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Aerial view of Jim Denevan, "Self Similar" at Manar Abu Dhabi, photo by Lance Gerber.

Artist Jim Denevan’s Site-Specific Land Work Launches Manar Abu Dhabi

Last week in Abu Dhabi, Jim Denevan unveiled the mesmerizing land art piece, "Self Similar" on Fahid Island.

Erica Silverman

27 November 2023

Jim Denevan Offers Transformation at Manar Abu Dhabi

On November 20 in Abu Dhabi, American artist Jim Denevan debuted his otherworldly, site-specific land work, Self Similar, on Fahid Island. Currently on view through January 30, 2024, the sweeping presentation launches the Department of Culture and Tourism’s latest initiative and public light art exhibition: Manar Abu Dhabi. Curated by Reem Fadda, Director of Abu Dhabi Culture Programming and Cultural Foundation, and Artistic Director of Public Art Abu Dhabi; alongside Alia Zaal Lootah, Manar Abu Dhabi Curator, Denevan’s awe-inspiring installation joins 35 other site-specific artworks created by both local and international visionaries including Carsten Höller, Latifa Saeed, Mohammed Kazem, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Shezad Dawood, and teamLab

Aerial view of Jim Denevan, "Self Similar" at Manar Abu Dhabi, photo by Lance Gerber.
Aerial view of Jim Denevan, “Self Similar” at Manar Abu Dhabi, photo by Lance Gerber.

Known for his Iconic Installations, Denevan Invokes Grounding Light Theme with Monumental Work

Known for his surreal and transitory large-scale installations in earth, sand, and ice, Denevan was commissioned by Desert X AlUla in 2022 for the sumptuous Angle of Repose, and his works have been documented at the Vancouver Biennale, MoMA/PS1, and Christie’s

Deeply inspired by the exhibition’s poetic theme, Grounding Light, Self Similar is the artist’s most expansive work, as well as one of the largest artworks in history; the temporary sand installation is comprised of 19 concentric circles which give way to 448 pyramids and mounds in a hypnotic mandala pattern. 

A Collaborative Effort, Self Similar Offers Radiant Geometry, Vibrant Metaphors, and Meditative Moments 

Spanning nearly one square kilometer and ascending 27 meters, the dreamlike landmark overlooks the city as well as the luminous Arabian Sea. Created with the help and engagement of local volunteers in Denevan’s trademark style, visitors may enter the artwork through the Iron Bridge, which aligns ideally with the rising and setting of the sun. Once enveloped within the sculptures, guests may find peaceful moments at the center or by climbing two observation mounds, taking in captivating views of Self Similar’s radiant geometry and vibrant metaphors. 

Jim Denevan, "Self Similar" at Manar Abu Dhabi, photo by Lance Gerber.
Aerial view of Jim Denevan, “Self Similar” at Manar Abu Dhabi, photo by Lance Gerber.

“As I draw and shape these forms, an invitation is made, it emerges,” explained the artist. “An ‘entering into’ takes place. A centering. Scale, presence, human, and otherwise. External is internal and internal is external. That which expires and that which is eternal, a simultaneity, within and without,” 

When evening falls, over 1,000 solar lanterns begin one by one to illuminate the artwork, which fully explores human’s psychological and physical relationship to an ever-evolving environment. Adhering to a Sisyphean practice, Denevan welcomes the revisions that time and weather will have on his astounding creation, inviting visitors to witness a soulful transformation in art, nature, and self. 

Aerial view of Jim Denevan, "Self Similar" at Manar Abu Dhabi, photo by Lance Gerber.
Aerial view of Jim Denevan, “Self Similar” at Manar Abu Dhabi, photo by Lance Gerber.

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Jim Denevan's Outstanding in the Field is a cuisine experience born from his interest in the connection between food and culture.
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