448 Hand-Formed Pyramids Form Mesmerizing Mandala in Abu Dhabi

Aerial view of Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

American artist Jim Denevan has created one of his most ambitious installations to date as part of Abu Dhabi's public art initiative, Manar Abu Dhabi. The vast, yet ephemeral, land art is made from 448 hand-formed pyramids and mounds laid out in 19 concentric circles. Together, they form a mesmerizing mandala pattern that invites the public inside to experience the design's effects.

Self-Similar began with a single circle drawn with a stick in the sand and progressed thanks to the help of local volunteers, as per Denevan's artistic practice. Situated on the city's Fahid Island, visitors approach the installation from an Iron Bridge that stretches across the Arabian Sea. From there, they are invited into the mandala, where they can marvel at the symmetry of the work and even observe it in its entirety from two observation mounds.

At night, Self-Similar takes on a different appearance thanks to more than a thousand solar lights that slowly turn on at dusk. These lights cast shadows off each pyramid and give the installation a warm, spectral feeling.

The piece is one of 35 site-specific artworks by local and international artists that will remain on display in Abu Dhabi until January 30, 2024. Inherently, Denevan's installation will transform through the period, as the elements exact their will on the earthen pyramids. The artistic choice to create ephemeral work that evolves overtime is deeply felt by Denevan. He says, “As I draw and shape these forms, an invitation is made, it emerges. 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.”

Self-Similar is one of land artist Jim Denevan's most ambitious installations to date.

Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

The work features 448 hand-formed pyramids and mounds laid out in 19 concentric circles.

Aerial view of Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

The installation is part of Manar Abu Dhabi, a new public art initiative that will last until January 2024.

Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

Aerial view of Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

At dusk, the illumination of over a thousand solar lamps changes the look and feel of Self-Similar.

Aerial view of Self-Similar by Jim Denevan at night

Aerial view of Self-Similar by Jim Denevan at night

Local volunteers helped produce the ephemeral work, which takes on a mandala-like pattern.

Aerial view of Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

Self-Similar by Jim Denevan

Jim Denevan: Website | Facebook | Instagram

All images by Lance Gerber. My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Jim Denevan.

Related Articles:

14 Artists Transform Saudi Arabian Desert Into a Contemporary Art Oasis

Pyramids Are a Dramatic Backdrop for a Mirrored Orb Inspired by Ancient Egypt

Strange Monolith Discovered in Remote Part of Utah Desert Mysteriously Disappears

Thousands of Illuminated Orbs Bathe the Australian Desert in a Blanket of Vibrant Light

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.

Sponsored Content