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2015

A breed apart
Graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee explains why his work is distinct from his contemporaries, by Shailaja Tripathi
18/03/2015

I had an idea about what an award could mean to Sarnath Banerjee but I nevertheless had planned to ask him about that. Sarnath was shortlisted for this year’s Abraaj Group Art Prize 2015 at Art Dubai along with Setareh Shahbazi, Mounira Al Solh. It was finally won by Yto Barrada. But, Sarnath didn’t go to the function. He casually tells me that he went out shopping to get a new pair of chappals in Dubai. “I didn’t know it was a big affair. And I didn’t know that I had to be there. So when I reached for the party, I was not being let in because they didn’t recognise me,” chuckles the artist sipping hot chocolate at a restaurant.

It is not disdain towards the system that drives Sarnath. The artist is more interested in revisiting the past to look at stereotypes and myths of today. Our mundane urban lives with their quirks and eccentricities reflected in his graphic novels like “Corridor”, “The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers” or “The Harappa Files”.

Though the art world has embraced him, Sarnath still believes he is an outsider. He says he is a graphic novelist and not an artist.

“And I am not the only one who feels like that. William Blake, Goya and many others felt like outsiders because they didn’t belong to the mainstream art. Why I exist in the art world is because of my alienation from the world of comics. The world of comics is phenomenally conservative and they hate innovation. The art world is much more generous. It allows me to invent. That’s why despite all its criticism, oversmart curators and schmoozers, art world is phenomenally successful,” says Sarnath.

For Abraaj, Sarnath is showing what he describes as an anthology of islands, something he has been fascinated with for a long time. The idea of inhabiting a circumscribed space intrigued him.

Living in Berlin for four years, he is happily raising his two-year-old son. Longing to come back to India, he had to leave post his marriage to Pakistani artist Bani Abidi, he says he won’t come back before his son turns six. “It will be complicated for him but at the same time I can’t deny him anything and why should I,” says Sarnath, adding that he has learnt to distance himself from everything.

“I have become more reclusive and I am now doing things mainly for myself that’s why selling two works in three years is good enough for me.”

As for what’s coming up, he is now awaiting the release of “All Quiet in Vikas Puri”, his latest graphic novel that has the plot of corporatisation of water. “There are water wars. It is a cold war spy thriller. A visual essay on Manu where he would engage with other people’s text is also on the cards. I am also thinking of what to do with the archive of Illustrated Weekly of India I bought from Rafique Baghdadi. I wanted to do dioramas based on some historical personalities for Abraaj like the whole theatrical thing, get actors to enact those roles but may be later. I like corrupting history so I am rewriting a Nehruvian history. I am rewriting Illustrated Weekly,” says Sarnath.

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5 things you can’t miss at Art Dubai
The 9th edition of the international art fair is open to the public this weekend, By Pratyush Sarup, Special to tabloid!
17/03/2015

The categories on show at Art Dubai are a wealth of influential, topical, boundary-pushing and provocative works from the biggest names in art. Within them, they represent the state of our beings — past and present — and a view, sometimes grim and sometimes rose-tinted — of the times ahead. If it’s art’s job to make you think, feel and dig a little deeper inside, the ninth Art Dubai does that quite well.

Art Dubai has grown from 40 galleries and 8,000 visitors in 2007 to 25,000 visitors last year and over 90 galleries exhibiting in this year’s event starting on March 18. Here is our edit of works you just can’t ignore.

The power of contemporary art

From canvases to art installations, this year’s contemporary arts section is full of stunning yet approachable beauties, with large-scale pieces presented by Hamburg based Sfeir-Semler Gallery, known for nurturing major artists from the Middle East and North Africa. Dubai’s own Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde and The Third Line present works by international artists with palpable connections to the Middle East.

Arguably, nothing captures the very essence of contemporary arts better than the ‘Plastic Tree C’ by the artist Pascale Marthine Tayou. Presented by Galleria Continua, this withered landscape of branches and plastic bags has been interpreted by many as a commentary on the state of our ecosystem.

Celebrating modern art

Leading the charge for the modernist movement is one of the foremost Parisian galleries, Galerie Claude Lemand. Founded in 1988, it was one of the first galleries in Europe to promote Modern Arab artists who had settled in the West.

This year, the gallery presents works by the late Shafic Abboud, whose works are regarded as manifestos for freedom, while appearing as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. Dubai’s Green Art Gallery celebrates the life and works of late Syrian modernist Mahmoud Hammad with a solo showcase.

Marker — focus on Latin America

Helmed by independent curator Luiza Teixeira de Freitas, this year’s Marker, Art Dubai’s curated programme, is set to be the largest showcase of Latin American art in the Gulf to date, and will explore the historical and contemporary connections between the region and the Arab world, expressed through creation.

Complementing the thematic, salon-style presentation of painting, drawing and sculpture by more than 15 artists, the Colombian Maria Jose Arjona will explore ‘time’ through her live piece. The artists Marina Buendia and Maria Quiroga will present a sound art performance via specially designed sound chairs by Argentinean artist Nicolas Robbio.

RCA’s secret

Making its Dubai debut at the fair is the Royal College of Art’s anonymous postcard exhibition. The travelling exhibition, now regarded as an institution in the London art scene, is wrapped in mystery and excitement, for you never know if the postcard you buy for Dh500 is from a famous artist, an unknown one or one you love no matter what. The celebrated fashion designer and RCA contributor Paul Smith will be on hand to launch the exhibition’s Middle East outpost, which will feature international and regional artists.

The big win

The only prize in the Middle East and South Asia that awards artists on the basis of submitted project proposals, the Abraaj Group Art Prize has provided artists from the Middle East a platform to showcase their work on an international stage to museum directors, curators, critics, their peers and the public since its inception in 2008.

Curated by guest curator Omar Kholeif, this years showcase will present previous works by the three short-listed artists — Sarnath Banerjee, Setareh Shahbazi and Mounira Al Solh — crowned by the unveiling of a new work by the 2015 award winner, Yto Barrada.

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Interview with Savita Apte

24/02/2015

above all the center of moderated discourse. For most students of art and art history from the region, it has become the gateway to think outside of the box and dream big.

And the Abraaj Group Art Prize is now in it’s seventh edition. How have you seen it benefit the artists that have won the prize in the past?

Every year The Abraaj Group Art Prize winners have gone on to greater accolades, even more global recognition. Past winners have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Documenta, Sharjah Biennial, Gwanju Biennial and Kochi Muziris Biennial, to name but a few. In addition the works have been loaned to a number of museums, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Maxxi, Rome; and the Museum of Art and Design, New York.

The award was previously given to multiple winners, but year there is only one winner along with several shortlisted artists. Why has the award been changed?

The Abraaj Group Art Prize has always been receptive to the demands of the artists from the region and has constantly evolved in response. This year the emphasis has been on a single winner, Yto Barrada, whose commissioned work will be supported by previous work from the shortlisted artists. In addition, The Abraaj Group is supporting five innovative young graduates through full scholarships for their master’s degree course at the Royal College of Art, London, as part of the Abraaj Group Award.

What will the 2015 winner, Yto Barrada, and the runners-up present at the fair?

We are very excited that Yto Barrada will present her newly commissioned work Lying Stones in the exhibition “Before History,” curated by the 2015 guest curator Omar Kholief. In Lying Stones, Barrada questions the authenticity of history and museology, through the study of paleontology in Morocco. Her work will be supported by Temporary Autonomous Zones (2012) by Sarnath Banerjee; Spectral Days (2013) by Setareh Shahbazi; and Mute Tongue (2010) by Mounira Al Solh.

As you start to look ahead to the seminal 10th edition of the fair in 2016, while looking back at the history, how would you evaluate where you are now and how you envision the fair moving forward?

It has been a decade of hard work, which has been rewarded by a group of galleries that have continued to exhibit with us from the very beginning and have helped shape the contours of the commercial success of the fair. That we are successful has been in no small measure to the galleries who exhibit with us, the fabulous museum groups, collectors, curators, directors, students, artists, writers and critics that support us every year. We have always distinguished ourselves as a fair of discovery, a very human scaled fair and we will continue to build on this foundation—cementing our reputation as a truly global fair.

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Global Honour for Artist Anup Mathew Thomas
The New Indian Express, India
22/01/2015

KOCHI: Bangalore-based artist Anup Mathew Thomas has won the prestigious Han Nefkens Foundation - Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Award for contemporary art. Anup who belongs to Kottayam, had won the Abraaj Group Art Prize, Dubai last year.

The Han Netkens Foundation award consists of $ 15,000 towards the production of new work as well as residency and an exhibition at Bangkok.

Anup Mathew ThomasThe international jury unanimously selected him because of his “creative inquiry, which almost transcends the boundaries of photography”.

The jury was very impressed with his patient, methodical approach to the painstaking process of research and documentation over a period of time.

The jury members were: Luckana Kunavichayanont, director of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (Bangkok), Hilde Teerlinck, president of the Han Nefkens Foundation (France), Prof Ute Meta Bauer, director of the Centre for Contemporary Art - Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Dr Yongwoo Lee, President of the International Biennial Association (IBA) (South Korea), Bose Krishnamachari, president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (India), Han Nefkens (Barcelona).

Anup’s recent participation in group exhibitions include Kochi Muziris Biennale, Kochi (2012); The Matter Within, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2011); Generation in Transition, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2011); The Self and the Other, La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona (2009-10); and Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie, Arnolfini, Bristol (2009). Solo exhibitions include shows at Gasworks Gallery, London (2007); The Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo (2010) and Lothringer13, Munich (2013). He is a recipient of The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2014.

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2014

An artist who will not be pigeonholed
Brought up in Kiev, Tunis and Dubai, Nadia Kaabi-Linke comes from ‘everywhere and nowhere’, The Financial Times, by Rachel Spence
14/11/2014

As a shoal of banal works at every Venice Biennale testify, contemporary artists would do well to steer clear of that city as the source of their inspiration. Yet one of the highlights of the Biennale in 2011 was “Flying Carpet”, a sculpture by Nadia Kaabi-Linke in an exhibition of Arab art entitled The Future of a Promise.

Suspended from the ceiling, “Flying Carpet” was an aluminium cage which sloped upwards as if mapping the steps of a bridge, and cast a spectacular mesh of shadows on the floor. It was inspired by the street traders who sell fake designer bags on the bridges in Venice. Kaabi-Linke listened to their painful odysseys of migration – most come from Senegal – and the difficulties of living illegally in a foreign country. Then she traced the contours of their shapes on the ground and cast the lines in metal.

The result transformed the men’s particular experience into a universal expression where beauty and hope reside alongside exile, imprisonment and loss. Awarded the 2011 Abraaj Capital Art Prize, it marked out Kaabi-Linke as a rare example of an artist capable of crafting complex socio-political histories into an organic, autonomous poetry. Three years later, her career is fulfilling that promise. Not only does she have work in MoMA, but she won the Discoveries Prize at Art Basel this year. Now she has her first major solo show in London at the Mosaic Rooms in Earl's Court.

Run by the AM Qattan Foundation, the Mosaic Rooms focuses on culture from the Arab world. Born in Tunisia, in 1978, Kaabi-Linke ostensibly fits the description. Yet she chafes at such labels. “I’m very uncomfortable when I’m put into an Arabic box, or any box,” she tells me as we talk in the Mosaic Rooms’ main gallery.

A few minutes in her company and it’s easy to sympathise. With her pale skin, long, dark, wavy hair, wearing a floaty yellow T-shirt, jeans and suede lace-ups, the lithe, easy-going 36-year-old radiates the energy of a free spirit. In order to talk in the presence of her work – of which more later – we have flopped down on the gallery’s floor with our cups of espresso; Kaabi-Linke’s athletic akimbo pose betrays her childhood dream of becoming a contemporary dancer.

“I come from everywhere and nowhere,” she explains, her make-up free face breaking into a smile, when I ask her where she considers home. Don’t mistake this for hyperbole. Her Tunisian beginnings come courtesy of her father, a sports academic. But her mother, who is a chemist, was born in Kiev so Kaabi-Linke’s childhood was divided between that city, Tunis and – from the age of 12 until 18 – Dubai, where her father had a job. Subsequently she studied at the Sorbonne and today she lives in Berlin.

How many languages does she speak?

“Six,” she says, then adds: “My English is probably the worst,” although she speaks it perfectly with a light, anonymous accent.

Her nomadic anima fuels her art. Although now she relishes her peripatetic existence, the move to Dubai felt like a sentence of exile. “Everything broke,” she remembers. “That was a really hard time. I lost all my friends.” Worst of all, she had to leave her place as a dance student at the conservatory in Tunis. “It’s not the Dubai of today. There was no artistic structure. No music, or dance or art, especially for a girl.” Tunisia, which was under an autocratic but essentially secular rule, was “much more westernised” by comparison. Kaabi-Linke spent long hours shut in her parents’ apartment and for the first time found herself at a girls-only school.

Desperate to express herself, she started to draw. She was encouraged by her mother who had studied at an arts high school before turning to science.

Also crucial were the summers she spent in Kiev. “In the Soviet Union, culture was the basis of everything. They didn’t have money but they did have art. So every summer it was bombardment: museums, opera, theatre.”

Does she feel Russian or Ukrainian? Her mouth twists doubtfully. “Both. Eastern Ukraine is both, which the west doesn’t understand. Western Ukraine is a different story.”
Lest I fall into the trap of pigeonholing her as an ambassador for either post-Soviet or Arabic identity, she reminds me gently: “I have lived more than half my life in western Europe.” Quick to snuff out stereotypes, she tells me: “In Tunisia, we have more rights as women than in France in the sense that there are equal salaries between men and women.” Nevertheless, she is aware that many freedoms are still at stake. “In the Arabic world, the women work very hard. They carry the world on their shoulders but the men still dominate.”

She would like to see a sexual revolution but not one that mirrors a European model. “It’s more about saying ‘basta’: if you don’t want a child, no one can tell you to have one. What happens in your body is yours. You don’t belong to anyone.”

Back in Tunis, she enrolled at the University of Fine Arts to study painting. Then a scholarship to the Sorbonne took her to Paris to study aesthetics and the philosophy of art.
Here, her love of painting translated into what she self-deprecatingly describes as “conceptual blah-blah-blah” through her intellectual exploration of the surface. “My PhD was about the invisible: the mirror, the back, what you don’t see.”

The Sorbonne was also where she found her German husband, Timo Kaabi-Linke, whose input she values highly. Did she meet him in a lecture?

“No,” she replies with an straight face. “He was cleaning cars in a Volkswagen showroom and I was a hostess.” We both begin to giggle as she elucidates. “It was one of those horrible jobs you do to earn money. Never did I think I would find my husband there!

“He saved me and I saved him because we hated [that place] so there we were talking about art, and about Bergson and Merleau-Ponty, in the middle of all the cars.”

Timo, who curates many of her shows now, “is very critical and hard”, says Kaabi-Linke cheerfully. “We fight a lot about concepts and ideas.” But she is convinced that the friction between them is responsible for the minimalism that gives her work its enigmatic power. By the time they have finished quarrelling “there is nothing [left] over”.

The show at the Mosaic Rooms testifies to their fruitful collaboration. Curated by Timo, it includes a video of the interrogation of immigrants applying for a visa as if they were congregants in a church singing “No!” like a hymn, in response to questions rapped out by a faceless mouth. An intriguing grid of abstract powder rubbings “Impunities London Originals” turn out to be forensic prints of the wounds suffered by survivors of domestic violence. Just perceptible against their transparent acrylic surfaces, reliefs of the City of London mutter of the invisible financial power which manipulates our daily lives.

Executed with Beckettian formality and unaccompanied by explanatory texts, these works pulsate with suppressed emotions. “I hope the work is strong enough, [even] if you don’t know the story,” says Kaabi-Linke, adding that she wants the spectator to experience “an awkward feeling. That’s beautiful mostly [but] when you come closer, there’s something, either the scar or the shadow, that’s observing you.”

By now, Kaabi-Linke is thoroughly animated. Her hands fly about as she darts from one idea to another, effortlessly weaving links between different histories, signs and human experiences. Such vitality seems at odds with the darkness that lurks in her art. “There’s always misery,” she admits. “A background of pain in my work which is like a print. It is my indexical relation to the world.”

Mosaic Rooms, London, until November 29, mosaicrooms.org. Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s next exhibition opens on January 22 2015 at Gallery Cristina Guerra in Lisbon, Portugal

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Yto Barrada wins the 2015 Abraaj Group Art Prize
The Daily Star, Lebanon, by India Stoughton
24/09/2014

BEIRUT: Yto Barrada was named the winner of the 2015 Abraaj Group Art Prize (AGAP) Tuesday, based on a proposal for a piece to be realized over the course of the next six months.

The Moroccan artist will be working closely with this year’s guest curator, London-based Egyptian writer, curator and editor Omar Kholeif.

Founded in 2008 as the Abraaj Capital Art Prize by the Dubai-based private equity firm, previous editions of the AGAP awarded five artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region based not on completed works but project proposals. Each artist was awarded a sum of $100,000, with which to realize an ambitious project that would not have been possible without substantial funding.

The finished works were displayed in a curated exhibition at Art Dubai each year, before being absorbed into the firm’s private collection and loaned out to exhibitors and curators.

The 2015 edition of the prize marks the first edition since a shift in format intended to make the prize more competitive, according the AGAP’s managing director Fred Sicre who announced the change at Art Dubai last March. The committee now selects a single winner to be awarded the $100,000 prize. Previous work by three shortlisted artists will be exhibited alongside the new piece realized by the winner.

“The shortlisted artists for The Abraaj Group Art Prize will be mid-career,” the committee said in a press release announcing the change of format, “having already participated in exhibitions to critical acclaim. Artists will have produced particularly significant bodies of work in the past couple of years, their practice having expanded or developed during this time. Their work must be original, initiating new ideas and concepts, and be seen as influential to emerging artists and their contemporaries.”

This year’s shortlist consists of Indian artist, filmmaker and graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee, Berlin-based Iranian artist Setareh Shahbazi and Lebanese artist Mounira Al Solh, who is based between Beirut and Amsterdam.

Kholeif said in a press release that he was excited by the new format of the prize. “By being able to access existing bodies of work alongside the new commission,” he said, “there will be potential for a rich storytelling experience and a rigorous curatorial framework.”

Chair of the AGAP Savita Apte drew attention to the diversity and maturity of the regional art ecosystem. “The 2015 winner and shortlisted artists have already participated in various exhibitions to critical acclaim,” she stated, “and are seen as influential on their peers and the art world at large.”

Barrada was born in Paris in 1971 and grew up in Tangier, Morocco. Her hometown has served as the subject of much of her work to date. Having studied history and political science at the Sorbonne and photography in New York, she works in a variety of media including photography, film, written publications, installation and sculpture. Her work has been exhibited at Tate Modern, MoMA and the Centre Pompidou, among other places.

Barrada’s new work, along with that of the shortlisted artists, will be exhibited at next year’s edition of Art Dubai, scheduled to run March 18 to 21, 2015.

For more information, please visit www.abraajgroupartprize.com.

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Yto Barrada Wins Abraaj Group Prize
Art in America by Brian Boucher
15/09/2014

Moroccan-born artist Yto Barrada has won the Abraaj Group Art Prize, awarded annually since 2008. Barrada gets a $100,000 commission to create a new work to appear in a group show at the seventh edition of the Art Dubai fair (Mar. 18-21, 2015). Also included will be shortlisted artists Sarnath Banerjee, Setareh Shahbazi and Mounira Al Solh. Organizing the exhibition will be Omar Kholeif, curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, London.

Writing in A.i.A. in 2013, Olga Stefan described the films and photographs in Barrada's Fotomuseum Winterthur exhibition "Riffs," which focused on the city of Tangier, as "thoughtful considerations of a place in transition and the passage of time." Barrada, 43, lives in Paris. She studied history and political science at the Sorbonne, in Paris, and photography at New York's International Center for Photography.

Barrada's work has been on view in exhibitions at London's Tate Modern, New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Renaissance Society in Chicago, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and at the 2011 Venice Biennale. She is included in the exhibition "Here and Elsewhere," at New York's New Museum (through Sept. 28).

The Kolkata-born, Berlin-based Banerjee's drawings and videos have been included in exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Sfeir-Semler Galery in Hamburg and the Frankfurter Kunstverein. Shahbazi, a Tehran-born, Berlin- and Beirut-based photographer and printmaker, has had work on view at venues including Cairo's Gypsum Gallery, Sfeir-Semmler Gallery, Beirut, and the Fondation Cartier, Paris. Beirut-born, Beirut- and Amsterdam-based Al Solh, who works in various mediums, has had works included in the 11th Istanbul Biennial and Manifesta 8, and on view at institutions including SALT Istanbul and the New Museum in New York. The three shortlisted artists receive a cash prize of an unspecified amount.

The prize's sponsor, the Abraaj Group, is a private equity investor in global growth markets.

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$100,000 Abraaj Group Art Prize Gets More Competitive
Artnet
20/03/2014

Private equity investor Abraaj Group, the sponsor of Art Dubai’s Abraaj Group Art Prize, has announced a change in the prestigious award.

Until this year, artists from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia were invited to submit a proposal for a new piece and five winners had to share a US$100,000 production budget. The resulting works were then shown together in an exhibition at Art Dubai.

But things are about to get more competitive. Starting in 2015, only one project will be selected and will be funded with the full US$100,000 award. The winner will be offered a solo exhibition at the fair “to show their journey as an artist and how it has evolved,” explained Abraaj Group managing director Frederic Sicre during the Art Dubai press conference.

Next year will also see the launch of the Abraaj Group Innovation Awards. It will reward five artists with a scholarship to attend a postgraduate program at the Royal College of Art in London.

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The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2014
My Art Guides
18/03/2014

The Abraaj Group Art Prize is born to empower potential and give often under-represented, contemporary artists the resources to further develop their talent. Artists are invited to submit proposals for new artworks they would like to produce. Once chosen by the Selection Committee, the artists go on to produce the works. The artists collaborate with an internationally renowned curator. This allows them to tap the latest trends, while the prize gives them a global platform to showcase their works and their region. The prize reflects Abraaj's own investment philosophy, which is to take viable businesses with great potential, and create regional and global champions. Each year the awarded artworks are unveiled at Art Dubai.

The winners, Abbas Akhavan and Kamrooz Aram from Iran, Basim Magdy from Egypt, Bouchra Khalili from Morocco and Anup Mathew Thomas from India have been working closely with guest curator Nada Raza on their ambitious projects, which are drawn together in the exhibition Bagh O Bahar: Garden and Spring on show at Art Dubai 2014. The five artists were chosen on the basis of written proposals delineating hypothetical works of art. Their selection was determined, in part, by the persuasive powers of their textual descriptions to suggest visual forms. Now realised after an intensive period of research, travel and production, the completed works continue to demonstrate a commitment to the narrative genre. The gauntlet: to take as a point of departure the proposal itself, a space of flux and possibility and respond with a text. The digital experience of the publication contemporises the architecture of the Persian garden and produces a virtual environment where documentation of the artworks and commissioned texts can hope to live beyond the transient nature of the display. They are available on screens inside the exhibition, and online at www.gardenandspring.com

Curator: Nada Raza

Open:Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Close:Saturday, 22 March 2014
Address:Madinat Jumeirah, Al Sufouh Road, Dubai, UAE
Web:Art Dubai
Photo credits:Bouchra Khalili, courtesy of Art Dubai

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2013

The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2014 Guest Curator announced
Art Daily
09/05/2013

DUBAI.- Nada Raza, an experienced curator, was announced today as the guest curator for the sixth edition (2014) of The Abraaj Group Art Prize by its Selection Committee. Raza joins the internationally recognized committee which will finalize the five winning artists. Once they are selected, she will collaborate with the artists as their ambitious projects evolve. Raza will then present the finished works in a specially curated exhibition at Art Dubai in March 2014.

The Abraaj Group Art Prize is globally unique in awarding talented artists on the basis of proposals rather than completed works, with hundreds of artists each year submitting proposals.

Previous winners have gone on to achieve further global recognition as their works have been exhibited in major international biennials, such as The Venice Biennale and Sharjah Biennial 11 and international museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art, Washington D.C. Artworks from the collection are currently on loan to key institutions in Europe, the US and Asia.

Nada Raza is from Karachi, currently based at Tate Modern in London where she is Assistant Curator focusing on South Asia. Raza holds an MA in Critical Writing and Curatorial Practice from the Chelsea College of Art and has previously worked with Iniva and Green Cardamom in London where she contributed to curatorial projects including ‘Lines of Control’ (Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University 2012) and ‘Social Fabric’ (Iniva, 2012). She has lived and worked independently in the UAE, where she maintains strong links. She writes regularly for regional and international publications.

Speaking of her appointment, Raza commented: “The Abraaj Group Art Prize is a unique platform for emerging artists from the region, allowing complex and ambitious projects to be realized with critical support from a curator. I look forward to engaging with each selected artist in the process of articulating conceptual ideas through to the production of compelling works of art, bringing them to regional and international audiences.”

Frederic Sicre, Managing Director at The Abraaj Group added: “Not only is the regional art scene expanding rapidly but the Abraaj Group Art Prize has also grown to become one of, if not the, largest art prize in the world. Nada Raza brings a wealth of broad expertise to her role as the tenth guest curator for our prize and her experience of working directly with artists, galleries and institutions from the region will help evolve the prize and develop new perspectives. In the six years since the prize was launched, we have lent artworks to over 25 institutions worldwide, commissioned 5 publications, and this year’s winners will bring the number of works in the Abraaj Corporate collection to 26.”

The Selection Committee includes leading experts in the field of the visual arts including: Antonia Carver, Director, Art Dubai; Dana Farouki, Patron; Salwa Mikdadi, art historian and curator; Jessica Morgan, Daskalopoulos Curator, International Art, Tate, London and Glenn Lowry, Director, the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Savita Apte, Chair of the committee, said the following: “Nada brings an institutional curatorial perspective as well as a wealth of experience working in the region to the Abraaj Group Art Prize. She will be working closely with the artists to develop their projects, while evolving new forms of documentation that draw on her experience with new media platforms. Nada’s unique approach will be unveiled at Art Dubai in March.”

The winning artists for The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2014 will be announced later this year.

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Art Dubai 2013: Advantageous projection
Dawn, Pakistan by Salwat Ali
14/04/2013

Currently winner of The Abraaj Group Art prize 2013, shown at Art Dubai, Huma Mulji (previous winners include Hamra Abbas and Risham Syed) is among the two Pakistani artists whose work captured international media attention. Huma Mulji’s artwork titled, ‘The miraculous lives of this and that’, is a 21st century Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, slightly larger than life, full of objects such as taxidermy animals and porcelain imitations of cheap plastic dolls, meditating on the mortality of all things. Curator of the Abraaj Prize, Murtaza Vali, describing the piece to Jim Quilty (reporting for the Daily Star, Lebanon News) says, “Huma’s artwork is a 21st century version of what was called a cabinet of curiosities. These emerged as cultural phenomenon in the 16th century and are considered the predecessor of the modern museum. Unlike the museum — [which] is driven by a rational model for categorisation, chronology and display — ‘the cabinet of curiosities’ collection strategy was completely unsystematic and nonrational.” Adding further, he states, “If the museum is all about knowledge, the cabinet of curiosities is about coming to terms with your inability to know and relishing that.”

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Art Dubai… A Cultural Fiesta!
Al Mahha Cultural Blog by Mashaael Basheer
07/04/2013

"Comparing to last year, Art Dubai is bigger in terms of cultural expansion. Starting with selection of galleries and artworks displayed were divert, MARKER’s choice, multinational winners of Abraaj Group Art Prize with triggering sociopolitical art projects, and the exposure of non-profit organizations, initiatives, commissioned work and interactive programs."" In highlights of the fair there is a section on AGAP: The Abraaj Group Art Prize’s 5th edition set a new benchmark in Middle East contemporary art. Curated by Murtaza Vali, ‘extra | ordinary’ is an exhibition that featured a floor installation of thousands of pieces of lead by Rayyane Tabet, miniature gold statues encased in acrylic by Vartan Avakian; text panels, photographs and sculptures by Iman Issa, a cabinet of curiosities, home to a variety of objects by Huma Mulji and large scale photography by Hrair Sarkissian.

The winning art projects either carried political, social or sociopolitical messages. Lebanese artist Vartan Avakian captivated stories of 7 leaders from the Middle East in A Very Short History of Tall Men who’s leadership didn’t last for long, or failed, because they were deposed at an eye blink and made it hard for anyone to find their trace. Identities were kept anonymous, Avakian depicted the leaders’ short life in a small statue of gold floating in a synthetic glass, as if they were floating in history’s memory. presents

In his ‘Backgroud’ photography series, Syrian artist Hrair Sarkissian captured 6 backgrounds from studios in 6 major cities; Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Byblos, Cairo and Istanbul. Sarkissian’s work didn’t only mark the eclipse of a tradition of studio portraiture integral to the twentieth century history of photography in the Middle East, but also shed the light on objects people don’t usually pay attention to though its importance of a scene in their life.

Meanwhile; Egyptian artist Iman Issa drew her interest in autobiographies and museums in Common Elements, using fragments of this research, presented as text panels, photographs and sculptures, to create a collective narrative of a life dedicated to the pursuit of thought, culture and justice. Huma Mulji (Pakistan) created The Miraculous Lives of This and That, a twenty-first century Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, slightly larger than life, full of objects such as taxidermy animals and porcelain imitations of cheap plastic dolls, meditating on the mortality of all things. And finally, Lebanese artist Rayyane Tabet’s FIRE/CAST/DRAW is a sprawling floor piece comprised of thousands of unique lead pieces, inspired by art history, numismatics, folklore and superstition and the Middle East’s conflict-ridden recent past."

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The artists, curators, critics and collectors among the curious company at Art Dubai
The National, by Tahira Yaqoob
30/03/2013

It is two days before the fair opens, but Huma Mulji's elaborate cabinet of curiosities is lying in pieces around her.
The scene resembles a children's craft project, with tools, glue sticks and marker pens scattered amid large ostrich eggs protected in bubble wrap, an array of stuffed birds in cardboard boxes and more than 100 maniacal-looking dolls cast in porcelain.
It takes two days for a team to assemble the antique wooden cabinets, bought from a market in Mulji's native Karachi, torn apart and rebuilt in the shape she wanted.
Mulji suddenly disappears, crawling into an opening in her modern take on a 16th century wunderkammer, or room of wonder. Only her feet are left dangling outside as she wrangles with her cabinet's internal wiring. All at once, the display lights up and The Miraculous Lives of This and That is brought to life.
It has been a labour of love and involved more than a year of meticulous planning for the Pakistani artist to get her artwork erected here at Art Dubai, where she is one of five winners of the Abraaj Group prize.
She travelled across Europe to research original curiosity cabinets dating back to the Renaissance while the dolls had to be ordered from Limoges in France at a cost of Dh47,260, a hefty chunk of her Dh367,300 Abraaj grant.
Too big when assembled, it took a 150ft high crane to hoist the cabinet off the roof of the home she shares in Lahore with her husband, British sculptor and landscape gardener David Alesworth, 55, and their two-year-old daughter Natasha.
Even then, the whole project nearly unravelled when Pakistani customs officers threatened to drill into the centrepiece of her display, a taxidermied cow, fearing it could be a hideaway for drugs.
"I was at customs for two hours and they were quite brutal," says Mulji, 42. "They opened up everything. Obviously it is their job to make sure nothing like that leaves the country but when you have been working on something for months and someone just pulls it apart it is devastating. Everything had to be reassembled."
Despite all the setbacks, the sculpture is up and intact by the start of the fair. The four-sided cabinet offers a bombardment of images: there is the cow's head, squeezed onto a shelf barely big enough to contain it, its unnerving glassy eyes staring out blankly and its tail and hide crammed into separate compartments; stuffed birds, some dismembered, encased behind glass windows; clusters of flies and dust epitomising the pervasive sense of death and decay running through the piece and drawers filled with an assortment of medical kits, displays of rotting teeth and casts of body parts, sourced from medical college suppliers in Pakistan.
"These are contemporary curiosities," says Mulji. "In the 16th century, it was about scientific discoveries and while collectors would own specimens of scientific things, no one knew what they were so they had a magical quality.
"They would buy objects from doctors or someone would bring back an artefact from an expedition and they would imagine what it should look like.
"There was an ignorance despite the knowledge. It was the first attempt to make sense of the world.
"That not knowing and wonder at the world is what I am interested in."
Those curiosity cabinets were owned by the wealthy and were often filled with mislabelled and frequently misunderstood objects.
Mulji saw parallels with contemporary goods spotted on Pakistani street stalls in the form of plastic dolls, imitations of western toys which became something else.
She took that idea of parody to the extreme by sending cheap Pakistani dolls to porcelain manufacturers in France and turning poor, disposable copies into valuable objects.
"I am interested in popular visual culture, and in Pakistan, where there is so much that is parodied, it completely transforms the object and becomes localised," she says.
Mulji wants to evoke the same sense of wonder of original 16th century audiences in those who view her cabinet and to leave with a notion of not really understanding what they have seen.
"There is so much happening that in one walk round, you will not get the whole story," she says. "The cabinet looks authoritative, but there is that sense of curiosity, of wanting to know more but it does not give you enough information."
Miraculous Lives is a magnet for visitors to the fair, drawing gawps, stares and murmurs of amazement. Graphic designer Diana Chamma, 25, finds it "disturbing". Artist Hamdan al Shamsi, 32, says it reminds him of his childhood nightmares and urban myths of monsters.
The fair casts Mulji as something of a curiosity herself, a role she is somewhat uncomfortable with.
Five years ago, her sculpture, Arabian Delight, a stuffed camel crammed into a suitcase, was deemed too sensitive to display at Art Dubai. It was pulled from the fair and later bought by Charles Saatchi, who included it in his show The Empire Strikes Back in London in 2010.
The controversy thrust Mulji, who often works in solitude for months at a time, into the spotlight she shies away from. Even here as a prize-winning exhibitor, she is out of her comfort zone.
"Art fairs," she says, "are not for artists. They are for gallerists and collectors. There is an economic side to the art world which artists like to pretend does not exist and something they are not part of, but obviously they are.
"I find it excruciating and painful. Sitting in a studio, the artist can believe he or she is not implicated, but we let this happen. You are faced with the realisation that you are implicated."
Being confronted by a questioning public means she comes up with a handful of sometimes meaningless sound bites: "That is what I dread.
"I am very envious of artists who seem to get through this process with much more elegance. If I could articulate it, perhaps I would be working with words."
But the Abraaj prize, she says, gives her a platform to work in a region where the audience "understands the nuances of the work more easily than an audience which is culturally different".

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Dubai in love with West African art
The Guardian Nigeria, by Tajudeen Sowole
29/03/2013

ON breeding new artists, the major sponsor of Art Dubai Fair, The Abraaj Group – a capital investment organisation – showed how to invest in the future when it awarded some new artists who emerged winners in the art competition named after the financier of the fair. The winners of the Abraaj Group Prize included Vartan Avakian and Rayyane Tabet (Lebanon), Iman Issa from Egypt, Huma Mulji (Pakistan) and Hrair Sarkissian, Syria. Guest curator, Murtaza Vali explained at a press conference that the works from the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 editions of the Abraaj Group Art Prize “have been exhibited at several venues in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Gulf and the U.S. including: The National Museum of Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia (2012) and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India”. The Abraaj Group is a leading investor operating in the global growth markets of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Frederic Sicre, Managing Director at The Abraaj Group said: “To nurture and cultivate the cultural climate across the regions, we operate by empowering exceptional artistic talents, which is important to us. The Abraaj Group Art Prize is the flagship of our arts patronage programme and is at the heart of our stakeholder engagement strategies. As the prize turns five, we are delighted to be able to engage with five more innovative art installations in the exhibition this year and bring five more artists into our network of winners, who become ambassadors and act as role models for younger artists.”

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Oasis of Art
Quddus Mirza in the News on Sunday, Pakistan
28/03/2013

Among those five winners, Pakistan’s Huma Mulji showed her cabinet of curiosity, titled ‘The Miraculous Lives of This and That’. This is a complex piece, a culminating and converging stage of her previous works, from doll-house-like objects made with Rexene in 1998 to taxidermist animals that started with Arabian Delight for the 1st Gulf Art Dubai in 2007.

The most impressive entry in the recent Abraaj Capital Prize was the installation ‘A Very Short History of Tall Men’ by Vartan Avakian from Lebanon. In this work, tiny figures of a man in suit were suspended inside transparent balls, each placed on a pedestal in the dark room. The light, the choice of material, the scale and the placement gave the illusion of these figures floating in the space. Avakian explained these gold plated figures were in fact inspired from a person who stormed the national media in Lebanon and announced that he was a ruler of the Republic, till the man was caught by the official forces. Avakian transformed the small act into a heroic deed, but as if taking place in the realm of imagination, ideas and desires.

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Concept Centrestage
Friday Review, The Hindu, by Shailaja Tripathi
28/03/2013

This year the Abraaj Group Art Prize was won by Vartan Avakian of Lebanon, Iman Issa of Egypt, Huma Mulji of Pakistan, Hrair Sarkissian of Syria and Rayyane Tabet of Lebanon. Murtaza Vali had curated an exhibition of the works by the winning artists and during his guided tours he stated that the ‘Extra/Ordinary’ is a silent space, away from the hustle-bustle of the fair. The curious visitors particularly spent a lot of time gazing at objects like taxidermic animals, plastic bags, cutlery, dolls, etc. kept inside the cabinet, an installation done by Pakistani artist Huma Mulji.

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Works metallic, minor, lost, forgotten
The Daily Star, Lebanon, by Jim Quilty
27/03/2013

The room is pitch black. Pin lights slice vertically through the darkness to illuminate seven glass spheres seemingly suspended in air. The onlooker freezes in place, lest the specters be disturbed.

Sturdy atop its own plinth, each 13-cm globe contains a 5-cm-high figurine. All seven figures depict military men, each striking a different pose. One is frozen, midstride. Another stands, hands behind his back. A third extends his left hand, as if to greet an invisible ally.

Each figurine is made of 1 ounce of 18-karat gold.

The subject of Vartan Avakian’s “A Very Short History of Tall Men”is seven all-but-forgotten figures – the leaders of failed coups d’état in the Arab world.

Uncovering what images he could – deposed coup leaders usually disappear from history completely – Avakian worked with computer modelers to create photo-quality 3-D models.

The piece enjoyed an ephemeral public life last week at Art Dubai, the emirate’s yearly art fair. The work was shown as part of “extra | ordinary,” an exhibition curated by Murtaza Vali, a respected art critic and writer who divides his time between the U.S. and the Emirates.

The fruit of Avakian’s research into the margins of the region’s political history, “Short History” is thoughtful – reflecting back upon art historical and critical approaches to public monuments, their aesthetics and political culture. It’s also profoundly comic.

The wit of the piece is amplified by the strength of its formal realization. As the generous swaddling of exhibition literature – essays by Vali, Dutch curator Nat Muller and Lebanese artist Walid Sadek – will attest, these gold statuettes stand as an amusing riff on monumental representations of ephemeral national heroes.

A metaphorical wink at history itself, each glass sphere serves as a lens, magnifying the figure’s image from 5 to 7-8 cm. Each effigy is enclosed within a bubble that could be ego made material, yet the globes also protect these miniature monuments from the leveling forces of time.

In an interview with Vali, printed in one of five booklets published alongside “extra | ordinary,” Avakian discussed his work’s obscure roots.

“It lies in the story of a 1976 coup led by Abd al-Aziz al-Ahdab,” he recalled, “a brigadier general of the Lebanese Army who became notorious for leading what eventually came to be known as the ‘Coup on Television.’ His attempt to seize power simply involved him taking over Channel 7 and reading out his Communique No. 1. That was it, nothing more.”

The incident reminded him of how, while staging self-immolations, members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) often waited for television news crews to set up before setting themselves alight.

“To have any lasting political effect,” Vartan said, “an act of self-destruction has to have a visual and sensorial component, it needs to become and be consumed as image. It must become a story, a narrative, part of the symbolic order. Though it occurs at the level of the Real, it must radiate into the symbolic.”

The five exhibits in “extra | ordinary” are the winning works of the 2013 Abraaj Group Art Prize. Funded by the Dubai-based private equity firm of the same name, the AGAP exhibition is one of several events that run in parallel to Art Dubai.

About six months before the fair, five proposals were selected from a scrum of applying artists. With Vali, this year’s guest curator, the winning candidates labored to realize their projects, using the half-million dollars that Abraaj Capital places at their disposal. After a half-year of toil, the five pieces were unveiled during Art Dubai.

With “extra | ordinary,” Vali continued the practice, initiated in 2012, of displaying the AGAP works as a coherent exhibition.

“I tried to develop a curatorial framework that emerged from the works themselves,” Vali told The Daily Star, “one that doesn’t impose my curatorial vision on them. I also tried to keep in mind the relationship between the AGAP exhibition and the rest of the fair ... The frame works both in conjunction with the art fair and to some degree against it.

“Most of these five works are reflective and involve a long research process not necessarily evident in the works – hence the exhibition title, “extra | ordinary.” The focus is on the richness of the ordinary, the banal, the trivial.

“The idea was also to set off the exhibition against the hustle-bustle of Art Dubai, to create a space where people could come and spend time with the works. ... A lot of these artworks emerge from what is normally overlooked, considered insignificant, what is lost, forgotten. I wanted to create a space in which people were forced to look.”

For the most part, Vali’s strategy for “extra | ordinary” worked very well.

Dominating the space’s main hall was Iman Issa’s “Common Elements,” a sprawling installation of 54 text panels, 14 c-prints and five sculptures on white plinths.

The artist’s source texts are five autobiographical works by Edward Said, Nawal El Saadawi, Taha Hussein and Mourid Barghouti.

“The source material for the objects,” Vali noted, “is derived from Iman’s research into what one could call minor museums – national museums, agriculture museums, science museums, railway museums, etc. She was very struck by those sorts of display strategies.”

In the back of the main space was Huma Mulji’s “The Miraculous Lives of This and That,” a wooden cabinet containing stuffed animals, plastic toys, dust and the like.

“Huma’s is a 21st-century version of what was called a cabinet of curiosities,” Vali said. “These emerged as cultural phenomena in the 16th century and are considered the predecessor of the modern museum.

“Unlike the museum – [which] is driven by a rational model for categorization, chronology and display – the cabinet of curiosities’ collection strategy was completely un-systematic and nonrational,” he continued.

“If the museum is all about knowledge, the cabinet of curiosities is about coming to terms with your inability to know, and relishing that.”

Hrair Sarkissian’s “Background” is comprised of a series of six 180x227 cm duratran prints that document the studio backdrops he found in 20th-century photography studios in Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Byblos, Cairo and Istanbul.

Hung unframed and backlit, the series, as Vali puts it, monumentalizes and eulogies the subject, forcing you to look at what is usually taken for granted: the imagined vistas behind the (here absented) posing figure.

If there was a shortcoming in Vali’s spatial strategy for “extra | ordinary,” it lay in the space itself. Though the corner of the Madinat Jumeirah set aside for the 2012 Abraaj exhibition accommodated those five works nicely, it proved too small for the 2013 show.

Consequently, Sarkissian’s works were displayed across the hall from the rest of the AGAP show. Three pieces were hung on either side of the entrance to the Abraaj VIP Lounge, like decoration.

Tabet’s “Fire/Cast/Draw” is a floor installation comprised of 5,000 pieces of lead, deployed in a rectangle.

To form each of these 5,000 metal wads, the artist poured about 100 grams of molten lead shot into an Arabic coffee cup of cold water. The weight of each wad corresponds to the lead weight of a bullet. The entire work weighs in at about half a ton.

These acts recreate a ritual to ward off the evil eye. It’s believed the face of the person who’s casting the spell is embedded in the lead form that congeals in the cold water.

“The installation hinges on two double meanings,” Vali remarked during the exhibition tour. “The first is the English word ‘cast,’ which applies equally to the casting of metal and to the casting of spells. It thus connects the lead to the realm of magic, superstition and enchantment. The other is the double meaning of the Arabic word ‘rassas,’ which is used both for lead, the metal, and bullets.”

“The work has a double life,” Tabet said, “one in Arabic and one in English. A shape made out of lead could be perceived around the village as this divination ritual. In the context of contemporary art, it’s something out of Richard Serras’ verb list.”

Tabet says “Fire/Cast/Draw” could only have been made in the context of the AGAP. “Having this private equity firm owning half a ton of toxic material that will change color over time, that’s really hard to conserve – I’m not into that kind of art practice but ... I feel the scale of it could not have been possible otherwise. A lot of times Abraaj is equated with dollar signs. I equate it with weight.”

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Abraaj Group exhibits extraordinary Middle Eastern art
Ahram Online, Egypt, by Sara Elkamel
26/03/2013

Egyptian artist Iman Issa is among 5 winners of the annual Abraaj Group Art Prize, officially unveiled at Art Dubai in an exhibition entitled 'extra / ordinary'
The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2013 was awarded to proposals of installations by five emerging artists from the Middle East: Iman Issa from Egypt; Hrair Sarkissian from Syria; Vartan Avakian and Rayyane Tabet from Lebanon, and Huma Mulji from Pakistan. The artists have been working with guest curator Murtaza Vali for the past six months to realise and fine-tune their projects, which were unveiled as per tradition at Art Dubai in an exhibition entitled extra / ordinary held from 19 to 23 March.
Funded by leading private equity investor, the Abraaj Group, the Art Prize seeks to support and showcase exceptional talent emerging in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

Underlining the annual art grant is a pursuit for projects that transcends geographic borders, while being entrenched in the region from which they emerge. Another curatorial commitment on the part of Abraaj is to toy around with the boundaries of mediums. The result? Five installations that carry political undertones within the context of broader social critique.

Guest curator Murtaza Vali explains that the idea behind this year’s exhibition, extra / ordinary was "not to produce larger than life artwork, but rather to refocus attention on the banal routine of daily life." Vali elaborates that the five winning projects reflect insidious political undertones, while echoing conversations of mundane contemporary life.

In an installation entitled Common Elements, contemporary visual artist Iman Issa (who happens to be the third Egyptian to win the Abraaj Group Art Prize after Wael Shawky and Hala Elkoussy in 2012 and 2011, respectively) juxtaposes 54 text panels bearing quotes from four distinguished Arab writers from the Middle East; professor of English Literature, proponent of Palestinian rights and author of iconic book Orientalist Edward Said, Palestinian poet and writer Mourid Barghouti, legendary Egyptian novelist and intellectual Taha Hussein and Egyptian feminist and writer Nawal Al-Saadawi, with five wooden sculptures and 14 coloured photographs.

After reading a large number of autobiographies in preparation for this project, Issa chose these five texts by four Arab figures, who had all incidentally spent time in her hometown, Cairo. The artist went line by line through the five books she chose, hunting for excerpts that carry language that transcends the storyline of the individual and provides hints of a broader socio-political context.

"I found autobiography an interesting form, because [while writing] you have the humility of speaking only for yourself, but a lot of times you also give the implication that it’s something more," the artist told Ahram Online minutes before the official unveiling of the Abraaj prize winners. "So it is the story of this man or this woman, but it’s also the story of this country, this war, this region."

Issa was hunting for words that transcend the story of an individual that could be read as snippets of the memoirs of an entire generation. "I extracted all the instances where I felt that this dynamic of the personal narrative becoming something more happened," she says.

Autobiography also interested Issa as a vehicle for communicating memory; a fundamentally subjective material. "When you work with memory, you always ask yourself the question; okay, I’m working with memory, how is anyone else supposed to understand it? How can I communicate it?"

And, indeed, it feels like a walk down memory lane as the audience makes their way down the narrow white-walled hall, with text panels arranged sporadically across both sides, intertwined with photographs of a wide array of objects that differ in texture in reality, yet are identical today, including wooden palms, rolls of brightly-coloured paper, an ornate ceramic plate, bamboo pots, among others, and wooden sculptures, including a large, jet-black X-shaped figurine, a coffin-like box and other objects.

"In the future we will have a collective memory identical to the individual’s memory. It will be as if what happened to one, happened to all," one text panel reads. Another melancholic question is: "I am a writer, which means I don’t do anything. Isn’t that miserable?" And yet another sign poignantly states: "Departure is the state of being abandoned even though it is you who leaves."
The images sprinkled among the minimalist text panels, depicting a range of objects including an empty notebook, a white owl and outstretched granite palms, among others, function here as illustration to this string of seemingly arbitrary, heartrending quotes. Issa says she was stuck for months trying to figure out how to visually represent her chosen texts. She explains that while walking around in a vast array of museums, "the spell broke" and she started to visualise objects and sculptures that seemed appropriate as visual aids.

There is no direct relationship between the text and the images, but do not try to ask the artist for an explanation, she is as clueless as we are: "I don’t know why I chose these images," she says. And like us, she is really interested to find out.

"I’m hoping the whole thing will be read together," she says. "The question is: what is the common element?"

Issa explains that she always works with questions, and that answers are not as important. "That is why it takes me forever to make a project," she says with a chuckle. This project, for instance, took Issa two years to complete.

Common Elements is not Issa’s own autobiography illustrated; her dynamic installation draws on the words of four iconic Arab writers to create a dialogue between the spectators, the memoirs, and herself. "I’m not interested in psychoanalysing myself, or just dumping my own emotions. I’m interested in communication, and communication always involves another person," she says.

Through yanking out excerpts of texts, and in effect de-contextualising the autobiographies she worked with, Issa set out to create a single collective narrative of a life devoted to renaissance and resistance.

Also working with nostalgia, Syrian artist Hrair Sarkissian exhibits a stunning project entitled Background, in which he exhibits six theatrical images documenting photography studios he visited in six cities; Alexandria, Amman, Beirut, Byblos, Cairo and Istanbul. Paying tribute to the end of a studio portraiture era that has been eclipsed by the emergence of digital photography, Sarkissian exhibits these backdrops, some lavishly decorated with a large piano, others a minimalist tower of books or a faint pink sheet, without a sitter, and hung unframed like backdrops, backlit with neon bulbs.

"To me, these images are, bright, yes, but they are also melancholic," says curator Vali. "They represent the disappearance of the tradition of studio photography."
Similarly inviting audiences to refocus their attention on details and to read the fine print, Pakistani artist Huma Mulji exhibits The Miraculous Lives of This and That, a modern take on the Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosities, a showcase of objects deemed "nasty" by Vali, such as rotting teeth, taxidermy animals, porcelain imitations of cheap plastic dolls, among others.

The objects randomly organised in an oversized wooden cabinet are a collection of ordinary and extraordinary objects that the artist stumbled upon in the streets and bazaars of Lahore. Coated with a later of dust, the cabinet entices (and perhaps at times disgusts) onlookers with objects that straddle the line between animate and inanimate, and the installation emerges as a slightly haunting storytelling device.

"As a whole, the project is a meditation on the inevitability of death and decay, and what it means for objects to outlive their use," explains Vali.
Another extremely interesting, mysterious work is a floor installation entitled FIRE / CAST / DRAW made up of 5000 bumpy blobs of melted lead, each individually hand cast by Lebanese artist Rayyane Tabet. The artist repeatedly poured the equivalent to a single bullet worth of melted lead into a water-filled coffee cup, in re-enactment of a ritual called "molybdomancy" that his grandmother performed on him in his youth. The face of the person who has cast the evil eye your way is thought to appear in the lump of melted lead.

The installation, which features half a ton of lead, tackles folklore, superstition and magic, and perhaps, most of all, the violence that plagues the Middle East’s contemporary conflict-ridden past and present.

The final project, a very visually captivating installation of miniature gold statues transfixed in clear acrylic spheres entitled A Very Short History of Tall Men produced by another Lebanese artist, Vartan Avakian, commemorates forgotten leaders of failed coups d’états.

Compared with the seemingly never-ending, slightly disorienting maze of exhibition booths in the main Art Dubai halls at Madinet Jumeirah, this well-curated Abraaj Group Art Prize exhibition provided adequate space for onlookers to take in and experience the individual installations.

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Art Dubai and the 11th Sharjah Biennial Re:Calibrate
Ocula, by Stephanie Bailey
25/03/2013

Of course, the corridor leading to the Madinaat Jumeirah’s exhibition halls is prime Art Dubai real estate, occupied by the fair’s two main sponsors: Cartier, presenting their merchandise in a closed-off exhibition space, and Abraaj Capital, with its VIP lounge situated opposite the annual Abraaj Capital Art Prize gallery; the only prize in the world that, in the words of Savita Apte, chair of the ACAP, “awards dreams and ideas”. This year, the corridor was claimed with images by Syrian artist, Hrair Sarkissian (who barely made it to the UAE after visa issues surrounding his Syrian citizenship blocked him), placed by curator of this year’s ACAP exhibition, Murtaza Vali, titled Extra | Ordinary, featuring Sarkissian and fellow 2013 Abraaj Prize winners, Egyptian Iman Issa, Lebanon artists Vartan Avakian and Rayanne Tabet, and Pakistan’s Huma Mulji. For Vali, the intention of Extra | Ordinary was to produce a space of personal and private contemplation amidst the frenzy of the art fair.

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Art Dubai Recap: The Paintings, Sculptures, and Jewels We Loved
Conde Nast Traveler by Susan Hack
23/03/2013

"One of seven figures in the installation, A Very Short History of Tall Men, by Vartan Avakian, a Beirut-based artist and one of the winner's of this year's  Abraaj Group Art Prize.  Displayed in a darkened room, the piece consists of miniature but impressively detailed gold statues of former dictators encased in synthetic glass globes. The collection brings to mind the isolation of leaders out of touch with their citizens, the wealth corruption accrues, the focus on one man to the exclusion of opposing points of view, and the fragility of unjust government.

FIRE/CAST/DRAW, 2013, by Rayyane Tabet, another winner of the Abraj Group Prize, consists of 5,000 unique, hand-cast lead pieces and wall texts. Each piece has the same weight as a single bullet and was melted in a traditional, Lebanese-style coffee pot over a stove then poured into an Arabic coffee cup. The artist's method incorporates a ritual performed by his grandmother, who believed she could determine the face of someone who had cast the evil eye in each craggy, metal nook. The artist seems to suggest citizens bear some collective responsibility for conflict stemming from individual grudge and prejudice as much as religion and competition for resources."

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In Dubai
London Review of Books by Ursula Lindsey
21/03/2013

One of the winners of the Abraaj Group Art Prize unveiled at the Art Dubai fair this week is Vartan Avakian. A Very Short History of Tall Men is a collection of portraits of would-be dictators, not-so-strong men who lasted only a few days or weeks and were quickly forgotten. He has cast detailed miniature gold statues of the men and suspended them in globes of synthetic glass, like insects in amber. Another winner, Rayyane Tabet, bought half a ton of lead from a shot manufacturer in Lebanon and used it to perform, 5000 times, a ritual against the evil eye he learned from his grandmother: melt the lead and cool it in water, and the face of your enemy will appear (and be neutralised). Each piece of lead in FIRE/CAST/DRAW – about enough to make a bullet – yields a unique twisted blossom of shining metal. The artists says he saw many faces, including his own.

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In the Frame
Concierge
15/03/2013

The fair's highlight is the Abraaj Group Art Prize. The special award for artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia is unique in that it is given to artists' proposals rather than completed works of art. Each of the five selected artists then create pieces based on his or her ideas that, when completed, are exhibited during Art Dubai. With such a

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On the ghosts of artworks past
Daily Star, Beirut by Jim Quilty
05/02/2013

“Despite being abandoned,” recalls the unnamed narrator in Fadi Tufayli’s “Paragraphs from a Blink Map,” Qasr Heneine “contained the presence of some hidden movement, the specters of which appeared within its darkened windows.”

“When Saleh touched one of its smooth surfaces, a fine layer of the reddening plaster surface peeled away to reveal the sandy stones that made up the castle’s walls and pillars. He began to smile ... It was as though he was reading a secret text, a coded message in the sandstone, which appeared suddenly with the touch of his hand, that instrument of his vivid and refined vision.”

Lodged between autobiographical fiction and an urban history of the Beirut quarter of Zuqaq al-Blat, Tufayli’s piece is among those included in “Spectral Imprints.” The book, recently launched at Ashkal Alwan’s Home Workspace, also resides in the space between document and artfully rendered recollection.

Edited by Rotterdam-based curator Nat Muller, this 160-page work documents a short-lived exhibition of five works by artists from the fictive “Menasa” (Middle East North Africa South Asia) region – Pakistan’s Risham Syed, Lebanon’s Raed Yassin, Palestine’s Taysir Batniji, Egypt’s Wael Shawky and Lebanese duo Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige.

The exhibition, itself called “Spectral Imprints,” was held during the 2012 edition of ArtDubai, the emirate’s yearly art fair. The five projects arose from a pot of money the artists got from the emirate’s Abraaj Capital Art Prize, one of the fair’s prestigious side events.

The book is the ghost of that exhibition. Of what use, you might ask, is a book about an exhibition that ran less than a week, one whose individual works (being privately and exclusively owned) perhaps may not be exhibited in public again?

Awarded since 2009, ACAP originally saw monies awarded to individual artist-curator teams. The free-standing works the teams created were then displayed independently of one another during ArtDubai.

Two years later, recipient artists were asked to work with a single curator. Muller, ACAP’s 2012 curator, decided to build a cohesive exhibition around the artists’ works.

A veteran of the MENA art scene, Muller was well placed to find and conceptualize the thematic commonalities in these artists’ works, giving “Spectral Imprints” the sort of critical rigor often ascribed to world-class exhibitions.

Consequently, though not all the works in “Spectral Imprints” were necessarily the most profound pieces these artists had ever produced, the aesthetic weight of the exhibition was greater than the sum of its parts.

Syed’s “The Seven Seas” is a series of four quilts made of fabric collected in Turkey, Bangladesh, the UAE, Sri Lanka, the U.K., India and Pakistan. They depict 19th- and 20th-century maps of the port cities of Izmir, Colombo, Mumbai and Ras al-Khaimah. The works connect contemporary geopolitics with the Britain’s cotton trade of the last two centuries, interweaving the history of textile production with tales of political resistance.

Yassin’s “China” is comprised of a series of seven china pots, produced at China’s porcelain capital of Jingdezhen, all depicting key battles of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 Civil War, all rendered in the manner of Persian miniatures.

In 1985, Taysir Batniji celebrated his brother’s wedding with his family in Gaza. Two years later, his brother was killed by an Israeli sniper. In an effort to represent his personal loss, to render the absent tangible, Batniji etched a series of inkless “drawings” on paper, based on family photos of his brother’s wedding. The result is “To My Brother” a series of 60 hand carvings from photographs on paper.

Hadjithomas and Joreige’s “A Letter Can Always Reach its Destination” is a video installation based on the artists’ decade-old collection of SPAM and SCAM emails soliciting cash donations from their recipients and often promising easy riches.

The artists transformed their textual source material into visual narratives enacted as monologues by nonprofessional actors.

Much of Shawky’s recent work has been interested by the process of transition embodied in the Crusades. “A Glimpse of Clean History” is modeled on a painting by the French artist Jean Fouquet (1420-1481), depicting Pope Urban II’s 1098 sermon, which is thought to have helped provoke the First Crusade. Shawky’s version of the painting is a medieval marionette theater, which recreates the painting’s figures as ceramic dolls.

The principal shortcoming of publications like “Spectral Imprints” is that they are no substitute for eyeballing the work in situ. That said, the volume – designed by Beirut-born Huda Smitshuijzen-AbiFares, the founder of Holland’s Khatt Foundation– is itself a handsome vessel.

AbiFares and Muller are generous in number of pages allotted to photographic reproductions – of both works in development and finished pieces.

As a practical companion to the exhibition, “Spectral Imprints” includes Muller’s detailed interviews with the artists about the creation of these works and how they relate to their broader artistic practices. These provide interesting, entertaining insights into the artists’ practical imaginations.

To add layers of aesthetic and critical complexity to the exhibition, Muller commissioned three new texts composed in response to the works.

In “Imaginal Materials,” Canadian art theorist Laura U Marks argues that artists be liberated from the burden of representation, that their imagined works be allowed an existence autonomous of the “factual” material reality that inspires it.

These works, she writes, “are not documents: they are physical expressions of an imagined (not fictional) past. They crystallize the imagined past in objects, just as one can extrude hitherto impossible forms from algorithms using a 3-D printer.”

Coming from the other side of the critical universe “Writing Back to History: Take Two,” by London-based Palestinian-Lebanese theorist Hanan Toukan, borrows from Foucauldian notions of archaeology to argue that these works examine “the discursive traces and orders left by the past in order to write a ‘history of the present’ ... In a time when art and revolution are increasingly connected, the works in this exhibition subtly remind us that the political urgency that captures our contemporary imagination is part of fragile and fleeting moments that contribute to the snowball effect of history.”

Discussions of urban morphology are invariably figurative. “Paragraphs from a Blind Map,” Tufayli’s fictive memoir of Zuqaq al-Blat swerves off this discursive track, not recollecting the quarter visually, but in olfactory and tactile terms.

“Spectral Imprints” is available for purchase at the Beirut Art Center and online from IDEA Books: http://www.ideabooks.nl.

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2012

How to win the Abraaj Capital Art Prize
THAT Magazine, Autumn 2012
10/11/2012

The recipients of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize for 2013 have been announced and work to complete the projects in time to exhibit at Art Dubai in March are well underway.

The question is:
Why haven't you started to plan your proposal for 2014?
Applications are open until January 31, 2013.

Yes, YOU....I'm serious. You should apply.

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Art al arab
by Dorothea Schoene, for Quality Magazine, Germany
07/11/2012

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Catalyzing regional art
Salwat Ali on Art Dubai and the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, ADA Magazine
01/11/2012

....‘Spectral Imprints’ - winning artworks of the prestigious Abraaj Capital Art Prize focused on five projects narrating the past and the difficulties of representing something tangible of a moment in time.The winning artists Taysir Batniji from Palestine, Wael Shawky from Egypt, Risham Syed from Pakistan, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige and Raed Yassin from Lebanon were announced in October 2011 and unveiled at Art Dubai in 2012. In a departure from earlier formats used in Art Dubai, the winning artworks were displayed together in a unified exhibition curated by Nat Muller from The Netherlands, the selected Guest Curator for 2012.Abraaj awardee and Pakistani participant Risham Syed’s practice focused on the remains of cultural/historical inheritance and its perceived authenticity in present-day Pakistan. She is an Assistant Professor at the School of Visual Art, Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, where she continues to live and work. In her practice, Risham Syed emphasis was on the traces of cultural inheritance in her native Pakistan; with The Seven Seas fabric artworks she has branched out to the broader MENASA region, charting Victorian trade routes – still relevant today - on quilts....

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Catalyzing regional art, Art Dubai 2012
by Salwat Ali, ADA Magazine
01/11/2012

‘Spectral Imprints’ - winning artworks of the prestigious Abraaj Capital Art Prize focused on five projects narrating the past and the difficulties of representing something tangible of a moment in time.The winning artists Taysir Batniji from Palestine, Wael Shawky from Egypt, Risham Syed from Pakistan, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige and Raed Yassin from Lebanon were announced in October 2011 and unveiled at Art Dubai in 2012. In a departure from earlier formats used in Art Dubai, the winning artworks were displayed together in a unified exhibition curated by Nat Muller from The Netherlands, the selected Guest Curator for 2012.Abraaj awardee and Pakistani participant Risham Syed’s practice focused on the remains of cultural/historical inheritance and its perceived authenticity in present-day Pakistan. She is an Assistant Professor at the School of Visual Art, Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, where she continues to live and work. In her practice, Risham Syed emphasis was on the traces of cultural inheritance in her native Pakistan; with The Seven Seas fabric artworks she has branched out to the broader MENASA region, charting Victorian trade routes – still relevant today - on quilts.

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A Revolution of a Different Kind
Arab Art Creates its Own Spring, by Bahjat Homsi, Fortune Arabia Magazine
21/06/2012

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Shezad Dawood
Art Review Issue 60, Summer 2012 by JJ Charlesworth
15/06/2012

...Dawood’s other recent film, New Dream Machine Project (2011), addresses these problems head-on. In a sort-of documentary of a concert held in Tangier’s Cinémathèque de Tanger, Moroccan ensemble the Master Musicians of Jajouka jam alongside the more outlandish guitar of contemporary blues guitarist Duke Garwood, while a scaled-up version of Beat artist Brion Gysin’s Dream Machine revolves and illuminates the players and audience in the darkened auditorium. It’s a straightforward combination, but the film condenses past and present, East and West, art and spiritualism, to effectively re-invoke the cultural tensions at the heart of a historic Western avant-garde art’s fascination with the exotic, spiritual, East. Gysin’s Dream Machine is now a sort of legendary symbol for a countercultural fascination with transcendental experience and altered states of mind, while it was in Tangier that Gysin and other Beat dropouts such as William Burroughs saw an escape from the conformism of postwar America.

New Dream Machine Project has a strange tension at play in it. Initially one recognises the uncomfortable, old image of exoticism and a oneway cultural projection of extending from a hippie fascination with the mystic, spiritual Orient, while the Dream Machine produces the kind of psychedelic abstraction that reveals how much of modernity’s conception of the abstract, from Mondrian to Rothko, touched on ideas of the spiritual rather than the rationalistic. Garwood’s bearded face, under an unkempt mass of curly hair, would be just as much at home in the Tangier of 1968. And there’s the occasional echo of ethnographic scrutiny in the camera’s depiction of the Master Musicians, of the ‘musical cultures of the Middle East’ kind familiar in postwar, postcolonial travelogues. So authentically does it appear to reproduce the trope of the exoticist, orientalist countercultural vision, and so convincing is its depiction of an event that looks like it should have happened 40 years ago, that it’s a shock to see this film for what it is: a staged musical collaboration in which these individuals and artistic histories are being purposefully engineered by an artist, now, in the early twenty-first century. Dawood’s art deploys parallax as a critical tool, generating situations in which a subjective point of view is combined with the recognition of another, equally valid, alternative perspective, and in which the artist assumes a multiplicity of identities, adopting alternate roles to make this happen.
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Meet the curator of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize
by Christopher Lord, The National
12/06/2012

Murtaza Vali dodges jargon and fulfils that true vocation of the curator: to be a conduit between artist and audience for making better sense of the work.
The Sharjah- and New York-based curator is a smart choice, then, for the next instalment of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize ahead of the winning works being rolled out at Art Dubai in March next year.
The selection committee is currently deciding the five artist winners of the prize, to be announced later this year. Artists submit proposals for an ambitious project - the sort that would be otherwise held back by funding - and Abraaj Capital funds the creation of the winning proposals to go on exhibition at Art Dubai before entering Abraaj's private collection.
Curators have been a part of ACAP since it started in 2008, but recent instalments have seen curators trying to find greater connectivity between the works.
Like the artists, Vali had to submit a proposal for the curator post, and will edit a publication to present the works and discuss their ideas for release next year.
How are you approaching the prize at this stage?
I think that what Nat [Muller, the curator of ACAP 2012] did with the exhibition this year worked. She tried to unify the projects as an exhibition rather than individual discreet projects and came up with an incredible curatorial structure for it. I thought that had been a weakness in the prior presentations and meant ACAP didn't have as much presence in Art Dubai. It's hard to do because you're taking a set of proposals that you don't select on your own, and they're also selected according to proposals, so you don't know what the final piece will be.
Is there a continuity to each prize or do you see each year as exclusive?
There's a particular scale and ambition of project that the prize demands. I'd love to be able to come up with a curatorial theme that can unify this year's winning works in some way like last year. I think people get a lot more from that. As a curator you bring to the fore whatever ideas you want in a work, but that isn't to say you're closing off meanings. Instead, it is a way of focusing people's attentions on certain elements, which is my job here.
What's your role in ACAP while the artists are producing their work?
I see myself as an interlocutor and a sounding board. Then as we go forward, maybe a facilitator for helping arrange for things to be made, or maybe discussing any weak points in a project.
Can you explain the value of a curator? What do they bring to an exhibition?
A curator recognises that an art work is a critical text primarily. Art can be an object of beauty or an ethnographic piece, but it can also be a critical statement. A curator puts that element over its other discourses. This is something that I think has been lacking in this part of the world. The idea that artworks can play some critical or intellectual role in society is there but is not made obvious and I think it's detrimental in the way that art is evolving. Artists who are graduating from art school here too often see art as a commercial product and their approach becomes entrepreneurial. Artwork can be used together to produce a visual essay, which I think a curated exhibition can be.

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Présence des arts : Chkoun ahna à Carthage Contemporary
Un événement majeur
16/05/2012


Est-il vraiment nécessaire de se poser la question? Et ne sommes-nous pas, selon ce lecteur plein d’humour, «des Tunisiens, mangeurs de couscous, et amateurs de chakchouka?»
Oui, mais nous sommes aussi, nous le savons tous, capsiens puniques, romains, vandales, arabes, espagnols, grecs, turcs.
Ce que nous savions moins, et cela la révolution l’a mis à jour, c’est que nous avions des cultures, des convictions, des obédiences, des références différentes, souvent antinomiques, et qu’il n’y avait pas une Tunisie, mais un pays pluriel. Aussi, se poser, et poser la question «Chkoun Ahna», devient pertinent pour des artistes qui sont les caisses de résonance d’une société, ceux qui, avant tout le monde, flairent l’air du temps, décèlent les ruptures, annoncent les dangers.
«Chkoun Ahna» est l’évènement majeur de la première édition de «Carthage Contemporary», rendez-vous artistique qui se tient le 12 mai prochain, qui ambitionne de devenir annuel et qui se compose de rencontres, de tables rondes, et d’autres expositions.
«Chkoun Ahna» est une exposition collective qui a choisi un lieu hautement symbolique, et à ce jour jamais consacré à ce genre d’évènements : le musée de Carthage. Là-haut, sur cette colline, d’où les siècles nous regardent, et où se superposent les strates de l’Histoire, la pluralité sera mise à nu : qui sommes-nous, rencontre de ce carrefour de civilisations, d’où venons-nous, qui nous a fait ce que nous sommes?
Khedija Hamdi, historienne de l’art, et Timo Kaabi-Linke, critique d’art, écrivain et sociologue, sont les deux commissaires de cette exposition d’art contemporain. Passionnés par leur, projet, ils parlent à deux voix, s’interrompent, se complètent : «Nous voulons bâtir une scène artistique contemporaine en Tunisie. En implantant l’art contemporain au sein de l’archéologie, nous avons voulu créer un évènement international qui ait un impact puissant. Carthage, c’est le retour aux origines. C’est là que tout commence, et nous avons demandé aux artistes d’adapter leurs œuvres au lieu proposé. Il s’agira pour eux de présenter l’état d’urgence actuel dans un cadre serein».
Quant aux artistes sélectionnés, huit sur vingt-huit sont tunisiens, les autres viennent de pays dont l’Histoire, à un moment ou un autre, a été mêlée à celle de notre pays : italienne, à cause de la Rome antique, espagnole à cause des Andalous, égyptien parce que les Fatimides ont quitté Mahdia pour édifier Le Caire, turque par souvenir de l’empire ottoman, allemande en référence aux Vandales, iranienne, puisque c’est de là que venaient les Alains, saoudienne puisque les Beni Hilal en provenaient... Par-delà ce côté anecdotique de la sélection des participants, il faut tout de même signaler que de très grands artistes contemporains participeront à cette exposition : Kader Attia, dont les œuvres sont dans tous les musées du monde, Saadane Afif, prix Marcel Duchamp, Hela El Koussy, prix Abraaj, Ahmed Ogüt qui expose à La Tate Galery, Lara Faveratto, qui exposa à la Biennale de Venise, Ahmed Mater, Sirine Fattouh, Ziad Anter... Certains d’entre eux présenteront des œuvres inédites puisque 14 productions sont prévues pour cette exposition. On utilisera pour cela tous les médias artistiques connus de l’art contemporain : vidéo, photo, sculpture, broderie, installation, performance...
Autour de «Chkoun Ahna» et dans le cadre de «Carthage Contemporary», aura lieu un cycle de conférences, à l’Acropolium, un circuit à travers toutes les galeries alentour qui sont, toutes, parties prenantes de la manifestation.
Carthage Contemporary, qui se fait en coopération avec le ministère de la Culture, est soutenu par le Centre des arts vivants, le British Council, l’Institut Français et le Gœthe Institute. Il est produit par Yalil Prod, jeunes promoteurs d’évènements culturels bien connus.
La manifestation a séduit des sponsors qui ont accepté, l’un (Socobat) de restaurer le musée de Carthage sous la surveillance d’experts du patrimoine, l’autre (Kilani Group) d’assurer la scénographie, le troisième (Vision et Visions) de se charger de la communication. Quant à Abraaj Capital, institution financière émiratie qui octroie chaque année, à l’Art Fair de Dubai, un prix éponyme désormais célèbre, elle prête et assure un certain nombre des œuvres qui seront exposées.
Carthage Contemporary, et son évènement phare, l’exposition «Chkoun Ahna ?» est donc sur les rails. Souhaitons-lui de devenir un rendez-vous incontournable dans le calendrier arty qui draine, aujourd’hui, le nouveau tourisme culturel que nous rêvons de séduire.
Auteur : Alya HAMZA

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Dubai Dispatch, Newsline
Interview: Risham Syed
08/05/2012

The Abraaj Capital Art Prize is unique in more aspects than one. The ambitious award was conceived to encourage and promote the budding art scene in Dubai and award artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region. The prize, now in its fourth year, has also garnered a novel reputation for showcasing often underrepresented, but highly talented artists from this region. Having established a cutting-edge reputation by introducing pioneering standards of artistic evaluation and excellence, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize awards competing artists on proposals rather than completed works of art. Secondly, it promises its awardees a collaborative framework to consummate their artistic vision. The artists work closely with an international curator – this year, Nat Muller from the Netherlands. The five winning artworks were displayed at Art Dubai, March 21-24, 2012 – the region’s leading artfair, of which Abraaj Capital is a partner – and will subsequently be loaned to prestigious art galleries and museums across the globe.

Risham Syed from Pakistan, whose unique and thought-provoking work has received much praise, joined four award-winning artists from Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine to win the 2012 Abraaj Capital Art Prize. An assistant professor at the School of Visual Arts at the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in Lahore, Risham is interested in history and how it links up with the present time. Her work is about ‘texts and contexts’ and analyses themes of race, class and gender in relation to cultural inheritance. In her winning project titled ‘Seven Seas’, Risham expands her artistic vision to explore cultural remains in relation to the cotton trade of the past in the broader MENASA region.

Q. In the ‘Seven Seas,’ you entwine the intricacies of contemporary geo-politics with the 19th and 20th century cotton trade route of the British Empire. How is present day economics influenced by political history and how have you expressed this through your artwork?

A. The cotton trade of the 18th and 19th century was a starting point for this work. The work speaks of the role of imperial powers and how geo-politics are manufactured. The base cotton I used for all the quilts were from Lahore, the local cheap cotton that we use for bed sheets, and incidentally, the popular ones in the market are the prints with a European sensibility. With this vantage point I connect history with the present where imperial powers in the form of multinationals continue to control economies. I also embed a narrative of a local rebellion against the imperialist power that happened in 19th or early 20th century, within or around a port city

Q. Each of the seven quilts represents a port city such as Izmir in Turkey, Mumbai in India and Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE. How important is symbolism by use of texture, technique, layering and other methods and how does each play a role in the narrative?

A. The base material, as I’ve already mentioned, is cotton from Lahore. I travelled in the region and obtained embroidered fabrics and handlooms from each country. I also had the current maps of each region printed on to the local cotton. Having this vantage point of the current, I layered it with embroidery and handloom which has its roots in local traditional culture or history. For example, I used white-on-white jamdani for the back of the Chittagong hill tracts (Bangladesh) quilts. This was a form of revival with roots in the centuries old Bengali tradition of muslin-making. The British are allegedly reported to have chopped of the thumbs of muslin weavers to control the production of muslin.

The layering of the embroidery is done to highlight a narrative of local rebellion. For example in case of the Chittagong quilt, I have a map of Chittagong hill tracts where the famous Bengali freedom fighter Surya Sen hid from the British forces. Sen led a nation-wide rebellion against the British and was finally caught and hanged. On the quilt, I used a big panel of kantha embroidery from Dhakka, which usually has figures that depict a communal activity. These cut-out figures were then appliquéd on my quilt to create a people’s army for Surya Sen. I also layered the quilt with photographic prints, like Surya Sen’s portrait, and buttons from old European army coats from a second-hand market were used to indicate the movement of the British forces.

Q. The Abraaj Capital Art Prize allowed you to work with an established curator. How is this experience unique and how is it valuable to an artist?

A. This was the first time that I worked closely with a curator. It was good to have someone talk to about one’s work and give an objective view. We had our differences of opinion but we talked through them and worked around them.

Q. What are the challenges and artistic luxuries that an artist could enjoy in proposal-based projects?

A. The proposal was accompanied by examples of work I have done in the past, and so there was a general idea of the direction that I was proposing to take. From there onwards I was free to work on the project and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience. It was often challenging since I had to meet certain expectations, but then I guess one has to trust one’s gut and enjoy creating the artwork!

Q. Your work has been showcased in art galleries around the world including the Talwar Gallery in New York and the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon, India. Was this your first venture in the Dubai art scene’? How would you compare it to more mature markets in Europe and North America?

A. I have exhibited at Art Dubai before. Dubai is fast becoming an important centre for art from the region, which was evident at the Global Art Forum, a series of art talks, where speakers of international fame and repute spoke in Dubai at the end of March this year. Given the short time period within which the art scene of Dubai has flourished, one must give it another few years and if things continue to grow, it will be comparable to more mature international art markets.

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Chkoun Ahna Opens Tunisia's Contemporary Chapter
by Zoe Larkins
07/05/2012

On May 12, the National Museum of Carthage, Tunisia, opens an exhibition of contemporary art for the first time, in its east wing. The exhibition, "Chkoun Ahna," which translates to "who are we?" or "about us" in Tunisian Arabic, inaugurates Carthage Contemporary, a contemporary art exhibition to be installed in a different site in the city annually. The initiation of the exhibition program, and the contemporary nature of the works included in this year's show, indicate an upsurge in new cultural production in Tunisia that followed last winter's Jasmine Revolution. Chkoun Ahna represents the country's manifold history and the ethnic, political, and cultural facets of contemporary Tunisian society.

Timo Kaabi-Linke, a German sociologist and writer living in Tunis, who organized the show with Khadija Hamdi, an art historian based in Tunis and Paris, spoke with A.i.A. about the exhibition and the cultural climate in Tunisia. Before the revolution, he said, "the whole art scene was living in a cocoon. Now there's a kind of opening."
The exhibition showcases a broad interpretation of Tunisian identity, with work by eight Tunisian artists and 20 others from countries historically linked to Tunisia—Algeria, Egypt, Italy, France, Germany, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria, Turkey and the US.

Kaabi-Linke explained, "The initial concept is related to the place: Who belongs in Tunisian society? What is Tunisian society? Who are we?" He said that after the revolution the question of Tunisian identity became a daily concern.

For Kaabi-Linke, the answers lie in the country's history: "You can only build your future if you dig through your past."

Kaabe-Linke described the works in the show as representing time—"time which is charged with emotions, ideas, ideologies." A video by Lebanese artist Sirine Fattouh, A Night in Bayrouth (2006), follows a man through the streets of Beirut on a night during Ramadan, exemplifying Kaabe-Linke's characterization literally.

All of the works can be understood within the context of the current moment in Tunisia's history and that of the wider Middle East. For example, Italian artist Yousef Moscatello's Explosion (2008), a glass jar that holds an exploded firecracker in wax, suggests the Jasmine Revolution's ignition. Ligne fantôme (2009), by Tunisian artist Ismail Bahri, a crooked line of small pins stuck into a gallery wall, is based on a public work that Bahri made by sticking pins, one at a time, into walls around Tunis, following each pin's shadow to place the next, ultimately creating a long, imperfect line. As it recalls the public project, the installation evokes ideas about the consequences of subtle, methodical actions, borders, and the urban landscape of Tunis.
Chkoun Ahna Opens Tunisia's Contemporary Chapter
by Zoe Larkins 05/07/12

On May 12, the National Museum of Carthage, Tunisia, opens an exhibition of contemporary art for the first time, in its east wing. The exhibition, "Chkoun Ahna," which translates to "who are we?" or "about us" in Tunisian Arabic, inaugurates Carthage Contemporary, a contemporary art exhibition to be installed in a different site in the city annually. The initiation of the exhibition program, and the contemporary nature of the works included in this year's show, indicate an upsurge in new cultural production in Tunisia that followed last winter's Jasmine Revolution. Chkoun Ahna represents the country's manifold history and the ethnic, political, and cultural facets of contemporary Tunisian society.

Timo Kaabi-Linke, a German sociologist and writer living in Tunis, who organized the show with Khadija Hamdi, an art historian based in Tunis and Paris, spoke with A.i.A. about the exhibition and the cultural climate in Tunisia. Before the revolution, he said, "the whole art scene was living in a cocoon. Now there's a kind of opening."

View Slideshow Timo Nasseri, Everything Is Everything II (two pieces), 2010, paint on wallCourtesy of the artist and Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg, Beiruth and Galerie Schleicher Lange, Paris, Berlin; Timo Nasseri, Everything Is Everything II (two pieces), 2010, paint on wallCourtesy of the artist et Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg, Beiruth et Galerie Schleicher Lange, Paris, Berlin;


The exhibition showcases a broad interpretation of Tunisian identity, with work by eight Tunisian artists and 20 others from countries historically linked to Tunisia—Algeria, Egypt, Italy, France, Germany, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria, Turkey and the US.

Kaabi-Linke explained, "The initial concept is related to the place: Who belongs in Tunisian society? What is Tunisian society? Who are we?" He said that after the revolution the question of Tunisian identity became a daily concern.

For Kaabi-Linke, the answers lie in the country's history: "You can only build your future if you dig through your past."

Kaabe-Linke described the works in the show as representing time—"time which is charged with emotions, ideas, ideologies." A video by Lebanese artist Sirine Fattouh, A Night in Bayrouth (2006), follows a man through the streets of Beirut on a night during Ramadan, exemplifying Kaabe-Linke's characterization literally.

All of the works can be understood within the context of the current moment in Tunisia's history and that of the wider Middle East. For example, Italian artist Yousef Moscatello's Explosion (2008), a glass jar that holds an exploded firecracker in wax, suggests the Jasmine Revolution's ignition. Ligne fantôme (2009), by Tunisian artist Ismail Bahri, a crooked line of small pins stuck into a gallery wall, is based on a public work that Bahri made by sticking pins, one at a time, into walls around Tunis, following each pin's shadow to place the next, ultimately creating a long, imperfect line. As it recalls the public project, the installation evokes ideas about the consequences of subtle, methodical actions, borders, and the urban landscape of Tunis.

Former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, ousted from office in January 2011after 23 years, invested little in Tunisia's cultural development. Under his regime, artists had few opportunities to exhibit their work in the country, and lacked the ministerial support common in North American and European countries that might have enabled them to engage with the international art community. While the new Islamic administration has not established a markedly different cultural policy, since the revolution artists have had, relatively, more freedom to work and exhibit in Tunisia, and have benefited from media exposure to the international cultural community.

Tunisia does not have a national museum of modern or contemporary art. Under Ben-Ali, artists required a visa to gather, making the creation of cultural centers and the staging of exhibitions, for example, nearly impossible. As a result, there are very few organizations in the country that display contemporary art.

"Before the revolution we were very conscious that we didn't have the opportunity to be part of the international art scene-to participate in international exhibitions and, for example, artists residencies," said Nìcene Kossentini, a Tunisian artist whose work is included in the exhibition. "We were isolated."

Kaabi-Linke, Kossentini and Mouna Karray, another Tunisian artist selected for the exhibition, described how Tunisian artists have benefited from the freedom of expression established in the country after the revolution, as well as attention from international curators and foundations. Kossentini noted the increased number of foreign cultural organizations and foundations that have expressed interest this past year in aiding further cultural development and producing collaborative projects in Tunisia.

"International visibility is good for artists," said Karray. "But at the same time...How do we define our artists?" She expressed her feeling that the international community's awareness of Tunisian art is narrow and reductive: "People seem only interested in art about the revolution."

The National Museum of Carthage is one of Tunisia's two major archeological museums, the other being the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. The Carthage Museum's collection, amassed from excavations of Carthegian ruins, includes Phoenician artifacts, Roman sculpture and mosaics, and early Christian and Byzantine mosaics. "All the ruins at the museum evidence the heterogeneity of Tunisia history," Kaabe-Linke said.

Since the revolution artists have used the streets of Tunis to perform and exhibit their work, said Karray. In addition B'Chira Art Center, a contemporary art exhibition and studio space, opened 20 minutes from Tunis in Sidi Thabet in November 2011.
In June, Tunisia will host its first international art fair, Printemps des Arts. The fair, a new iteration of Tunisia's annual arts festival, is intended to "open Tunis to the international art scene," Kossentini said.

As they expose Tunisian artists to foreign viewers, critics and collectors, the fair, art center and exhibition contribute to the further development of Tunisia's nascent cultural infrastructure.

"It's a really good starting point," Kaabi-Linke said of the exhibition. "The good thing is to show that things like this are possible."

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What Was Lost: Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige in conversation with Nat Muller
An interview on the exhibition 'Lebanese Rocket Society Part III, IV, V at The Third Line & A Letter Can Always Reach its Destination, video installation, ACAP2012
03/05/2012

In the early 1960s, a group of students led by the professor of mathematics and physics at the Haigazian Armenian University in Lebanon, one Manoug Manougian, designed and launched rockets for the purpose of exploring and studying space. The project was called the Lebanese Rocket Society and was halted in 1967, an ominous date in the history of the Middle East and the world as a whole. The project has remained largely forgotten since. Over the past few years, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige have used this project to trace a submerged history of rocket propulsion technology, the idealism of space exploration in the Middle East, and the connotations of rockets in the aftermath of the Six Day War between Israel and Arab Sates in 1967. The expiration of the Lebanese Society, coinciding as it did with the Six Day War, heralded an end to a number of things, not least the Pan-Arab ideal and the hopefulness once associated with space exploration. Were the two events linked – the technology of space exploration exchanged for the ordnance of militarism – or did they augur a more profound disillusionment that stills hangs over the ideal of revolutionary thought and idealism today?
The archives of the Lebanese Rocket Society, when made available to Hadjithomas and Joreige, also gave rise to other elided narratives that bring together a serendipitous but unlikely connection between space exploration, carpet weaving in Lebanon, the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923), a gift to President Calvin Coolidge in 1926, philately, a veritable mountain of red-tape, and a tribute from the artists to those involved in the Society. What we witness in Hadjithomas and Joreige's ongoing project, which goes under the collective title The Lebanese Rocket Society, is the re-emergence of the ghosts of the present: the narratives, tales, travails, tributes, disenchantments, desires and hopes that refuse to remain either lost or forgotten and, if given time and space to re-emerge, effectively reconfigure how we think about the exigencies of the present in relation to the all too easily forgotten idealism of our pasts.
Anthony Downey
Article continues

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‘Spectral Imprints’ - Five winning artworks of the prestigious Abraaj Capital Art Prize
Islamic Arts Magazine
01/05/2012

DUBAI / The exhibition ‘Spectral Imprints’ is focusing on the preoccupations the five projects narrating the past and the difficulties of representing something tangible of a moment in time.

The winning artists Taysir Batniji from Palestine, Wael Shawky from Egypt, Risham Syed from Pakistan, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige and Raed Yassin from Lebanon were announced in October 2011 and unveiled at Art Dubai in 2012. In a departure from earlier formats used in Art Dubai, the winning artworks were displayed together in a unified exhibition curated by Nat Muller from The Netherlands, the selected Guest Curator for 2012.


The Abraaj Capital Art Prize, which is globally unique in that its awards are given on the basis of proposals rather than completed works, is now in its fourth edition. Since its inception at Art Dubai 2009, the prize has evolved considerably and this year the prize reaches a new level of maturity. The artworks become part of the Abraaj Capital Art Collection, and are often loaned to prestigious international institutions, for example the Venice Biennale (Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Jananne Al-Ani), Sydney Biennial (Jananne Al-Ani), La Triennale, Paris (Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige) and Modern Art Oxford (Shezad Dawood).

Frederic Sicre, Partner, Abraaj Capital comments: “The Abraaj Capital Art Prize is a key initiative in the Abraaj Strategic Stakeholder Engagement Track (ASSET). To empower talented artists with the resources to realise ambitious projects which take their practice to a new level of recognition is our core mission. As the Abraaj Capital Art Collection grows year upon year, we are proud to watch it diversify and see our previous winners attain further success on a global platform.”... Article continues

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Spectral Imprints, Abraaj Capital Art, Art Dubai 2012
Huffington Post
17/04/2012

Featured at Art Dubai 2012, Spectral Imprints, the 4th edition of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, was conceived and implemented to encourage critical discourse. As shown below, it does so, nicely. It's the only competition that focuses on often-underrepresented contemporary artists from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA). Significant, that, given how the region's history re-writes itself on a daily basis. The curating is organic: awards are based on proposals and not completed work (work is created after the prize is conferred; the work itself represents collaboration between artists and a guest curator). Guest curated by Nat Muller, the exhibition features the work of Raed Yassin (Lebanon), Wael Shawky (Egypt), Risham Syed (Pakistan), Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige (Lebanon), and Taysir Batniji (Palestine).

With poetic majesty and keen insight, the exhibition describes art's sieve-like relationship of the past to the present. It shows how artists continue to struggle to make sense of the world, a struggle made all the more difficult by the fragility of personal and collective memory. In The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper wrote as much when he said that history (he meant institutional but he could just as well have been writing about personal) has no meaning because, as per the Searchlight Theory of Science, what we (historians, artists, just plain folk) see depends on our point of view. No one's omniscient, after all... Article continues

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Lebanese Rocket Society Reaches for the Stars
The National
06/04/2012

A Dubai taxi driver recently laid out his vision of the future to me, as he nosed his way through one of the city's routine traffic jams: "We live in a world that's overcrowded," he said. "Resources are running out, everyone is forced into cities. Our only hope is to abandon nations, join together as one world and explore other planets."

Artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige have spent the last three years piecing together similarly distant dreams and their latest exhibition Lebanese Rocket Society: Part III, IV, V is currently at The Third Line gallery in Dubai.

It is a continuation of a project first presented at last year's Sharjah Biennial when they wheeled a ghostly white rocket into the city's heritage quarter. The rocket, a reproduction of a forgotten moment in Arab idealism, represented the zenith of Lebanon's short-lived space programme.

The original missile, Cedar 4, had been the product of six years of hard work and hazardous launches by The Lebanese Rocket Society, which evolved out of a science club at Beirut's Hagazian College... Article continues

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History by Art
Through my eyes
03/04/2012

I had no idea what would be the experience in working with Art Dubai and Abraaj Capital Art Prize. The week passed quickly as I never expected. I wish to go back in time and spend the same week again and again and again. Since my first interesting interview with Laura Egerton (Curator of Abraaj Capital Art Prize) I knew this experience would be extraordinary... Blogpost continues

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Art Dubai 2012: Wrap-Up
Art Bahrain
01/04/2012

... And, in a more prosaic analysis, many quite rightly made the assessment that the events in the region (not to mention the fact that the region consists of idiosyncratic countries all with individual issues) are far from over. Therefore, logically it is far too soon to tell how these changes will change the art produced, and the art market, and so however tempting it is to constantly relate the Arab Spring to the Middle Eastern art market, it would be wise to take a step back and wait for time to provide some perspective and context.

The Global Art Forum was absolutely one of the great successes of this year’s fair. One reason was quite simply that it lent the Fair a feeling of gravitas that had been missing in previous incarnations And the calibre of the participants prompted Art + Auction to dub the seminars and lectures held in Doha and Dubai as the “Davos Summit of the International Art Market.”

An accolade for which the organizers should feel extremely proud. In closing, the addition of meaningful dialogue, the patronage of young artists lent by the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, coupled with the calibre of much of the work exhibited, signaled that Art Dubai -- while maybe not at full maturity -- is moving out of its awkward adolescent period, and is without a doubt here to stay.

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Memory Quilts
The Times of India, Delhi
31/03/2012

Even as the doors to Art Dubai, the Middle East’s biggest fair, opened last week, Pakistani artist Risham Syed was busy with needle and thread. Pulling out a string here and quickly sewing on a button there, even as the champagne-swilling art frat streamed through the halls, expecting to see paint and not patchwork. Instead of canvases, seven intricate and detailed quilts hung from the ceiling — the result of Risham’s handiwork over the past year which has won her the prestigious Abraaj Capital art prize for 2012. The cavernous white-walled spaces of the art fair seemed to immediately shrink to a more intimate setting, reminding one of days when domestic flotsam — scraps of old fabrics and outgrown clothes – was sewn together to make cozy, colourful quilts. But these are not coverlets that you want to dive under, for they hide in their many layers untold stories and hidden histories. The work, titled ‘Seven Seas’, sourced fabric from seven nations — Turkey, Bangladesh, UAE, Sri Lanka, UK, India and Pakistan — to connect the cotton trade
of the British empire with contemporary geopolitics. The quilts depict maps of various port cities — such as Mumbai and Izmir in Turkey — that were strategically located on colonial European trade routes. Apart from being trade gateways, they were also sites of rebellion against imperialism. The 43-year-old artist’s quilts are like collages of physical materials, thoughts, ideas and memories... Article continues

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Fair Feast
Gulf Today
29/03/2012

The highlights of Art Dubai (Mar. 21-24) included the presence of old favourite Abraaj Capital Art Prize (ACAP), an art prize that is given on the basis of pro- posals rather than complet- ed works. Now in its fourth edition, it is also the world’s only art prize that focuses on the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region.

In a departure from earlier for- mats used in Art Dubai, the works of the prize winners were displayed together in a unified exhibition curated by Nat Muller from The Netherlands, guest curator for 2012. And the winners were: Taysir Batniji from Palestine; Wael Shawky from Egypt; Risham Syed from Pakistan; Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige from Lebanon and Raed Yassin, also from Lebanon. Titled Spectral Imprints, the winning works tried to give materiality to the effervescence of the present moment. In her curatorial statement, Muller said that “at a time when the Middle East is experiencing a period of history-in-the-making... Spectral Imprints explores the very moment when the narrated past becomes tangible and present, and then risks disappearing again like a phantom.” ... Article continues

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The art of the melodrama scam
The Daily Star
28/03/2012

DUBAI: If you have an email account, chances are you’ve received a scam mail. A random trawl through your spam filter will likely turn up some samples of this opportunistic species of spam.

The scam missive always takes the form of a plea, one written by someone (claiming to be a public figure, perhaps not) who casts himself (or herself) as being in dire personal straits and having access to immense wealth.

The afflicted correspondent asks you to deposit a few hundred bucks in an overseas bank account, in exchange for which you will be compensated with a cut of his or her wealth – made useless by present extenuating circumstances in extracting him or her from these present difficulties.

Lebanese artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige have transformed this sometimes amusing species of Internet fauna into a profound study in the power of the image in narrative. “A Letter Can Always Reach Its Destination” is one of five works in the exhibition “Spectral Imprints,” curated by Rotterdam-based curator Nat Muller... Article continues

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The Great Reveal: Spectral Imprints Part 1, Raed Yassin and Taysir Batniji
Diary of an Art Luvah
27/03/2012

Curator Nat Muller had a vision of curatorial unification of the collective works of the winning ACAP artists for the first time in ACAP history. Spectral Imprints focuses “on the preoccupations the five projects share with narrating the past and the difficulties of representing something tangible of a moment in time.” (ACAP) I’m looking forward to seeing the catalog produced by Muller in collaboration with renowned designer Huda Abi Smitshuijzen Fares, Director of the Khatt Foundation, Center for Arabic Typography, The Netherlands. I’m sure it will explore this connection more deeply... Blogpost continues

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War of the Hotels, Battles for the Unification of the Rifle and the Battle of Tal el Zaatar
Cyber Salon Tareq el Khurafi
27/03/2012

This was the first design I did for “China”, a project by Raed Yassin, winner of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize. At this early stage, we hadn’t made the decision to make the whole series in cobalt blue yet, and I was going for a color scheme inspired by miniatures (notice the gold paint in the sun, fires, and borders)... Blogpost continues

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Kunstmesse im Emirat Dubai
Getidan
27/03/2012

Dass Schönheit und Schrecken unmerklich ineinanderfließen, ist in Europa ästhetisches Konzept, in der arabischen Welt gehört es zur Alltagserfahrung. Für seine Arbeit erhielt Yassin – als einer von fünf Künstlern – in diesem Jahr den Abraaj Capital Art Prize. Mit einer Million US-Dollar hat die Investmentfirma den 2008 gestifteten Preis der Art Dubai zu einem der höchstdotierten der Welt gemacht... Article continues

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I collezionisti mediorientali acquistano ad Art Dubai 2012
Il Sole 24 Ore
27/03/2012

Sin dalla prima edizione, datata 2007, risultava chiaro che Art Dubai (21-24 marzo) sarebbe stato un progetto in forte sviluppo. La manifestazione negli anni è cresciuta, nemmeno la crisi finanziaria che alla fine del 2009 aveva colpito duramente Dubai ha inciso con determinazione nel milieu artistico che si è liberato con disinvoltura degli effetti provocati dalla crisi. E a documentarlo sono proprio i numeri: da una presenza di 40 gallerie, provenienti da 18 paesi nel primo anno la fiera si è passati 75, da 32 paesi quest'anno. E rispettivamente 70 nel 2009 e 72 nel 2010. I visitatori, nella sera di venerdì 23 marzo, che a Dubai è festivo, penultimo giorno della manifestazione, avevano superato del 20% quelli dello scorso anno alla chiusura. Anche se il costo della fiera non è stato reso pubblico, il direttore Antonia Carver conferma che negli ultimi tre anni gli investimenti da parte dei partner - il group Abraaj Capital di Dubai con il premio Abraaj Capital Prize (1 milione di dollari di investimento ogni anno) e la company Madinat Jumeirah, nel cui centro era ospitata la fiera e Cartier - non hanno subito modifiche... Article continues

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Art Dubai Spotlights Arab Talents
Daily News Egypt
26/03/2012

Egyptian artists were a highlight at Art Dubai. Lara Baladi was represented by Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde; Adel El Siwi, Mohamed Abla, Khaled Zaky and El Fayoumi Mohammed by Art Space Dubai; Youssef Nabil by Paris-based gallery Nathalie Obadia; and Hassan Khan by Paris-based gallery Chantal Crousel.

Artist Magdi Mostafa had been commissioned by Art Dubai to create an onsite installation piece as part of his A.i.R. Dubai residency. Meanwhile, Wael Shawky was one of six artists to win the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, an award established by the private equity firm to encourage the production of contemporary art and what they deem the “entrepreneurial role” of private companies in supporting the arts... Article continues

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ذكريات العائلة والموروثات الثقافية وحرب لبنان تميز معرض «بصمات طيفية»
Asharqalawsat
24/03/2012

دبي: عبير مشخص
أزاحت «أبراج كابيتال» الستار عن الأعمال الفنية الفائزة في الدورة الرابعة من «جائزة أبراج كابيتال للفنون»، الجائزة الفنية الوحيدة التي تركز على منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال أفريقيا وجنوب آسيا (ميناسا). وكان قد تم الإعلان عن أسماء الفائزين تيسير البطنيجي من فلسطين، ووائل شوقي من مصر، وريشام سيد من باكستان، وجوانا حاجي توما وخليل جريج ورائد ياسين من لبنان في شهر أكتوبر (تشرين الأول) 2011. ويتم عرض الأعمال ضمن معرض موحد تشرف عليه القيمة الهولندية نات مولر أطلقت عليه عنوان «بصمات طيفية».
البداية في المعرض مع عمل الفنان تيسير البطنيجي بعنوان «إلى أخي» الذي يبدو من بعد للزوار وكأنه إطارات تحيط بأوراق بيضاء فارغة، ولكن الاقتراب منها يظهر لنا أن الفنان نفذ بطريقة الحفر رسومات من دون حبر لأشخاص من عائلته، أخوه تحديدا الذي قتل على يد قناص إسرائيلي خلال الانتفاضة الأولى. التعبير عن الخسارة والفقدان الشخصي وحالة الفراغ تميز أعمال البطنيجي دائما، ولمن زار «آرت دبي» فهناك عمل آخر للفنان بعنوان «آباء» يحمل شحنة مماثلة تحاصر المتفرج وتشده ولا تتركه يمضي في طريقه دون أن يحمل معه جزءا من التساؤل حول مغزى ذلك الفراغ.

في عمل «إلى أخي» قام البطنيجي بحفر 60 رسما على الورق اعتمادا على الصور العائلية الملتقطة في زفاف شقيقه. الرسومات تعكس السعادة والاطمئنان الذي تبعثه المناسبة والإحساس بالأمان العائلي ولم الشمل. العمل موح بشكل قوي تحاصرنا ذكريات الفنان حول أخيه ومشاعره المكنونة والإحساس بالفقدان الذي يغلف العمل بأكمله.

أما الفنان رائد ياسين قدم مجموعة من الزهريات تحت اسم «الصين» عبر من خلالها عن رؤيته للحرب الأهلية اللبنانية وتداعياتها؛ الزهريات جميلة الشكل والتفاصيل لا بد من التوقف أمامها ولكن التمعن في تفاصيلها يبرز المزج البارع بين الشكل التراثي لتلك الزهريات وبين الرسالة الحديثة التي يعبر عنها الفنان ببراعة.

وتتناول الفنانة الباكستانية ريشام سيد الموروثات الثقافية في بلدها، وتتشعب في عملها «البحار السبعة» لتطال كامل منطقة «ميناسا» راسمةً الطرق التجارية الفيكتورية على أغطية النوم السميكة. وبدوره يركز وائل شوقي في عمله «ومضة من التاريخ النظيف» على موضوع الحروب الصليبية، فيصوغ من خلاله إبداعا جديدا في هذا المضمار. أما الفنانان جوانا حاجي توما وخليل جريج، فقد أبدعا عملهما الفني «يمكن للرسالة دوما أن تصل وجهتها» بعد عدة سنوات من البحث والتوثيق، ويتناولان فيها رسائل الاحتيال عبر البريد الإلكتروني التي نتلقاها يوميا.

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Reducing Civil War to Porcelain
The Daily Star
24/03/2012

DUBAI: Lebanese artists and galleries have been prominent at the sixth edition of ArtDubai, the emirate’s yearly art fair. No place are they more conspicuous than in “Spectral Imprints,” a five-artist exhibition unveiled Tuesday at the Madina Jumeira fair site.

The first objects you encounter upon entering “Spectral Imprints” are “China,” an array of seven blue-and-white porcelain pots of Chinese design, all of varying style and dimensions.

Aficionados of Chinese porcelain production might be surprised to find that, rather than landscapes rendered in styles characteristic of that tradition, these works depict 20th-century battles, depicting figures from late-20th-century history.

The artist responsible for this mischievous work is 33-year-old Raed Yassin. He is likely best-known as a free-improv musician – he’s one of the founding members of Beirut’s Irtijal festival. In the last few years however, Yassin’s other art has exploded onto the international scene, revealing his imagination to be too restless to be restricted to a single medium, let alone one project at a time... Article Continues

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Transit hub of promise
Gulf News
23/03/2012

While the current largest private collection of contemporary pakistani art in south Asia is in Delhi, the UAE presents a region-wide potential. Artist and winner of the 2012 Abraaj Capital Art Prize, Risham Syed feels that the UAE has definitely become an important centre for Pakistani art: “Pakistan has a very strong art academia but its art infrastructure is not that well developed due to economic reasons, therefore artists do rely on exhibiting in neighbouring countries where patronage for art is relatively higher. Dubai has the potential to take a lead over Delhi and Mumbai to stage Pakistani art. Having said that i believe social mores in the UAE are more strict compared to Pakistan, and can prove a hindrance to bring to Dubai art of a diverse nature.”

Syed’s comment also brings to the fore Khan’s view on the lack of knowledge by the international art community on Pakistani art. “I feel there is a dearth of scholastic knowledge of contemporary discourses in recent art production out of Pakistan. There is a lot to cover and more knowledge will ultimately help support a deeper understanding of the work and the social space out of which it is created. This would impact the relationships that galleries in the UAE could foster with artists here to mutual benefit.” ... Article continues

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Art in the city Speaks To Joana Hadjithomas, Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012 Winner
Art in the City
21/03/2012

Lebanese artists and filmmakers, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige have a long history of partnership in both life and in their artistic practice. For the last 15 years, they have focused on the images, representations and history of their home country, Lebanon. Together they have directed documentaries such as ‘Khiam 2000-2007’ and feature films like ‘A Perfect Day’ (2005). Their last feature film ‘je veux voir (I want to see)’, starring Catherine Deneuve and Rabih Mroue, premiered at Cannes Film festival in 2008 and was awarded ‘Best Singular Film’ by the French critics. On 18 March, Hadjithomas and Joreige will open their first solo exhibition at The Third Line and following the first two parts of the project presented at the Sharjah Biennale in March 2011, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige continue their ongoing research on the Lebanese Rocket Society. ArtintheCity spoke to Joana Hadjithomas ahead of this exhibition opening and the unveiling of her piece with Joreige for the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012....

ArtintheCity: At the Sharjah Biennial 10 in 2011, you presented the project ‘Lebanese Rocket Society, Elements for a Monument’, which involved a rediscovery of a society which had fallen into obscurity, and now this ongoing project will also be featured in an exhibition opening on 19 March at The Third Line. Can you tell me more about your aims with this project and what drew you to the Lebanese Rocket Society?

Joana Hadjithomas: This is a project which began a few years ago when we saw an image of a rocket with the colours of the Lebanese flag on it. We were very intrigued by this image, especially when we learned that it wasn’t from a military project but a scientific space project called the Lebanese Rocket Society (LRS). We come from a region where scientific projects like this aren’t given much prominence and you would usually assume that this would have more to do with the military. We are very interested in everything that can displace the [viewer’s] gaze on images which we produce...Article continues

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‘Spectral Imprints’ at the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012
Art in The City
21/03/2012

In her text accompanying the Abraaj Capital Art Prize (ACAP) 2012 exhibition, curator Nat Muller writes that ‘“Spectral Imprints” explores the very moment when the narrated past becomes tangible and present, and then risks disappearing again like a phantom’. Each of the ACAP 2012 pieces take the slippery substance of history into account, whether recent or long past, personal or universal, and offer us some insight into these temporal moments and an overarching historical narrative.

Risham Syed’s project ‘The Seven Seas’ deals with the European cotton trade of the 19th and early 20th century in the MENASA region. The artist presents seven intricately decorated quilts which detail maps and colonial trade routes. Syed uses the storytelling nature of quilting, which usually compiles fabric swatches which have some personal relevance to the owner or maker, to create her own quilted history of power plays and geopolitics.

The choice of textiles is intrinsic to the work and Syed says that the funding from ACAP was essential in allowing her to travel around and collect the different fabrics, which were sourced in Turkey, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, her native Pakistan, the UAE and even UK-bought cotton ‘Made in India’. Speaking about her piece, Syed explains ‘I chose ports within the region that were important for the European trade of the times and eventually determined the politics of the region, also looking at some sort of local rebellion against European’...Article continues

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Art Dubaï encore plus à l’Est
Conaissances des Arts
21/03/2012

Pour sa sixième édition, la foire "Art Dubaï" affirme avec force son rôle de carrefour du marché de l’art du Moyen-Orient et développe son ouverture vers l’Indonésie et la Chine en invitant leurs galeristes, collectionneurs et conservateurs de musées.
Soixante quinze galeries internationales ont été choisies pour exposer leurs artistes à Madinat Jumeirah. Très peu de one man shows mais il faut mentionner celui de William Kentridge sur le stand de la Goodman Gallery de Cape Town. Une forte présence de la peinture et, sans surprise dans ce pays du golfe, de nombreux dérivés de la tapisserie, qu'elle soit imprimée comme celle de l'Indonésien Eko Nugroho (Lombard Freid, New York), qu'elle soit découpée comme celle d'El Anatsui (October Gallery, Londres) ou détournée comme celles de Faig Ahmed (Aidan Gallery, Moscou).

Au rang des bonnes surprises, les oeuvres récentes de Mounir Fatmir sur le stand d'Eric Hussenot (et de deux autres galeries) et les collages des frères Haerizadeh (qui ont reconstitué le bric-à-brac de leur appartement dubaïote à la galerie Isabelle van den Eynde dans le quartier d'Alserkal). « Depuis cinq ans que nous venons, nous pensons qu'Art Dubaï est une opportunité inouïe de rencontrer des Iraniens, des Indiens, des Pakistanais qui ne passent jamais par Paris », soulignent Marussa Gravagnolo et Christine Lahoud de la galerie parisienne Pièce Unique, venues avec des sculptures de Marcello Cinque, Sofia Vari et Cyrille André. « Les résultats sont incroyables », assurent aussi bien Nathalie Obadia qu'Emmanuel Perrotin (qui avait vendu dès le vernissage des oeuvres de Kolkoz, Murakami et Jean-Michel Othoniel) et Chantal Crousel (dont une photographie de Gabriel Orozco, une composition de Allora & Calzadilla à partir de capteurs solaires, et des dessins et sculptures de la Coréenne Haegue Yang avaient rapidement trouvés preneurs).
En parallèle de la foire, de nombreux événements se tiennent un peu partout dans la ville : un premier salon du design au pied de la tour Burj Khalifa (même si le niveau général doit être encore amélioré), l'annonce de l'Abraaj Capital Art Prize récompensant cinq lauréats de 125 000 $ chacun (superbe participation des Libanais Joanna Hadjithomas et Khalil Koreige avec leur installation qui sera présentée à la Triennale de Paris en avril), des vernissages communs dans la cinquantaine de bonnes galeries de la ville, des commandes et des performances.

Avec une telle édition, Art Dubaï s'inscrit définitivement sur l'échiquier des grandes foires et devrait bénéficier l'an prochain de la coïncidence de sa septième édition avec la Biennale de sa voisine Sharjah. (Par Guy Boyer)

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Art Dubai to give fillip to contemporary works
Gulf News
21/03/2012

The artworks of the 2012 Abraaj Capital Art Prize's fourth edition, were first unveiled yesterday in a side exhibition. The Abraaj Capital Art Prize, which is given on the basis of proposals rather than completed works, is the world's only art prize to focus on the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region (Menasa). The 2012 winners are Taysir Batniji (Palestine), Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (Lebanon), Wael Shawky (Egypt), Risham Syed (Pakistan), Raed Yassin and (Lebanon). The exhibition is curated by Nat Muller.
Frederic Sicre, head of Abraaj Capital said that the goal of this prize was "to empower talented artists with the resources to realise ambitious projects which take their practice to a new level of recognition."

Art Dubai will be open to the public on tomorrow, but there will be an exclusive Ladies Day from 11am till 2pm today, which is being held under the patronage of Shaikha Manal Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Women's Establishment, which consists of tours by curators and art experts. A session of the Global Art Forum will also be held today between 2-5pm.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Global Art Forum is part of Art Week, an initiative promoting the region as an art destination. This year, Art Dubai has a new programme of artists' and curators' residencies, commissioned projects, performing art tours, workshops, Abraaj Capital Art Prize and the Global Art Forum. (By Carolina D'Souza and Noorhan Barakat)

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Disposible Memories: A Conversation between Raed Yassin and Nat Muller
Ibraaz
21/03/2012

Lebanese artist and musician Raed Yassin’s work mines recent history and pop culture for hypnotic and frequently amusing works that range from video to performance to sound art. Sampling sounds and images from obscure Arabic records, Egyptian films, and cable television, Yassin creates visual and aural collages underpinned by forms of visual interrogation and iconoclasm that are both personal and political. These include the murder of the artist’s father in Beirut in the 1980s, which provides a starting-point for his 2011 video and installation work Who Killed the King of Disco, in which Yassin imagines his father not dying but leaving Beirut to become an Egyptian screen idol. Or the reign of Hosni Mubarak in the 2008 video The New Film, which splices together scenes from Egyptian films in which Mubarak’s portrait is ever-present.

Ruminating on the collective imagination and aspirations of a region stretching from Morocco to the Gulf, Yassin explores memory through disposable culture, be it in the form of film and music, or the cheap commodities that are widely available across the region, if not necessarily produced there. As one of the recipients of the 2012 Abraaj Capital Art Prize, Yassin is presenting his new project China – depictions of Lebanese Civil War battles on decorative Chinese vases – as part of Abaaj’s exhibition during Art Dubai. He discusses this new work here with Nat Muller, curator of this year’s prize... Article continues

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Art in the City Speaks to Taysir Batniji, Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012 Winner
Art in the City
19/03/2012

While Taysir Batniji’s work draws upon his personal experiences, documenting the fleeting moments of daily life, it often ties into a wider context, whether this be politics or the changing identity of a place. Born in Gaza in 1966, Taysir Batniji studied art at Al-Najah University in Nablus on the West Bank from 1985-92. After being awarded a fellowship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Bourges, France, in 1994, he has divided his time between France and Palestine, developing an interdisciplinary practice. He has participated in numerous international exhibitions in Europe and beyond, and is represented by Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg/Beirut and Galerie Eric Dupont, Paris. ArtintheCity spoke to Batniji ahead of the unveiling of his piece for the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012....

ArtintheCity: In your 2005 series, ‘Chambres’, you photographed rooms which hover between being permanent and temporal, personal and impersonal. You have also documented the process of being in transit in ‘Transit’ (2004). What is it that interests you in these transient and temporal processes and spaces?

Taysir Batniji: If you look through my work you can see two principal axes. They are not the only concerns of my work, but they are important. One is the concept of disappearance, which is what my piece for the Abraaj Capital Art Prize deals with, and other series like ‘Fathers’ (2006), ‘Gaza Walls’ (2001) and ‘Untitled’ (Portraits of Martyrs, 2001). All these series deal with the feelings of disappearing...Article continues

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Art in the City Speaks to Raed Yassin, Winner of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012
Art in the City
19/03/2012

No one could accuse Raed Yassin of being inactive. Born and based in Beirut, Yassin makes work as both a solo artist and as part of collective AtfalAhdath, as well as being a skilled musician, running a record label and organising an experimental music festival in Lebanon. His work often originates from an examination of his personal narratives and their position within a collective history, through the lens of consumer culture and mass production. He has exhibited and performed his work in numerous museums, festivals and venues across Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Japan. ArtintheCity spoke to Yassin ahead of the unveiling of his piece for the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012....

ArtintheCity: Egyptian cinema has been a major element in your work, something you have sampled time and time again, even using it as the basis for the creation of an alternative history around the loss of your father, in ‘Who Killed the King of Disco’. What makes it of such particular interest and inspiration to you?

Raed Yassin: One can say that what is common knowledge in the Arab World is the Quran, Oum Kalthoum, and Egyptian cinema. When one says Arab film, Egyptian movies immediately come to mind. It’s an automatic implication somehow. Egyptian cinema constitutes the heart of the Arab film industry. There is a specific regime of fiction and imagination that Egyptian cinema has created for several decades, and that circulates as typology in the Arab world. The images and sounds of Egyptian films are a sort of portal into the subconscious of the citizens of the region, and that is what I am partly trying to reassemble in my work: a sort of collective memory, reassembled through a montage of cinematographic images..Article continues

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Art in the City Speaks to Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012 Winner, Risham Syed
Art in the City
19/03/2012

Risham Syed’s practice critically focuses on the remains of cultural and historical inheritance and its perceived authenticity in present-day Pakistan. She received a BFA in Painting from the National College of Art, Lahore (1993) and an MA from the Royal College of Art, London (1996). Risham Syed is represented by Talwar Gallery, New York and is currently an Assistant Professor at the School of Visual Art, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Pakistan, where she continues to live and work. ArtintheCity spoke to Syed ahead of the unveiling of her piece for the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012....

AITC: Violence and domesticity are things which have often been juxtaposed in your work, and domesticity seems to act as a means of opening a dialogue about other issues – would you say this is the case?

Risham Syed: Yes I would agree that is the case. There is violence within domesticity that eventually connects to the violence of the outside world. A female child’s upbringing intrinsically contains domesticity whereby she is taught to keep things in balance, beauty and harmony - traits inculcated to produce the perfect home- maker. So I use domesticity to present things in a ‘pretty’ way that is tongue in cheek for me... Article continues

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Art in the City Speaks to Wael Shawky, Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012 Winner
Art In The City
18/03/2012

For Wael Shawky, looking to the past and how it is preserved is a source of constant inspiration. Since studying fine art at the University of Alexandria and then receiving his M.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000, the Egyptian artist has received international acclaim for his art. Shawky’s work largely explores transitional events in society, politics, culture and religion in the history of the Arab world. He has had numerous solo shows around the world, and is also the founder of MASS Alexandria, the first Independent Studio Programme for young artists in Egypt. ArtintheCity spoke to Shawky ahead of the unveiling of his piece for the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2012....

ArtintheCity: The Crusades have been a recurring subject in your work, including in the ongoing project ‘Cabaret Crusades’. What is it about this particular period of history that is so interesting to you?

Wael Shawky: I am really fascinated by history in general, specifically by how we write it and the fact that it is documented in a way which mixes together fact, fiction and myth. You can never know where the actual truth lies and you are obliged to trust in a specific point of view. With the Crusades I was interested in ‘The Crusades Through Arab Eyes’ by Amin Maalouf (a historical essay by Lebanese author Amin Maalouf which seeks to provide an Arab perspective of the Crusades). This highlights the fact that there is not only the Western version of the Crusades – there is an alternative way to interpret it... Article continues

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Nadia Kaabi-Linke Captures A Sense of The Trap
The National - by Christopher Lord
30/01/2012

The entrance to Madinat Jumeirah during last year's Art Dubai was the scene of a rather humorous meeting between art and body.

Nadia Kaabi-Linke's vast sculpture in chrome-plated aluminium, Flying Carpets, was one of the winning pieces in the Abraaj Capital Art Prize (ACAP) for 2011, unveiled during the art fair. Her work hovered above the foyer - a bridge of shimmering geometry that curved through the space.

Yet some of the taller art-lovers, their thoughts buried in a whirl of conversations and concepts, just mistimed a necessary bow to Kaabi-Linke's piece. Simply, there were more than a few bumped heads.

But such cerebral collisions are also fitting. Kaabi-Linke is an artist who builds her conceptually challenging work on extensive research, yet uses divergent approaches and mediums to explore concepts in a distinctly tactile and tangible way...Article continues

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Saudi artists find a voice in Edge of Arabia's Jeddah exhibition
The National - by Christopher Lord
23/01/2012

t is Thursday night in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's relatively laid-back second city on its Red Sea coast. The streets and roundabouts are predictably gridlocked: cars pile in, seemingly aimless in their bumper-to-bumper odyssey. There is little cafe culture here, no cinemas and few public goings-on once the sun sets.

But last Thursday, the streets leading to Jeddah's corniche were packed for a very different reason: behind the floodlit facade of a half-built mall, a vast exhibition of contemporary art from the kingdom opened its doors.

In this raw, concrete setting, with exposed piping and scratched walls, Saudi high society converged before 40 artworks by 22 different artists. Under the provocative title of We Need to Talk,it attempts to navigate a past, present and imagined future in Saudi Arabia, narrated by an outspoken band of big-hitting artists and new talent. Open to the public until February 18, it is an Edge of Arabia (EoA) production, an initiative launched in 2008 that aims to promote Saudi artistic output.

With art programmes absent from most curriculums, and with few galleries across the country, EoA has positioned itself as an educational resource and way to connect younger artists with more established figures in the country. ...Article continues

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Contemporary Artists Rock the Boat Gently in Saudi Arabia
The New York Times - By Vinita Bharadwaj
22/01/2012

DUBAI — “Saudi artists want to talk,” Ahmed Mater says. “I think the world should listen.” His works, along with those of 21 other Saudi artists, 9 of whom are women, are on display through Feb. 18 at the Al Furusia Marina in Jidda in an exhibit called “We Need To Talk.”

The show is being hailed by organizers as the most significant collection of contemporary Saudi art ever displayed in Jidda. It was put together by Edge of Arabia, an independent arts initiative that Dr. Mater, 32, who also works at a government clinic in the southern city of Abha, helped to found.

The exhibit, curated by Mohammed Hafiz, is divided into Past, Present and Future and features 43 works including videos, sculptures and installations. All the works had to be approved before the display by the government, specifically by a committee of artists within the Ministry of Culture and Information.

Dr. Mater’s piece “Evolution” is a statement on people’s excessive dependence on oil and functions as a potent warning of the potential for self-destruction by societies whose economic engines rely on oil. The arrangement of five light boxes, read from right to left like Arabic script, starts with an X-ray of Dr. Mater holding a gun to his head; the X-ray gradually morphs into a gasoline pump.

While it is a bold and daring statement, coming from a citizen of a petrodollar economy, Dr. Mater insists he is not alone in his concerns about oil transforming Saudi lives. ...Article Continues

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Challenging Familiarity - Taysir Batniji
Canvas Magazine by Judith Souriau
18/01/2012

In one fixed shot for his 2007 video, Background Noise, Taysir Batniji strives not to blink as bombs and gunshots burst around him. The shot is tight – it frames the art- ist’s face, waiting for the next ‘boom’. As the artwork’s name suggests, the viewer suddenly realizes that this ‘noise’ is an everyday occurrence, a habitual sound in some areas of the world – in this case, Gaza. The sound of blasts occurs continuously, yet however frequent and repetitive they might be, one never gets accustomed to them and is startled at each blow.“The original project of this video was to remain stone-faced when the bombs burst. Unblinking, indifferent, to show that life actually keeps going on in Gaza,” explains Batniji. “But I failed; it was impossible. The explosions are both permanent and totally unpredictable. And so this work finally became the film of a failure.” Background Noise undoubtedly speaks of defiance, but also of resistance on an intimate and personal level. It addresses the everyday effort of resistance each person will have to carry, one day or another; here it’s war, but it could equally be illness or grief. The piece works as a metaphor for our most intimate struggles. Batniji’s works do not shout, nor do they protest. Rather, they smack, like a slap in the face. ... Article Continues

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Pulling the strings on Arab history - Artist Wael Shawky talks about his recent projects
Egypt Independent, by Helen Stuhr-Rommereim
16/01/2012

One of Egypt’s most celebrated contemporary artists, Wael Shawky, makes work of a grand and complicated scale. His recent half-hour long film “Cabaret Crusade: The Horror File” is the first installment in what he plans will be a four-part video narrative of the Crusades, starring marionettes.

It was recently exhibited at the 12th Istanbul Biennale alongside large-scale, glossy photographs of the marionettes that raise them to the status of movie stars, and drawn and sculptural elements built out of the film’s visual language. Shawky has said that in his work he seeks to create a “hybridized society,” and he often presents familiar historical events, with altered rules and jarring pairings, employing child actors – or in this case puppets – to generate questions about contemporary social and cultural issues through contrasts.

The artist has of late been showered with grants and awards, most notably the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, a Dubai-based prize through which artists receive funding for proposed projects to be exhibited at Art Dubai in March. Shawky was not at liberty to discuss from Marseille his plans for the Abraaj Capital exhibition. Yet, he spoke to us his current projects, including the next installment of “Cabaret Crusade.”

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Everyone's A Winner! Unveiling Abraaj Capital Art Prize Winners
Harpers Bazaar Art, UAE by Stephanie Sykes
08/01/2012

If a cluster of art world heavyweights like MoMA Director Glenn Lowry, Tate curator Jessica Morgan, Art Dubai Director Antonia Carver and Serpentine Gallery Co-Diector Julia Peyton-Jones, among others, were to portion out a highly covered award among five artists from the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia) region - who would they choose? ...Article continues

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2011

Hopeful Aesthetics: The Middle East at the 54th Venice Biennale
Mojeh Magazine, UAE by Rebecca Anne Proctor
01/08/2011

Positioned on the glistening waters of the Adriatic since the 9th Century, the city of Venice has been a major centre for trade and commerce. With the establishment of the Venice Biennale in 1895, the city once again forged a distrinctive cultural crossroads - one which would serve as a pinnacle for art and culture. The Biennale has always been organised according to national pavilions - an echo of its competitive origins. The Middle East presence here has always been shy. Aside from the Egypt Pavilion in the Giardini first granted in 1952, regional Middle Eastern nationals have rarely participated (Iran had a pavilion in 1958 and 2003, Iraq in 1976 and 1990). This year witnesses the largest participation by Middle Eastern nationals, featuring the seven pavilions of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran, Syria and Iraq. During a moment of intense political unrest for the region, the growing aristic presence of the Middle East at the Biennale shows a region determined to reveal the force and power of societal expression through art....article continues

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Shezad Dawood's latest work proves a piercing vision
The National, UAE
27/07/2011

On the rooftop carpark of Preston Bus Station, we hunt for signs of where the aliens landed. It's eerily quiet up here, on a textbook grey day in this faded industrial town in the north of England. A group of hooded youths peer over the concrete edge of the station, fumbling in their pockets with the marker pens they're hoping to wield once we've cleared off. But Charles Quick, an artist with an unshakable adoration for Preston, sees more than just rolling hills and the tall chimneys of the disused mills around us. "See these arrows?" he says, deadpan, pointing at the yellow markers leading toward the exit ramp. "That was the landing pad."

Quick is the co-founder of In Certain Places, a programme that invites artists to come to Preston and create a public artwork that offers a rethink of this old market town. Together with Elaine Speight - the other half of In Certain Places - Quick invited Shezad Dawood, winner of this year's Abraaj Capital Art Prize, to the English north in 2009.

"For us, it's important that we find artists ready to work across different mediums, and also that they do extensive research in creating a piece. These are both key elements of Shezad's practice."

But it's not until the artist clambers his way to the top of the bus station - a much-loved-much-loathed concrete flourish of 1960s brutalist architecture - that the extraordinary tale behind this subversive sci-fi emerges.

Filming of Piercing Brightness, commissioned by In Certain Places, began in early July with Dawood as director and writer. The premise is that aliens landed in Preston centuries ago with the mission to learn the ways of human civilisation from its inhabitants. Shifting shape to blend in, the aliens - with the passage of time, eras and, we might imagine, the advent of social networking - slowly forgot their mission over the course of several lifetimes.

Piercing Brightness picks up just as the "Glorious 100", the original visitors, are supposed to be going home. Two aliens are dispatched, taking on the form of Chinese immigrants, to round the Glorious up and get them back to the mothership. Cue car chases, cosmic cornershops and rituals in the River Ribble.

A pared-down version of the film will be shown to coincide with a touring mid-career retrospective of Dawood's work, beginning in Preston. And there are rumours that Piercing Brightness will premiere at Dubai International Film Festival in November.

As with much of Dawood's work, a sense of conceptual tightness defines this latest project. His academic background spurs him on to cover all bases: he ensures that the ideas informing the work fit together like a finely wrought essay. This is achieved through an ever-blossoming patchwork of research - knitting synchronicities and fragile, startling connections between the most disparate material.

Dawood's work for the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, shown at Art Dubai this year, recreated Brion Gysin's "Dream Machines", originally designed in 1960s Tangiers to induce lucid dreaming in the viewer. His research for the project, detailed in the accompanying catalogue, spanned everything from cosmological diagrams by Ibn Arabi to scores of music contemporary to the time.

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L'onda panarabica è arrivata in Laguna
il manifesto
15/06/2011

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The Future of a Promise: An exhibition
Khaleejesque
12/06/2011

The Venice Biennale has established itself as one of the leading global art and culture organizations. For more than a century, this institution promoted the latest in art, architecture, music and theatre, inviting international artists and creatives from all over the world to take part in their many events.

Among those events is the International Art Exhibition, known for supporting and exhibiting contemporary art. This year’s 54th International Art Exhibition, titled ILLUMInazioni (ILLUMInations) which opened in Venice on the 3rd June, will last until 27th November 2011. The event is directed by Bice Curiger and organized by la Biennale di Venezia and was available for view to the public on Saturday 4th June.

The Future of a Promise, the largest Pan-Arab show of contemporary art, was presented at the 54th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia) on the 4th of June, 2011. The exhibition brought together artwork from a multitude of Arab countries among which are Lebanon, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

The exhibition, curated by Lina Lazaar and produced by Edge of Arabia, hosted some of the most remarkable artworks, ranging from installation and performance to photography and painting.

Among the participating artists are Ziad Abillama (Lebanon), Manal Al-Dowayan (Saudi Arabia), Ahmed Alsoudani (Iraq), Ziad Antar (Lebanon), Ayman Baalbaki (Lebanon), Lara Baladi (Egypt/Lebanon), Fayçal Baghriche (Algeria), Yto Barrada (Morocco), Taysir Batniji (Palestine), Abdelkader Benchamma (France/Algeria), Ayman Yossri Daydban (Palestine/Jordan), Mounir Fatmi (Morocco), Abdulnasser Gharem (Saudi Arabia), Mona Hatoum (Lebanon), Raafat Ishak (Egypt), Emily Jacir (Palestine), Yazan Khalili (Palestine), Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia), and Driss Ouadahi (Algeria), as well as three Abraaj Capital Art Prize Winners, Jananne Al-Ani (Iraq), Kader Attia (Algeria) and Nadia Kaabi-Linke (Tunisia).

The Future of a Promise explores the deeper meaning of that term that we know oh so well, and have heard of time and time again: “the promise of a better future”. As the organizers put it, “In an age where the ‘promise of the future’ has become something of a cliché, what is meant by The Future of a Promise?”.

While political turmoil unfolds in a number of Arab countries – from North Africa to the Middle East – it is only natural for those living in those areas to wonder what lies next. Promises are made left and right, with those same people hanging on to every thread of hope. They cling to the hope of a better future and yet many are still left hanging.

The exhibition seeks to examine exactly that. Curator Lina Lazaar says, “Through the artworks selected, I wanted to investigate how artists from this diverse, fragmented region have responded to the often contradictory promises that have defined our history. I am incredibly proud and honored to be putting together this exhibition in 2011, at such critical times for the Arab world, and I very much hope to create the rightful platform for these voices to be heard.”

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Another show of modern Arab art
Daily Star
11/06/2011

Arresting videos by Yto Barrada and Jananne al-Ani; and elegant sculptures by Emily Jacir and Nadia Kaabi-Linke...some of which have been seen many times before at Art Dubai or the Sharjah Biennial or the Abraj Capital Art Prize’s annual award show?...sponsored by a private equity firm...In another exhibition, Ani’s video, entitled “Shadow Sites II,” would stand on its own as a complex, multifaceted work delving into the thorny, interrelated histories of photography, war, technology, flight and the sublime. Here it ticks a few boxes, but it doesn’t really have the space or context it deserves, and the black polyester shag rug it shares a room with isn’t helping.

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The Future of a Promise
TheArtNewspaper.com
09/06/2011

Non-profit organisation Edge of Arabia is producing the exhibition while Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, the social responsibility arm of the ALJ Group, and Abraaj Capital, the private equity group, are sponsors.

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Alla Biennale le rivolte arabe
ItaliaOggi
08/06/2011

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A spring in their step
The Financial Times
03/06/2011

(…) the best art is enriched by its back story but not dependent on it. Take the work of Nadia Kaabi-Linke. Suspended from the high-beamed ceiling of the medieval warehouse that hosts Future of a Promise, the Tunisian’s “Flying Carpets” (2011) comprises two layers of skeletal, steel squares connected by black cords. Possessing dazzling neo-Constructivist purity, it holds the gaze long before you know that its geometry originates in the blankets – measured by Kaabi-Linke during a pre-Biennale sojourn – laid out on Venetian bridges by illegal African immigrants to display their faux-luxury handbags. In another elegantly minimal installation, “Butcher Bliss” (2010), the same artist hangs a quartet of white porcelain-cast animal hides from a meat rack to capture the tragic story of a butcher “disappeared” by the Ben Ali regime. Also blessed with formal joie-de-vivre is “Shadow Sites II”, a film by Iraqi Jananne Al-Ani. Shot from a helicopter and making use of both splicing and zooming techniques, it distils the military camps and archeological ruins that scar her country’s desert to an exquisite, ever-shifting palimpsest of hermetically beautiful images.

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The Middle East makes a showing at the Venice Biennale
The National
02/06/2011

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Venice Biennale: Islamic Art
Asian Art Newspaper
29/05/2011

The biggest splash of all is a Pan-Arab initiative that includes artists from most parts of North Africa and the Middle East, excluding Libya. This collateral event, known as The Future of a Promise brings together for the first time three organisations that turn up regularly in any discussion of contemporary art of the Islamic world: Edge of Arabic, Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives and Abraaj Capital.
The exhibition covers everything from installations to video, performance and painting. Many of the most respected names are present, including Mona Hatoum and three Abraaj Capital Art Prize Winners: Jananne Al-Ani from Iraq, Kader Attia from Algeria and Nadia Kaabi-Linke from Tunisia.

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Will the Arab Spring Bloom at the Venice Biennale? A Preview of Four Politically Charged Displays
Art Info
26/05/2011

"The Future of a Promise" is funded by the Saudi automotive, finance, and media company ALJ Group and the Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital, and the show is produced by the London-based art nonprofit Edge of Arabia, which recently sold six works at Christie's Dubai auction for over $1 million that will be used to support its educational programs in Saudi Arabian schools. With funding from Middle Eastern corporations and production support from the West — where many contemporary Arab artists live — "The Future of a Promise" has come up with a new recipe for participation in Venice, and it will be interesting to see if it becomes a model at future Biennales.

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Echoes of Political Unrest at Venice Biennale
New York Times & International Herald Tribune
25/05/2011

The space, covering 400 square meters, or 4,300 square feet, in a former salt storage facility, brings together more than 30 works by 21 artists from 8 countries. The exhibition is backed by the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, Abraaj Capital and Edge of Arabia, all organizations that have been supporters of Middle Eastern contemporary art. (...)"Nadia Kaabi Linke of Tunisia will show “Flying Carpet,” a metal sculpture 14 meters, or 45 feet, long suspended 3 meters above ground. It is inspired by Ponte del Sepolcro, a Venetian landmark, and pays homage to the immigrant street peddlers of Venice. “The piece is a tribute the notion of the promised land,” Ms. Lazaar said.

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The Future of a Promise: Pan-Arab Art at the 54th Venice Biennale
Art in the City web
10/05/2011

(...) It will be produced by Edge of Arabia and supported by Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives and Abraaj Capital, three newly partnered organisations whose commitment to contemporary art practice in the Middle East is at the heart of a current artistic renaissance in the region. The exhibition will also showcase pieces that were made possible by the Abraaj Capital Art Prize (ACAP), with works by ACAP 2011 winners Nadia Kaabi-Linke (Tunisia) and Jananne Al-Ani (Iraq), as well as by ACAP 2010 winner Kader Attia from Algeria.

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Report: Art Dubai
Tate Etc.
01/05/2011

Footnote:
"Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2011 was jointly won by Hamra Abbas, Jananne Al-Ani, Shezad Dawood, Nadia Kaabi-Linke & Timo Nasseri."

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From Sharjah to Dubai and back again (part 2): Art Dubai and gallery openings
Metropolis M
20/04/2011

Art Dubai annually hosts the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, the most prestigious prize in the MENASA region, and with a million US$ to spend definitely the world’s most generous. Of all five nominees, which included Hamra Abbas, Shezad Dawood, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, and Timo Nasseri, British-Iraqi artist Jananne Al-Ani’s single channel digital videoShadow Sites II stood out. Al-Ani takes the viewer on an aerial journey into an abstract landscape reminiscent of Google Earth and military visuals. She first presents the ‘oriental’ landscape as it has traditionally been presented to a Western eye: a vast uninhabited desert plane. Once the camera pans and zooms we slowly start detecting traces of habitation, and human presence. Al-Ani combines military and technological imagery in order to deconstruct orientalist gazes and representations. She does this in a meticulous, potent and mesmerising fashion.

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Unsung heroes of art
ALLVOICES
17/04/2011

While the nation clamoured behind the Pakistani cricket team at the World Cup, Pakistani artists quietly won international awards for their country. The Sharjah Biennale Prize 2011 was awarded to Imran Qureshi. In the neighbouring Emirates fair, Art Dubai, the winning entries of Hamra Abbas and Shezad Dawood were unveiled in the group of the five winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize. These awards have propelled Pakistan into the headlines in a positive context and will keep it there while the winning entries tour important international art venues for a year before finding a home in the Abraaj Art Collection. (…) Abbas continuing with her Adventures of the woman in black makes her icon the protagonist of her stained glass window that won the Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2011. She invokes the power of the images as she explains through a labyrinth of geometrical patterns, motifs, and vibrant colours installed in a room. The stained window closely associated with church architecture, creates a space of reflection associated with all places of worship. Explaining the context she elaborates, “We stand in an age where extraordinary forms of violence, in terms of technology and brutality, have become an ordinary part of our consciousness. The stream of reports in newspapers, the internet, radio shows, and television images periodically remind us of the perpetual state of our existence. We now see footage of cities set alight by bombs and missiles fired from great distances. It is a time where the slogan of peace has become both a cause and an argument for more violence. So the 20th and 21st centuries do not seem too far removed from the way we conceive our me dieval or ancient past, filled with armies marching to war, and despotic rulers with their notions of truth to fuel the fight.

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Capital Win
Gulf Today
14/04/2011

Art Dubai saw the unveiling of the highly anticipated and ambitious artworks of the 2011 Abraaj Capital Art Prize (ACAP) from the hands of five winning artists. ACAP is the world’s only art prize to focus on the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region. It entered its third edition this year.

Since being granted the prize last October on the basis of their proposals, the artist recipients — Hamra Abbas, Jananne Al-Ani, Shezad Dawood, Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Timo Nasseri — and their guest curator Sharmini Pereira, worked tirelessly to turn their ambitious proposals into reality.

In each of their projects, the artists from India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Tunisia respectively, developed their practice in new directions, be it working in a different medium, scale or methodology. All works responded to a particular theme that was specific to their personal experiences rooted in the MENASA region, but that also had universal application.

In her work Woman in Black, Pakistan-born Abbas depicted the iconic image of a fictional super-heroine in the traditional medium of stained glass. The film Shadow Sites II by Iraqi Al-Ani was made up of images displaying an aerial landscape that bore traces of natural and man-made activity, but became abstracted as features turned invisible to the human eye.

Dawood’s New Dream Machine Project made manifest a complex series of cultural connections between a three-metre-high kinetic light sculpture that emitted kaleidoscopic light pulses, first experimented with by painter Brion Gysin in the 1960s upon his return to the UK from Morocco, Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones and the Master Musicians of Jajouka.

Tunisian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke created a breathtaking installation Flying Carpets, made of shinning metal and rubber threads. The work hovered in space above the viewer’s heads, in the form of a bridge and highlighted the plight of hawkers who sell counterfeit goods on the streets of Venice. Gon by Nasseri was his largest and most complex work to date, formed of metal pipes which gave expression to the quantitative logic of systems that exist across cultures and history and the inherent beauty that results from their intersection.

Frederic Sicre, Partner, Abraaj Capital when considering the prize in relation to the company’s business philosophy commented: “The prize is part of our dedication to empowering potential in everything we do, even in our core business. Abraaj supports entrepreneurs in the MENASA region of all spheres, including talented, entrepreneurial artists who have this opportunity to break new ground, experiment and showcases the rich artistic and cultural heritage of this extraordinarily diverse part of the world.

“These young artists must be heard and their respective messages understood and debated...its part of the answer to the social expectations that citizens throughout the region are currently voicing.” Savita Apte, Chair of the Selection Committee added: “The way these dedicated artists drive their vision from the initial idea to the completed works unveiled at Art Dubai is inspiring for us all.

“Each project responds to and reflects upon a wide assortment of source material, covering a broad range of subjects such as mathematics, religion, music, aerial photography and flying carpets, to name but a few. Collectively, the artists represent the diversity of talent in the region, and the varying disciplines and approaches they employ to interpret the world we live in.”

ACAP is globally unique in that its awards are given on the basis of proposals rather than completed works. Since its inception at Art Dubai 2009, it has quickly gained widespread recognition, given its purpose and focus on the MENASA region. The unveiling of the winners was accompanied by the launch of Footnote to a Project, a specially commissioned book project conceived by this year’s guest curator, Sharmini Pereira and design studio OK-RM.

Created in collaboration with the 2011 winning artists, the 536-page soft-cover book is a collection of images, citations and references that support and inform the creation of the five artworks. Pereira said: “As a publisher, when given the role of guest curator, I immediately thought about the opportunities a book project offered.

“I wanted to find a way of helping people see what was involved in the creation of the works. We often place so much emphasis on the outcome or the end product. I was particularly keen to explore an idea that positioned the five artworks as the outcome of several thought cycles.”

She is director and founder of Raking Leaves, a not-for-profit independent publisher of artists’ book projects and special editions who lives and works in London and Colombo. About Footnote to a Project, she further commented: “In common with the way footnotes adjoin a text, this book has been conceived as a ‘footnote’ to accompany a prize. It illustrates each of the five artworks in relation to a series of footnotes comprised entirely from black and white images that provide information about the artworks. This book forms a sixth element to this year’s prize…it is intended to facilitate a reading of the prize through its content, as a footnote…”

Abraaj Capital (AC) is the biggest private equity group in the MENASA region. Since its inception in 2002, it has raised close to $7 billion and distributed almost $3 billion to its investors. Headquartered in Dubai, the Abraaj Group operates eight offices in the region including in Istanbul, Cairo and Riyadh. AC has won many regional and international awards, including five consecutive years as ‘Middle Eastern Private Equity Firm of the Year’ from London-based Private Equity International. AC, a member of the Abraaj Group, is licensed by the Dubai Financial Services Authority.

The completed ACAP artworks join the growing Abraaj Capital Art Collection. To date, the 2009 and 2010 works have been exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, the DIFC, Dubai, and Maraya Arts Centre, Sharjah.

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Abraaj Capital Art Prize 2011 Recipients
Videos from Ikono TV
10/04/2011

youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mULuaYeEwFU&w=575&h=353

The Abraaj Capital Art Prize is the art prize for artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
Uniquely rewarding proposals rather than completed works-of-art, winners are announced each October and go on to produce artworks which are unveiled the following March.
Each year five selected artists work with one international curator, culminating in an exhibition at Art Dubai and a printed catalogue. The artworks go on to join the Abraaj Capital Art Collection.

Here are the individual videos for the recipients (please paste into your browser):

Shezad Dawood
youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epxmw7oEfyY&w=575&h=353
Shezad Dawood was born in London in 1974. He received an MPhil in Fine Art Photography from the Royal College of Art (2000 — 3) before gaining his PhD from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2008. Dawood has a research based practise that employs many different art forms. The evolution of his work has become increasingly more interdisciplinary and collaborative, as part of a discursive interest in mapping territories through narrative intersections between history, literature and cultural appropriation. Following his first solo show, Shezad Dawood & Friends, held at his studio in 2006, solo exhibitions of his work have been held at: Axel Lapp Projects, Berlin (2007); The Third Line, Dubai (2008); Galleria Riccardo Crespi, Milan (2008); Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam (2009) and Aarhus Kunstbygning, Denmark (2010). He has also participated in the following group exhibitions: Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, Saatchi Gallery, London; Disorientation II, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi (2009); Making Worlds, The 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); Altermodern, Tate Britain (2009); Century City, Tate Modern, London (2001) and 000zerozerozero, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1999). Dawood’s works are in the collections of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, the Saatchi Collection and The Frank Cohen Collection in the UK. He is represented by The Third Line, Dubai; Paradise Row, London; Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai; Galleria Riccardo Crespi, Milan; and Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam

Nadia Kaabi-Linke
youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ioctBdwhIo&w=575&h=353
Nadia Kaabi-Linke was born in 1978 in Tunis to a Russian mother and Tunisian father. She studied at the University of Fine Arts in Tunis (1999) before receiving a PhD from the Sorbonne University in Paris (2008). Her installations, objects and pictorial works are embedded in urban contexts, intertwined with memory and geographically and politically constructed identities. She held her first major solo show, Tatort at Galerie Christian Hosp, Berlin in 2010. She has participated in several international group exhibitions that include Drawn from Life, Green Cardamom (2009 — 10) and Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendall, UK (2011); Split, Darb 1718 Contemporary, Cairo (2010); Aftermath, 25th Alexandria Biennale (2009); 9th Sharjah Biennial (2009); Art Connexions: Arab Contemporary Artists (2008) and Archives des banalities tunisoises (2009) both held at Galerie El Marsa, Tunis, the second was a solo show. In 2009 she was awarded the Jury Prize by the Alexandria Biennale. Kaabi-Linke is represented by Galerie Christian Hosp, Berlin.

Hamra Abbas
youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhjaF652AQA&w=575&h=353
Hamra Abbas was born in Kuwait in 1976 and lives and works between Islamabad and Boston. Abbas has a versatile practice that straddles a wide range of media. Drawing upon culturally loaded imagery and iconography, in an often playful manner, Abbas appropriates and transforms traditional motifs and styles to examine questions of conflict within society. She has held several international solo exhibitions that include Cityscape, OUTLET Independent Art Space, Istanbul (2010); Adventures of the Woman in Black, Green Cardamom (2008); God Grows on Trees, Schultz Contemporary, Berlin (2008) and Lessons on Love, Rohtas 2, Lahore (2006). Her work has also been included in the 9th Sharjah Biennial (2009); the International Incheon Women Artists Biennale (2009): Thessaloniki Biennale (2009); Guangzou Triennial (2008); Istanbul Biennial (2007) and Sydney Biennale (2006). In 2009 Abbas was awarded the Jury Prize at the 9th Sharjah Biennial and was shortlisted for the inaugural Jameel Prize. She is represented by Green Cardamom, London and OUTLET Independent Art Space, Istanbul.

Timo Nasseri
youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZsV4V6haxE&w=575&h=353
Timo Nasseri was born in Berlin in 1972 to a German mother and an Iranian father. He began his artistic career as a photographer, and in 2004 he made the transition to creating sculpture. Combining Islamic and western cultural heritages, his work is inspired as much by specific memories and religious references as by universal archetypes described by mathematics and language, and the inner truths of form and rhythm. He has held several solo exhibitions which include Ghazal, Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg (2009); One of Six, Kunstverein Arnsberg (2009); Epistrophy (2008) and Falling Stars (2006) both at Galerie Schleicher+Lange, Paris and Op-Felder, Galerie ABEL Raum fur Neue Kunst, Berlin (2002). He has also participated in the following group exhibitions: Taaffe-Streuli-Nasseri, Sfeir-Semler, Beirut (2010); Nasseri/Englund, Schleicher+Lange, Paris (2010); En Miroir, CRAC Alsace (2010); Taswir — Pictorial Mappings of Islam and Modernity, Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin (2009); Mashq: repetition, meditation, meditation, Green Cardamom, London (2009) and Eurasia, Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Trento (2008); Phoenix vs Babylone, Espace Paul Richard, Paris (2008) and ECHO, Sfeir-Semler, Beirut (2008). He was awarded the Prix Saar Ferngas Förderpreis Junge Kunst in 2006. He is represented by Galerie Schleicher+Lange, Paris and Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg and Beirut.

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Abraaj Capital Awards: Unique, exciting, groundbreaking
Ice Magazine, Istanbul
01/04/2011

Besides being the largest investor in the world, Abraaj Capital is also the owner of one of the largest contemporary art collections around the globe. As one of the biggest investors in the region and in the world, Abraaj Capital also owns one of the biggest contemporary art collections in the region. How did Abraaj Capital’s involvement in contemporary art start?
Savita Apte: Abraaj Capital is a private equity group, who invest in the MENASA (Middle East North Asia South Africa) region and have highlighted the considerable success of the region. They take enormous pride in empowering the potential that they see in the businesses and entrepreneurship in MENASA. It was this same motivation that drew them to artistic and cultural patronage in MENASA. Abraaj Capital is committed to investing in the cultural capital of MENASA, encouraging artists and enabling them to realize their potential with an international platform.
ICE: What are the benefits of corporate patronage both in terms of financial investment and also in terms of prestige? How do they affect the respectability of a company?
S.A.: The Abraaj Capital Art Prize is a unique award as it rewards creative potential and in doing so it reflects the corporate ideology of Abraaj Capital. It is the most generous art award in the world and demonstrates the long term commitment that Abraaj Capital has both to the MENASA region as well as to the creative excellence of the region. Through its patronage, Abraaj Capital is at the vanguard of cultural change and cultural entrepreneurship and its corporate ideologies are reflected and recognized in its cultural patronage.
ICE: It is also the only award that is given to proposals rather than finished works. What are your criteria when choosing the artists?
S.A.: The selection committee has been consistently impressed by the very high standards of applications that are received each year. The selection committee look for proposals that communicate with a contemporary language but which are rooted in the rich traditions of the region; the proposals are required to show an intimate knowledge of material aspects of the work and push material boundaries wherever possible; the proposals which gain the selection committees’ attention are the ones which demonstrate that the artists are able to think innovatively and outside the box, but which remain authentic to the artists voice. Naturally of course, the selection committee looks for the unique, the exciting, and the ground-breaking.
ICE: How do you see the future of contemporary art and its market in the MENASA region?
S.A.: The Abraaj Capital Art Prize has done an enormous amount to raise awareness of the multiple centres of artistic creation in MENASA and the heterogeneous methodologies and aesthetics of the region. The international attention it has focused on regional artists has encouraged younger generations of artists and potential artists as well as curators, critics and writers on the subject. All of this has seen the consolidation of an artistic eco system which includes galleries, dealers and collectors. I think that the most exciting art is being created in this region and it has a long and successful future ahead.
ICE: The awarded artist will work with guest curators and realize their projects. What are your thoughts about this collaborative process?
S.A.: From the very beginning, it was always our intention to empower the creative potential that we saw in the region and to make this accessible to an international audience.
One way in which we achieved this was by promoting a collaborative process of working: for the first two editions, each artist from the region worked with an international curator. This afforded a wonderful osmosis of ideologies and aesthetics together with an international level of exhibition and documentation. In the current 2011 edition, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize has evolved into five winners working with an international curator who will also focus on creating a catalogue which reflects the innovative aspects of the ACAP award. In addition, Abraaj Capital partners with Art Dubai, during which the finished works are unveiled to an international audience of gallery owners, museum directors, artists, writers, critics and collectors.
ICE: In the art collection of Abraaj Capital, how many artworks from which artists do you have?
S.A.: The Abraaj Capital Corporate Collection comprises both the modernist masters as well as more contemporary stars. It is an evolving collection, which is constantly being refined and redefined, and although Abraaj Capital acknowledges its monetary value, its real value is seen in the interactive and creative work environment it fashions.

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Future of a Promise
Universes in Universe, web
01/04/2011

Presenting important works that range from installation, performance and photography, to video, sculpture and painting, The Future of a Promise includes the following artists: (…) as well as three Abraaj Capital Art Prize Winners, Jananne Al-Ani (Iraq), Kader Attia (Algeria), and Nadia Kaabi-Linke (Tunisia).

The exhibition is being curated by Lina Lazaar, produced by Edge of Arabia and supported by Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives and Abraaj Capital, three newly partnered organisations whose commitment to contemporary art practice in the Middle East is at the heart of a current artistic renaissance in the region.

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ARTINFO.com
29/03/2011

Of all the highlights of the recent Art Dubai fair, "Magic Carpets" by Tunisia-born artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke stood out in particular. Hung in the main hall leading into the fair, the sculpture was both grandiose and inscrutable, consisting of minimalist lattices of interlocking squares spanning the length of the hall, resembling the form of a two-level suspended bridge. In fact, the work outlines the form of a specific structure, Venice's Ponte del Sepolcro, and refers to the artist's experiences investigating the conditions of illegal immigrants working there as vendors, tracing the exact locations of the blankets where they spread out their wares on the bridge.
Kaabi-Linke was born in the Tunisian capital of Tunis in 1978, graduating in 1999 from the city's University of Fine Arts, and receiving a PhD in Sciences of Art from the Sorbonne in Paris in 2008. She is currently represented by Berlin's Galerie Christian Hosp, while her work has previously been seen in the Sharjah Biennale, where she created "Under Standing Over Views", a map of the United Arab Emirates made up of fragments of images from all over the world and the Alexandria Biennale, where her contribution was awarded the Jury Prize in 2009. She was one of five winners of the 2011 Abraaj Capital Art Prize, which funded the creation of "Magic Carpets."
While in Dubai for the art fair, ARTINFO deputy editor Ben Davis spoke with Kaabi-Linke about her recent work, the effects of censorship on creativity, and how the recent upheaval in Tunisia might or might not change the way she thinks about art. (…)

This work was made for Abraaj Capital Art Prize. Can you tell us about that process, how the work came together?

Well, I won the Abraaj Prize , I am one of the five winners. This prize has the peculiarity that artists win on the basis of a project they have proposed. So I submitted my project some months ago, and from that moment we started a collaboration with Laura Egerton, who is the ACAP curator, and curator Sharmini Pereira. The first part of the project was staged in Venice, and then in Berlin, and finally I actually produced the project in Sharjah.

At the announcement of the prize, there was this interesting moment when, after they announced the winners of this prize dedicated to artists from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, they had the new finance minister from Tunisia [Jaloul Ayed] come up to congratulate you and share the stage. Can you talk about that moment or give me some background for it?

Well, that moment was also surprising for me! I knew that the new minister of finance would come to Dubai. In this particular case, after the revolution, the presence of someone who is representing the government can be a pleasant one, as an artist. It might not make so much sense in the future. And in particular, it would have been very unpleasant if this had happened before the revolution. Because, you know, the situation of Tunisia was very particular: it was not democratic, artists were not free to do, say, or create what they wanted. There was very strong censorship. It was a police state. But after the recent events, it makes a whole lot of difference, his presence becomes symbolic, and to meet in this particular situation, because I am representing Tunisia here... yes, it was fantastic.

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AO on Site, Dubai – Art Dubai 2011 Summary
AO Art Observed™
24/03/2011

(…) My favorite discovery of fair was the work of Nadia Kaabi-Linke. Kabbi-Linke was one of three winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, the only art prize specifically drawn from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Tunisian born, Kaabi- Linke was exhibited in the last Sharjah Biennial, and this year her plexi-glass imprinted works were on view at Berlin based Galerie Chrisitan Hosp.  From her series, “Crime Scenes”, Kaabu-Linke used forensic powder, as well as a chemical deterrent for graffiti, to lift imprints of the past from surfaces of Berlin. These imprints were then transferred to plexi-glass, ultimately revealing a history of public expression in an urban environment.

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Art Dubai review
Time Out Dubai
21/03/2011

(…) The five winning works from this year’s Abraaj Capital Art Prize were also unveiled at the event. The prize sees artists submit proposals for the most ambitious – and therefore costly – project they can dream up. The nominated artists are then commissioned to produce the work ready for the fair. Shezad Dawood recreated the infamous ‘Dream Machine’ by Beat collaborator Brion Gysin from ’60s Tangiers. This spinning can, pocked with star-shaped holes, houses several central coloured lights and is believed to induce lucid dreaming in those who close their eyes and stand close enough to its spinning centre. We gave it a try and were more charmed by the flashing colours than carried away to lucid heights. Nonetheless, we did almost have a hands-on experience with Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s The Bridge hanging in the fair’s entrance. This huge sculpture, of interlocking thin black metal tubes, suggested an incredible wire-frame staircase floating in the air. Unfortunately, it was at such a height that cranial collisions were – as we learnt – inevitable. It did set the whole thing shaking and shimmering rather spectacularly, however. Another strong year and an excellent, international turnout – while selling art is the name of the game, Art Dubai’s special projects of talks, music, performance and radio dispatches from artists’ studios around the region – not to mention the lovingly selected line-up at the Global Art Forum – continue to define this as much more, and a festival of the arts.

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Ploetzlich ist alles ganz anders und aktuell
FAZ
19/03/2011

Der deutsch-iranische Künstler Timo Nasseri hat gemeinsam mit vier weiteren Künstlern den Abraaj Capital Art Prize gewonnen, dotiert mit einer Million Dollar: Bei der Galerie von Andrée Sfeir-Semler aus Hamburg und Beirut ist sein „Parsec #11“ zu sehen - eine große Kristall-Skulptur, in deren Spiegeln man sich jedoch nicht sehen kann, sondern nur sein eigenes Umfeld. Mona Hatoum ist mehrmals vertreten, unter anderem bei Continua aus San Gimignano und Peking, mit ihrer Perserteppich-Weltkarte für 85.000 Euro.

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Abraaj Capital Art Prize
The National
17/03/2011

"I think this is partly what the prize is about," said the German-Iranian artist Timo Nasseri when the five winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, of whom he was one, were announced in October last year, "to allow you to do something you couldn't usually afford."

It brought with it a certain level of expectation when the works were unveiled at Art Dubai on Tuesday; particularly given that it is the world's most generous art award, with each artist being given $120,000 (Dh440,000) and the best part of five months to produce their work. Anything less than a diamond-encrusted skull was going to leave us underwhelmed.

Talk to the artists, though, all of whom come from the Menasa region (a condition of the prize) and the impressive scale of their projects becomes clear. One, by the Pakistani-Indian artist Shezad Dawood, involved building a "dream machine" and staging a concert in Tangiers by a band who have been in existence, in one form or another, for 4,000 years. Another, by the Iraqi artist Jananne Al-Ani, required the use of a reconnaissance plane to photograph hundred of miles of Jordanian landscape from the air. And a third, by the Tunisian-Russian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke, saw her living alongside Venice's illegal immigrants for a week while she painstakingly measured the scores of carpets on which they sold their wares to tourists.

Thankfully, a book by the curator of the prize this year, Sharmini Pereira, records the blood, sweat and tears that went into producing their uniformly ambitious works. Footnote to a Project will be launched at Art Dubai on Saturday.

Three of the five works are housed in darkened booths. Al-Ani's film, Shadow Sites II shows a series of monochrome images of aerial landscapes in which crop circles and ancient archaeological sites and settlements only become clear when the sun is at its lowest.

"Shadow sites is a branch of archaeology that emerged after the First and Second World Wars," Al-Ani explains, "when much of the war was fought in the air. For me, it was about the metaphor of the relationship between photographic images and memory; about how the landscape itself can act as a photo image in which the image itself is latent."

Accompanied by the low drone of an aircraft engine and ominous creaking sounds, the landscapes seem almost lunar in their simplicity. The beauty is in the detail: the perfectly-groomed rows of crops, the hinted forms of earlier civilisations.

The mixed-media Pakistani artist Hamra Abbas's Woman in Black, is, in contrast, a dazzling wall of colour. The stained-glass window depicting a fictitious heroine to whom men are merely workers in hard hats is a clever use of traditional technique to portray a modern image. "The interplay of light and dark serve as metaphors for good and evil," reads the blurb (Abbas was absent, apparently due to give birth any day).

Shezad Dawood, perhaps the best established of the group (he has a whole section of the London gallery Paradise Row's stand to himself at the fair), has presented one of the most complex pieces. In two parts, New Dream Machine Project consists of a light sculpture and an accompanying film that pays tribute to the British-Canadian painter, Brian Gysin.

"I was always really interested in Gysin," says Dawood, "who invented the Dream Machine. It came a lot out of his interest in Sufism and Islamic calligraphy."

The Dream Machine itself, a spinning cylinder of coloured light encased in a latticed metal shell, is designed to stimulate the alpha waves in the brain, which in turn can induce a state of unconsciousness. Seen on its own, it's all rather Doctor Who. Step inside the nearby booth, though, and a film of the concert he staged at the Cinematèque in Tangiers provides an intriguing context.

"The audience sat all around the Dream Machine," says Dawood, "so the performers were performing with the machine." The Bedouin Master Musicians of Jajouka used to be the house band at Gysin's 1,001 Nights Café in Tangiers in the 1960s. Dawood flew in the British guitarist Duke Garwood to play the part of Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, who performed with them in the 1960s having been introduced by Gysin.

"There are all these interconnections that I was trying to play to," says Dawood. "I wanted to break down this idea of linear time and play with the circularity of it and that of the machine."

More immediately gratifying are Nasseri and Kaabi-Linke's works. A gleaming lattice made up of scores of steel rods, Nasseri's Gon was inspired by geometrical diagrams as well as shapes common in Islamic ornaments and architecture. The overall effect is an elegant illusion of curves. "But all the lines are straight," he says.

Finally, there is Kaabi-Linke's majestic aluminium sculpture, Flying Carpets, which presides over the entrance hall. A nest of rectangular frames hang at varying levels from hundreds of shivering metal wires. It is easily the show-stopper and one that is perhaps not shown to its best advantage in the ornate interior of the Madinat.

"It's an exact replica of il Ponte del Sepolcro in Venice," she explains, "and a homage to illegal immigration in Europe."

She refers to the largely south Asian and east African immigrants who sell their wares to tourists in the Italian city. Each has a carpet, "so that they can pack up and run away easily from the police".

Kaabi-Linke spent a week in their company, measuring the exact dimensions of the bridge and their carpets, which are replicated precisely in the sculpture's metal frames. "The idea of borders is a modern phenomenon, and not natural," she says. "We exist today only because humans adapted and moved from one place to another. Maybe I see it this way because I am an immigrant."

Savita Apte, the prize's chairwoman, feels the award's expansion to five winners instead of the three of previous years has increased the opportunities for regional artists. The reduced prize money (when split five ways) is also an improvement. "They all felt slightly intimidated by $200,000" she says.

It must have done the trick. This year's winners appear to be anything but.

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Cinco artistas se reparten el premio Abraaj, el mejor dotado del mundo
El Pais
16/03/2011

El Premio Abraaj, que se concede durante la feria de arte contemporáneo de los Emiratos Árabes, Art Dubai, es único y no sólo porque con una dotación de un millón de dólares (más de 700.000 euros) es el más cuantioso del mundo del arte. También tiene otras peculiaridades: es el único dirigido especialmente a los artistas de Oriente Próximo, norte de África y Asia del sur y es un premio para producción, es decir que distingue el proyecto y luego ofrece a su autor la posibilidad de realizarlo. Tras tres ediciones en las que se galardonaron tres equipos formados por un artista y su comisario, este año para dar una mayor unidad al planteamiento se ha optado por una nueva fórmula: repartir el galardón entre cinco artistas, de los 512 que se presentaron, a la orden de una joven comisaria de Sri Lanka, Sharmini Pereira. Para su instalación Flying Carpets, una enorme estructura de acero que cuelga del techo, la tunecina Nadia Kaabi-Linke se ha inspirado en el célebre mito de las alfombras voladoras y en las alfombrillas de los vendedores ilegales, que vuelan por los aires con su mercancía cuando llega la policía. "Según se mira la escultura-alfombra se convierte en la escalera de un puente de Venecia, donde los inmigrantes venden bolsos y otros productos de lujo falsificados", explica la artista. El vídeo y la escultura del New Dream Machine Project del indio Shezad Dawood son un homenaje a la homónima lámpara estroboscópica, creada en 1961 por el pintor Brion Gysin y el escritor William Burroughs en Tánger, en el marco de sus investigaciones sobre los estados de conciencia alterados. La máquina crea un caleidoscopio de luces, que actúan sobre los estratos corticales del cerebro y Burroughs, que la tenía en gran consideración, se hizo fotografiar con ella el día de su 83 y último cumpleaños. Otra escultura, Gon del iraní afincado en Berlín Timo Nasseri, que reproduce una estructura romboidal formada por dos triángulos isósceles, se inspira en los mugarnas, unas decoraciones medievales características del norte de Irán y en la lógica occidental de los sistemas matemáticos. Oriente y occidente se mezclan también en Woman in black de la paquistaní Hamra Abbas, que evoca las vidrieras medievales de las iglesias cristianas y las figuras de las miniaturas Mogul, en una improbable capilla para el culto de una súper heroína, negra y desnuda, representada con cristales coloreados. Finalmente la iraquí Jananne Al-Ani responde al uso de la imagen aérea y las tecnologías digitales para fines bélicos, con el vídeo Shadow Sites II, en el cual los mapas que usaron las tropas estadounidenses en la guerra del 1991 contra Irak, se emplean para sacar a relucir los sitios arqueológicos. Las obras, que se expondrán hasta el sábado en el recinto ferial de Art Dubai, pasarán a formar parte de la colección Abraaj Capital Collection. El público puede votar su obra preferida a través de las web de Art Dubai (www.artdubai.ae ) y del premio (www.abraajcapitalartprize.com).

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The Abraaj Capital Art Prize, now in its third year, announces its five winners in the lead-up to Art Dubai 2011
www.canvasguide.net
15/03/2011

From a record number of submissions, five artists have been chosen as winners of the third edition of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, which was presented by the New York's Museum of Art and Design. Working over the next six months to create new artworks, their pieces will be unveiled during Art Dubai in March 2011, before becoming a permanent part of the Abraaj Capital Art Collection.

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Another Day in Paradise
Canvas Magazine
15/03/2011

Laura Egerton looks at one of the annual Abraaj Capital Art Prize’s 2011 winners – Tunisian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s Flying Carpets – an artistic ode to the carpets on which multinational pedlars in Venice lay their wares.

Ah, la serenissima, beautiful Venice. The international arts community will again descend upon her dreamy waterways this June for the preview of the 54th Venice Biennale, treating the floating city as their temporary playground. It is hard to believe people call this magical place home throughout the year. As a former resident, it is during the dark months of fog and aqua alta
that the fantasy comes closer to reality for Nadia Kaabi-Linke. A young, highly intelligent and inquisitive artist, her conceptual works respond to specific situations. She spent time in Venice during these wet months researching her project Flying Carpets, connecting with people at the margins of society. “They are present, but invisible – my work is an attempt to make them visible,” she says.

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Interview with OK-RM, 'Footnote to a Project' Designers
Q & A
01/03/2011

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Art Eclectic
Jet Gala Life
01/02/2011

Dispersing a cool USD1 million, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize judges teams of curators and artists through their written proposals. One of its key aims is to empower budding artists from the region by providing them opportunities to develop projects they would not ordinarily be able to manifest.

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Jananne Al-Ani, ACAP 2011 winner
Q & A
01/02/2011

Jananne Al-Ani was born in Kirkuk, Iraq in 1966. Working with photography, film and video, Al-Ani has a longstanding interest in the power of testimony and the documentary tradition, be it through intimate recollections of absence and loss or the exploration of more official accounts of historic events. Solo exhibitions of her work have been held at Darat al Funun, Amman (2010); Art Now, Tate Britain (2005); and the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (1999). Recent group exhibitions include Closer, Beirut Art Center (2009); The Screen-Eye or the New Image: 100 videos to rethink the world, Casino Luxembourg (2007) and Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2006). Al-Ani has also co-curated touring exhibitions including Veil (2003 – 4) and Fair Play (2001 – 2). Her work can be found in public collections, among them the Victoria & Albert Museum and Tate, London; the Pompidou Centre, Paris; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC and Darat al Funun, Amman. Al-Ani's photographic work is represented by Rose Issa Projects, London.

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Hamra Abbas, ACAP 2011 winner
Q & A
01/02/2011

Hamra Abbas was born in Kuwait in 1976 and lives and works between Islamabad and Boston. Abbas has a versatile practice that straddles a wide range of media. Drawing upon culturally loaded imagery and iconography, in an often playful manner, Abbas appropriates and transforms traditional motifs and styles to examine questions of conflict within society. She has held several international solo exhibitions that include Cityscape, OUTLET Independent Art Space, Istanbul (2010); Adventures of the Woman in Black, Green Cardamom (2008); God Grows on Trees, Schultz Contemporary, Berlin (2008) and Lessons on Love, Rohtas 2, Lahore (2006). Her work has also been included in the 9th Sharjah Biennial (2009); the International Incheon Women Artists Biennale (2009): Thessaloniki Biennale (2009); Guangzou Triennial (2008); Istanbul Biennial (2007) and Sydney Biennale (2006). In 2009 Abbas was awarded the Jury Prize at the 9th Sharjah Biennial and was shortlisted for the inaugural Jameel Prize. She is represented by Green Cardamom, London and OUTLET Independent Art Space, Istanbul.

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Shezad Dawood, ACAP 2011 winner
Q & A
01/02/2011

Shezad Dawood was born in London in 1974. He received an MPhil in Fine Art Photography from the Royal College of Art (2000 – 3) before gaining his PhD from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2008. Dawood has a research based practise that employs many different art forms. The evolution of his work has become increasingly more interdisciplinary and collaborative, as part of a discursive interest in mapping territories through narrative intersections between history, literature and cultural appropriation. Following his first solo show, Shezad Dawood & Friends, held at his studio in 2006, solo exhibitions of his work have been held at: Axel Lapp Projects, Berlin (2007); The Third Line, Dubai (2008); Galleria Riccardo Crespi, Milan (2008); Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam (2009) and Aarhus Kunstbygning, Denmark (2010). He has also participated in the following group exhibitions: Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, Saatchi Gallery, London; Disorientation II, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi (2009); Making Worlds, The 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); Altermodern, Tate Britain (2009); Century City, Tate Modern, London (2001) and 000zerozerozero, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1999). Dawood’s works are in the collections of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, the Saatchi Collection and The Frank Cohen Collection in the UK. He is represented by The Third Line, Dubai; Paradise Row, London; Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai; Galleria Riccardo Crespi, Milan; and Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam.

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Nadia Kaabi-Linke, ACAP 2011 winner
Q & A
01/02/2011

Nadia Kaabi-Linke was born in 1978 in Tunis to a Russian mother and Tunisian father. She studied at the University of Fine Arts in Tunis (1999) before receiving a PhD from the Sorbonne University in Paris (2008). Her installations, objects and pictorial works are embedded in urban contexts, intertwined with memory and geographically and politically constructed identities. She held her first major solo show, Tatort at Galerie Christian Hosp, Berlin in 2010. She has participated in several international group exhibitions that include Drawn from Life, Green Cardamom (2009 – 10) and Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendall, UK (2011); Split, Darb 1718 Contemporary, Cairo (2010); Aftermath, 25th Alexandria Biennale (2009); 9th Sharjah Biennial (2009); Art Connexions: Arab Contemporary Artists (2008) and Archives des banalities tunisoises (2009) both held at Galerie El Marsa, Tunis, the second was a solo show. In 2009 she was awarded the Jury Prize by the Alexandria Biennale. Kaabi-Linke is represented by Galerie Christian Hosp, Berlin.

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Timo Nasseri, ACAP 2011 winner
Q & A
01/02/2011

Timo Nasseri was born in Berlin in 1972 to a German mother and an Iranian father. He began his artistic career as a photographer, and in 2004 he made the transition to creating sculpture. Combining Islamic and western cultural heritages, his work is inspired as much by specific memories and religious references as by universal archetypes described by mathematics and language, and the inner truths of form and rhythm. He has held several solo exhibitions which include Ghazal, Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg (2009); One of Six, Kunstverein Arnsberg (2009); Epistrophy (2008) and Falling Stars (2006) both at Galerie Schleicher+Lange, Paris and Op-Felder, Galerie ABEL Raum fur Neue Kunst, Berlin (2002). He has also participated in the following group exhibitions: Taaffe-Streuli-Nasseri, Sfeir-Semler, Beirut (2010); Nasseri/Englund, schleicher+lange, Paris (2010); En Miroir, CRAC Alsace (2010); Taswir – Pictorial Mappings of Islam and Modernity, Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin (2009); Mashq: repetition, meditation, meditation, Green Cardamom, London (2009) and Eurasia, Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Trento (2008); Phoenix vs Babylone, Espace Paul Richard, Paris (2008) and ECHO, Sfeir-Semler, Beirut (2008). He was awarded the Prix Saar Ferngas Förderpreis Junge Kunst in 2006. He is represented by Galerie schleicher+lange, Paris and Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg and Beirut.

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The Abraaj Capital Art Prize February 2011
Contemporary Practices
01/02/2011

2011 sees the coming of age of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, neatly bringing the total of completed art projects to 11 with 5 new artworks unveiled at the 5th edition of Art Dubai this March. In its first two years, we have seen ground-breaking artworks
stretching artists to the limit of their practice. The prize is unique in that it rewards artists on the basis of a proposal, an idea of an art project they always dreamt of realising, rather than a completed body of work. Marwan Sahmarani, when it was announced he was one of the three winners for 2010 joked that it was rather like being given a trophy for winning
a marathon before running one step. This approach is refreshing for artists, so often commissions have clear directives. For Abraaj Capital it means their art collection as it develops is one full of works which for artists are really intrinsic to their practice, and are important in the wider reception of their work. Artworks will always be available for loans, and will therefore be part of larger retrospectives and exhibitions of these artists. Artworks have already travelled to New York for an exhibition at the Museum of Arts & Design. The structure of the prize echoes Abraaj Capital’s own investment philosophy, to put faith in
promising ideas, which have the potential to grow into something big; breeding a new generation of cultural entrepreneurs who will go on to be global champions. Abraaj Capital is the region’s leading private equity firm with offices across the Middle
East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA). They hosted a landmark event in November 2010 called The Celebration of Entrepreneurship (CoE), labelled an anti-conference which brought together leading inspiring figures in the private sector to Dubai to foster new connections and business opportunities. Nazgol Ansarinia’s winning ACAP artwork Rhyme & Reason from 2009 was on display, and she led a ‘Spark’ session aimed at inspiring young art such as the Art In Progress wall, a collaborative
project with local artists to create a giant mural, at the close this was signed by Arif Naqvi, Founder and Group CEO, Abraaj Capital and Fadi Ghandour,Founder and CEO, Aramex.

The MENASA region is central to the prize, each work chosen is rooted in that geographical space, and showcases to the wider international artistic community what diverse areas of creative excellence there are, all the way from North Africa to South
Asia. So far through ACAP we have seen works commenting on issues that are current, and affect our lives every day. Many comment on the state of the cities in which the artists have lived, rather prophetically in the case of Hala Elkoussy from
Cairo’s Myths & Legends Room: the Mural. Some use the resources of traditional craftsmanship, such as Ansarinia’s Rhyme & Reason made in Iran, and Hamra Abbas’s Woman in Black. Artists have travelled to their home country to produce their
artwork, such as Kutluğ Ataman’s Strange Space shot in south-eastern Turkey close to the Iraqi border, formerly known as Mesopotamia and Jananne Al-Ani’s Shadow Sites II. Some have been inspired by significant historical and spiritual landmarks such as
Kader Attia’s History of a Myth: the Small Dome of the Rock. Multiple themes are often at play. This year is no exception: the projects show leading artists working with new media, on larger scales and realising projects that have been brewing for years,
as if waiting for the funding and opportunity the Abraaj Capital Art Prize offers each year.

2011 sees winners with backgrounds in Tunisia, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, and the guest curator Sharmini Pereira hails from Sri Lanka – but the regional influences working on the art projects offer a far more varied scope than that. The projects
collectively reflect on past histories and signifiers – through experimenting with new mediums, collaborating with musicians, street hawkers and creating new, independent artworks. Art Dubai sees their unveiling, but the period that chiefly interests
us has drawn to a close by then. As Nadia Kaabi-Linke perceptively puts it, the most creative point for an artist who works in installation is in the conceptual phase, what follows is a journey to make that idea a reality, often through quite logistical and
practical legwork. This year the journey each artist has gone through is going to be documented in a publication masterminded by Sharmini Pereira and designed by OK-RM from the UK called Footnotes to a Project that will be launched on Saturday 19th
March at the fair. Sharmini Pereira sees this as a project in its own right. To quote Pereira, ‘it will be a place where you will be able to see the processes involved of all five artists and the intention is for it to be there like the artworks during the opening
event. Like any publication, it has the potential to live on after an exhibition and continue to disburse the ideas behind it as much as the names of the artists involved, as well as the reputation of this prize. The distribution of this will be essential to
developing a wider audience.’ Sharmini Pereira is the director and founder of Raking Leaves, a not-forprofit independent publisher of artists’ book projects and special editions. Since 1999 she has worked internationally as an independent curator and writer. In 2006 she co-curated the first Singapore Biennale. She was a Trustee for Book Works, London (2005 – 2010) and an academic advisor for the Asia Art Archive (AAA), Hong Kong (2005 – 2009). She currently acts on the boards of several international
organisations and journals and lives and works in London and Sri Lanka.

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2010

Regional art prize expands to five winners
www.thenational.ae
07/10/2010

The world's most generous art award - the Abraaj Capital Art Prize - has just got bigger; or smaller, depending on how you look at it. Bigger in that it is, as of this year, being awarded to five artists instead of three. Smaller because by splitting the $1 million prize money more ways, each artist gets a smaller share of the pot. Still, as art awards go, $120,000 (Dh440,784) each (the remainder goes towards covering exhibition costs and administration) is a lavish sum (bear in mind that the winner of the Turner Prize receives £25,000 and each runner up £5,000. "It just makes it possible to produce this piece," says Timo Nasseri, the Iranian-German sculptor.

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Art award empowers five talents
www.gulfnews.com
05/10/2010

For the first time, artists from South Asian countries claim Abraaj Capital prizes. Five artists have been chosen as the winners of the third edition of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize from among a record number of submissions.

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Voters unanimous in art winner choice
www.gulfnews.com
01/08/2010

Lebanese artist secures 2010 Abraaj prize. A Lebanese artist has won the popular vote from among the three winners in the 2010 Abraaj Capital Art Prize. Marwan Sahmarani's work "The Feast of the Damned", which she said represented the pain and suffering of the conflict in the Middle East, was chosen by almost half of those who voted.

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The Abraaj Capital Art Prize at Art Dubai 2010
Culture Magazine
01/04/2010

The Abraaj Capital Art Prize, now in its second year, awards US$1 million annually to artists from the Middle East, North Africa & South Asia (MENASA).

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Conversing with Dead Artists at the Feast of the Damned
www.dailystar.com.lb
01/04/2010

The night before Good Friday in the year 1300, Italian poet Dante begins his (fictional) journey through the nine circles of hell. In 1620 Rubens completed his vast, apocalyptic vision of the fate of the sinners ‘The Fate of the Damned’. At Art Dubai in March, Marwan Sahmarani positioned his Abraaj Capital Art Prize winning work as the third leg in this infernal lineage.

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Art Dubai & The Abraaj Capital Art Prize: Bridge or pathway between continents?
www.kunsthart.org
01/04/2010

Art Dubai & The Abraaj Capital Art Prize: Bridge or pathway between continents? En route to Tehran, independent curator and artist Amirali Ghasemi and curator Michel Dewilde (MD) stopped at the Art Fair Dubai, collecting valuable interviews for the documentary ‘Iran beyond borders' (1966-2010), and reflecting on the art fair.

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Celebrating the icon, and its insignificance
www.dailystar.com.lb
20/03/2010

The cheek of Kader Attia’s ‘History of a Myth: The Small Dome of the Rock’ Consider the humble bolt. Stamped out in anonymous factories around the globe in standardised sizes – itself insubstantial, yet essential in holding substantial mechanism’s together – the bolt’s mundane uniformity has made it vital to engineering.

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Ein Versprechen für die Zukunft
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Kunstmarkt
20/03/2010

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Hala Elkoussy's multi-narrative mural unveiled in Dubai
www.dailystar.com.lb
17/03/2010

Hala Elkoussy's "The Myths & Legends Room: The Mural" was unveiled at Art Dubai on Tuesday. The finished 9 meter by 3 meter work was one of three projects to have been awarded the Abraaj Capital Art Prize last fall.
"This piece presents itself as a proposal for an artwork in the Cairo City Museum.".

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Winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize to Unveil their Artworks at Art Dubai 2010
www.artdaily.com
15/03/2010

The anticipated artworks of the 2010 Abraaj Capital Art Prize winners will be unveiled at Art Dubai on Tuesday 16th March. Since being awarded the prize in September, the artists – Kader Attia, Marwan Sahmarani and Hala Elkoussy – and their curators have worked tirelessly in secret to turn their ambitious proposals into reality.

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Hala Elkoussy: The Myths & Legends Room – The Mural
www.universes-in-universe.org
01/03/2010

An insider's view of an urban pressure cooker. The myths and legends that Hala Elkoussy's Myths & Legends Room – The Mural refers to are not those of a distant past but of today. They are photographic tales based on historical facts, rumors, religious beliefs, traditions, and other myths and legends, conjuring up narratives through which reality shimmers: the reality of life in Cairo, the city that lies at the base of almost all of Elkoussy's works.

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2009

Abraaj to bring more art winners into fold
www.emirates247.com
10/11/2009

Abraaj to bring more art winners into fold Abraaj Capital Art Prize organisers have increased the number of winners from three to five and have announced a new application process that would allow artists to nominate themselves for the prize.

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Three Artists Start Work After Each Wins $200,000 Abraaj Prize
www.bloomberg.com
28/10/2009

Three artists from the Middle East are this week starting to create the works that won each of them $200,000 in the inaugural Abraaj Capital Art Prize. The judges of one of the richest art awards want to help winners to make projects they wouldn't be able to afford.

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Abraaj Capital Art Prize fills a void in the art prize world
www.artradarjournal.com
04/05/2009

Unlike other art prizes, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize is awarded for art project proposals rather than work already produced. By recognising the latent potential of ideas and providing funding for the winners, the Abraaj Art Prize which is open to artists from MENASA (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia) helps to bring into being works that may otherwise never have been made.

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Dubai: Abraaj Capital Prize
whitewallmag
23/03/2009

In the lead up to Art Dubai, it seemed a moment didn’t pass without a blockbuster story about the Gulf city’s glittery façade cracking. Headlines unveiled anecdotes of a mass foreign worker exodus, cars at the airport abandoned by the thousands, traffic-free highways, and of course debtor’s prisons. Yet the tone was decidedly optimistic once the doors of Art Dubai finally opened last Wednesday. The event was launched with the unveiling of work from the three winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize.

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Investir dans l'art contemporain à Dubaï
Le Temps
23/03/2009

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Art Prize Winner Has a Rhyme and Reason to Celebrate
www.khaleejtimes.com
22/03/2009

Twenty minutes into what she thought was an interview, it dawned on Nazgol Ansarinia that she had actually been awarded the 2009 Abraaj Capital Art Prize, the first prize of its kind to actively forge collaborations between international curators and artists from the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia) regions. “It was a shock,” she admits.

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Prize opened up world for Algerian artist
www.gulfnews.com
19/03/2009

Algerian artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah says she screamed with joy when she heard that she had won the Abraaj Capital Art Prize. "I was in a crowded hotel lobby in Antalya [Turkey] and I screamed," said the artist, who cut short her holiday and returned to Paris to work on Walking On The Sky. Pisces, which is now on display at Madinat Jumeirah. "Winning the prize has opened up the world, it makes me see far ahead," she said.

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