On the eve of COP28 in the UAE, NYU Abu Dhabi’s art gallery considers the intersection of human-planet interactions in art. the only constant brings together major projects ranging from poignant large-scale landscapes to sprawling installations considering our impact on the planet. Curated by Maya Allison (Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery), this exhibition is part of her ongoing study of landscape in contemporary art.

The artists here confront contemporary landscape as a site of profound tension: we change the landscape, and it changes us. Even as we might long for an untouched paradise, humans build futuristic utopias. Utopia and paradise arrive, and then depart (change is the only constant). This tension is fundamental to questions we face as humans on this planet.

These artists transform the act of looking into an experience of bearing witness: to observe whorls of pollution recorded on delicate rice paper (Vivek Vilasini); washing an entire ship’s hull by hand, to acknowledge the loss of the Aral Sea (Patty Chang); or to closely examine each detail of a dense landscape, at night (Sharon Lockhart). The exhibition begins with the idea of paradise (Thomas Struth), opposite an untamable sea (Clifford Ross). It centers on technological aspiration, and the incomprehensible imprint of our existence on our planet. Taus Makhacheva asks, “When is land an object to be owned or a territory to be marked?” Without humans to damage the landscape, abandoned luxury homes would have incredible views (Gil Heitor Cortesão). What if we were to surround the sun in solar panels, and block out the light? The exhibition ends with Haroon Mirza visualizing this question in a living garden, fed by light from those solar panels.

Maya Allison, Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery

the only constant is open until June 4, from Tuesday through Sunday, 12–8pm.

For more details, visit nyuad-artgallery.org.

Established in 2014, The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery is the first of its kind in the Gulf, and among the only university galleries in the region with a program of scholarly and experimental museum exhibitions.