The Manarat Al Saadiyat is the first venue on Saadiyat Island that opened as part of the Saadiyat Cultural District Abu Dhabi. It consists of a 15,000 square meter multifunctional arts and culture center, four separate galleries, a 250-seat theater and a restaurant.
It is located in the center of the areas where the large new museums of Abu Dhabi are planned.
When it opened in 2009, it was the venue for ‘Disorientation II’, subtitled ‘The Rise and Fall of Arab Cities’, curated by Jack Persekian, the then artistic director of the Sharjah Art Foundation and Biennial. Persekian took the failure of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s 1960s plans for pan-Arab unity as a ‘moment of rupture’ that led to a succession of nationalism, displacements and violence, with a strong focus on the Palestinian plight. The exhibition included work by Hala Elkoussy, Mona Hatoum, Marwan Rechmaoui, Yto Barrada and Tarek Al-Ghoussein, among others. In 2010, the influential New York based art dealer Larry Gagosian showed 72 works from his personal art collection in Manarat Al Saadiyat, under the title “RSTW”: Rauschenberg, Ruscha, Serra, Twombley, Warhol, & Wool.
Since then, it has been the main venue for larger exhibitions in Abu Dhabi, to be joined in 2011 by its neighboring building the UAE Pavilion, together still the sole predecessors of what is to come on Saadiyat Island in the Cultural District. It hosts incidental exhibitions, workshops and educational activities, and with the Pavilion it is home to the Abu Dhabi Art Fair. All the events previewing the future museums of the Saadiyat Cultural District Abu Dhabi take place here, like the Louvre Abu Dhabi Talking Art series and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Talking Art series.
New York University Abu Dhabi organizes some of its lecture events in Manarat Al Saadiyat.