British Council opens ‘Olympians’ photography exhibition at Etihad Towers

British Council Olympians ExibitionBritish Council, in collaboration with the UAE’s National Olympic Committee and the National Paralympic Committee, and in partnership with British Embassy, UK Trade and Investment, Emirates Foundation and BBC Arabia, launched its photography exhibition ‘Olympians’ celebrating the success of Emirati athletes.

The portraits, which were photographed by well-established UK artist Gabriella Sancisi, were displayed for the first time at an event held at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel in Abu Dhabi.

The launch was officially opened by Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammad Al Nahyan and Prince Andrew, Duke of York, showcasing portraits of some of the UAE’s rising stars in shooting, equestrianism, swimming, athletics, and table tennis.

“The exhibition is a tremendous demonstration of the sporting, artistic and cultural links between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. The UK is buzzing with excitement as it prepares to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer and this event is a wonderful prelude to that,” said the UK’s Ambassador to the UAE, Dominic Jermey.


Scheduled to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the formation of the UAE, the exhibition celebrates the achievements of the athletes from the Emirates and the shared history between the UAE and the UK.

Following the opening in Abu Dhabi where it will be on display at the hotel until December 2, the exhibition will tour the different Emirates in the UAE. The exhibition will be supported with outreach and educational activities, running through until April 2012.

“The British Council is keen to celebrate local sports personalities in the art world, and Gabriella Sancisi is a talented artist with an impressive array of solo and group exhibitions, award nominations and wins. Her previous art works in the landscape of sport and athletes have been moving and thoughtful, and the British Council are very thankful to His Highness Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammad Al Nahyan and His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Duke of York for opening this superb exhibition to the public. Through this exhibition, we hope to raise awareness of the link between culture and sport and to bring people’s attention to the sporting champions of UAE,” said Richard Cotton, Country Director, British Council.

Sancisi photographed 24 athletes during her visit in September, recording each likeness in a similar way and creating a uniform group despite the photographs being captured at different locations and at varying times.

“I have chosen those images which touched me the most and which I feel work best collectively. I often use scale in my work to create an opportunity for the viewer to look closely at the sitters. I have tremendous respect for all of the athletes who chose to be portrayed and I have tried not to impose too many rules on how they should pose. At the same time, I know exactly what it is that I am looking for in a likeness and this is generally a moment of self-consciousness or connection when the relationship between the athlete, me and an eventual viewer of the portrait seem to collide,” said Sancisi.

Sancisi’s previous artworks include developing the project Frontrunners for the Photographers Gallery in London that mixed text and images to record the sporting aspirations of youth living in the London boroughs bordering the London Olympic site. She was commissioned by the British Council to produce a similar series of portraits of young British athletes for the 2011 PhotoEspana Festival in Madrid, followed by a similar set of images of Argentinean sporting youth, before being invited by the British Council to undertake the photography exhibition in the UAE.

Source: Emirates 24/7

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