Crochet Coral Reef

September 30 – December 6, 2014
New York University Abu Dhabi Institute, United Arab Emirates
A woman looking at reef sculpture in gallery

Coral Forest – Plastics

Photo by Christina Simons for the Institute For Figuring

In Fall 2014, the Crochet Coral Reef traveled to the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute in the United Arab Emirates. The Middle East is home to a network of unique reefs as well as to an explosion of human-made development, thus making the region a fertile place for both the aesthetic pleasures and ecological consciousness-raising of the Crochet Reef project.

Two years in the making, this new incarnation of the exhibition centered around our Coral Forest, a collection of six large ‘snakey-armed sculptures’ crocheted from yarn and plastic threads, including videotape, shopping bags and tinsel. Also in the show was an expanded collection of our miniature coral Pod Worlds, each a tiny fantastical landscape featuring works by some of the IFF’s most skilled crochet Reefers. Contrasting the humongous and the delicate, the trashy and the sublime, the exhibition invited viewers into an environment that celebrated the sea while also asking them to ponder its fragility in the face of overwhelming human activity.

Sited in a soaring atrium in one of NYU’s new buildings on its Sadiyatt Island campus, the exhibition treated visitors to a unique installation lit by natural light through massive four-story windows, evoking a vast aquarium.

Man looking at large sculpture of crochet coral reef

Coral Forest – Medusa.

Photo by Christina Simons for the Institute For Figuring.

NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef.

Photo by Jason Beckerman for the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute.

The exhibition also debuted the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef. This stunning addition to the worldwide archipelago of crocheted Satellite Reefs was constructed around a collection of traditional Emirati fishing baskets, attached together in seven mosque-like mounds, each representing one of the seven federated emirates. Throughout 2014, members of the NYU Abu Dhabi community gathered in workshops to make the forms. Participants included faculty, students, and cafeteria workers, plus a diverse group of native Emiratis and resident ex-pats. The final reef – a triumph of whimsy with unique local influence and a wondrous element of bling!— shot joyously upward in a collection of exuberantly composed islands.

The NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef was organized for the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute by Jason Beckerman, Pam Mandich, and Michal Teague.

Accompanying the exhibition was programming that included two wide-ranging panel discussions:

Radical Craft: a discussion panel about the new ‘radical craft’ movement, and how crochet can open unexpected paths to imagining and being in the world. Panel members: Crochet Coral Reef co-creator Christine Wertheim, plus internationally-acclaimed fiber artists Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam and Shauna Richardson.

Reefs, Rubbish, and Reason: a panel discussion about how science and art can work together to enhance our ecological consciousness. Panel members: Crochet Coral Reef co-creator Margaret Wertheim, reknowned New York cultural critic Lawrence Weschler, and coral biologist John Burt.

Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque, part of the inspiration for the composition of the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef.

Photo © Institute For Figuring

Works in this exhibition were crocheted by Margaret and Christine Wertheim, with contributions from the following Core Reef Contributors:

  • Anna Mayer (CA)
  • Sarah Simons (CA)
  • Evelyn Hardin (TX)
  • Helen Bernasconi (Australia)
  • Marianne Midelburg (Australia)
  • Barbara Wertheim (Australia)
  • Helle Jorgensen (Australia)
  • Ildiko Szabo (England)
  • Heather McCarren (CA)
  • Dr. Axt (VT)
  • Nancy Lewis (VT)
  • Anitra Menning (CA)
  • Shari Porter (CA)
  • Vonda N. McIntyre (WA)
  • Sue Von Ohlsen (PA)
  • Rebecca Peapples (MI)
  • Clare O’Callaghan (CA)
  • Eleanor Kent (CA)
  • Kathleen Greco (PA)
  • Nadia Severns (NY)
  • Arlene Mintzer (NY)
  • Jill Schrier (NY)
  • Pamela Stiles (NY)
  • Siew Chu Kerk (NY)
  • Anita Bruce (UK)
  • Mieko Fukuhara (Japan)
  • Irene Lundgaard and Orla Breslin (Ireland)
  • Christina Simons (LA)
  • Jemima Wyman (LA).


  • Ann Wertheim
  • Elizabeth Wertheim
  • Katherine Wertheim
  • Sally Giles
  • Pate Conaway
  • David Orozco
  • Diana Simons
  • Lucinda Ganderton
  • Beverly Griffiths
  • Jane Canby
  • Jennifer White
  • Sharon Menges
  • Tane Clark

NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef Participants:

  • Asma Al-Ameri
  • Virgie Abarra
  • Sandra Abo El Nour
  • Gary Adnams
  • Janice Adnams
  • Matthew Adnams
  • Nabila S. Ahmed
  • Heather Baba
  • Toka Baxter
  • Luise Beaumont
  • Jason Beckerman
  • Ratnayake Mudiyanselage Chandrawathie
  • Helene Demirci
  • Karim Devries
  • Justiina Devries
  • Isabelle Gobert
  • Melanie Gobert
  • Stefanie Goebel
  • Tara Gurung
  • Faiza Hashim
  • Rebecca Lavallée
  • Jill Magi
  • Pam Mandich
  • Kay Miller
  • David Moore
  • Suha Mulqi
  • Debbie Ross
  • Nada Salem
  • Wafaa Salem
  • Tiina Salo-Devries
  • Sabine Storch
  • Beth Smith
  • Darcy Teague-Moore
  • Michal Teague
  • Leena Uusitalo
  • Zahara Velji
  • Sulaiman Waheeduddin
  • Usman Waheeduddin
  • Laura Waldusky
  • Linda Williams
  • Manuela Zarifeh
Crochet coral reef sculptures installed in the gallery

Coral Forest.

Photo © Institute For Figuring
Crochet coral reef sculptures installed in the gallery

An exhibition visitor in an abaya, reads bilingual signage in Arabic and English.

Photo © Institute For Figuring
Volunteer crocheters posing for a photograph in front of crochet coral reef sculpture

NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef participants.

Photo by Jason Beckerman for NYU Abu Dhabi Institute
Detail of chicken wire armatures for coral reef sculptures

Understructure of the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef constructed from traditional Emirati fishing baskets by Michal Teague. The mosque-like peaks at the tops of the baskets are part of the ingenious design of the nets that help to trap fish, while the complex weavings are a much-prided local craft. Traditionally such baskets were fashioned out of reeds and although today they are made from wire, the intricate topographies are still hand crafted.

Photo by Michal Teague
Chicken wire armatures for crochet coral sculptures in the back of a pickup truck

Understructure of the NYU Abu Dhabi Satellite Reef in transit to the gallery on Michal Teague’s truck.

Photo by Michal Teague
young women and men crocheting, some of the women are wearing the hijab

NYU Abu Dhabi students learn hyperbolic crochet in a class by Margaret Wertheim.

Photo © Institute For Figuring