent to these labour and agricultural economies.”

More information can be found here.

Christopher Joshua Benton (b. 1988) is a UAE-based artist working across installation, sculpture, photography, and film. He works closely with communities and within neighborhoods to instigate collaboration while sharing stories of power, labor, and hope. His practice explores how the working-class uses culture and innovation to stage resistance to postcolonial and neoliberal forces. He’s an avid collector of discarded material and obsesses over the entangled narratives these found objects embody.