Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme win Abraaj Group Art Prize 2015

The Palestinian artist-duo win the 8th edition of the prestigious Dubai-based art award.

The Abraaj Group Art Prize has announced its winner and shortlisted artists, as well as the Guest Curator for the Prize exhibition taking place art Art Dubai in 2016.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme. Image courtesy Abraaj Group Art Prize.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme. Image courtesy Abraaj Group Art Prize.

On 13 October 2015, the Abraaj Group announced Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme as the winners of the eighth edition of the Abraaj Group Art Prize, the only award that exclusively honours artists from the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia) region. The Palestinian duo received an award of USD100,000 to produce a commissioned artwork to be unveiled at the Prize’s group exhibition at the tenth edition of Art Dubai, from 16 to 19 March 2016. The Abraaj-nominated Guest Curator for 2016 is Pakistani-born Nav Haq, curator at Antwerp’s M HKA (Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp) and selected by Hans-Ulrich Obrist as co-recipient of ICI’s Independent Vision Curatorial Award 2012.

The new Chair of the Prize Jury is Dana Farouki, Trustee of MoMA PS1 and Co-Chair of Creative Time, New York, who succeeds art historian Savita Apte – Chair of the Prize since its inception in 2008. Since 2015 – in addition to Art Dubai Director Antonia Carver, Whitechapel Gallery Curator Omar Kholeif, Founding Trustee and Chair of Aman Foundation Fayeeza Naqvi and Managing Director of The Abraaj Group Frederic Sicre – the Jury also includes three new influential members:

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 'The Part About the Bandits', Part 1 of 'The Incidental Insurgents', 2012-2015, video still. Image courtesy the artists and Abraaj Group Art Prize.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, ‘The Part About the Bandits’, Part 1 of ‘The Incidental Insurgents’, 2012-2015, video still. Image courtesy the artists and Abraaj Group Art Prize.

The 2016 winners: Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme

Palestinian duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (b. 1983, Nicosia, Cyprus and Boston, USA), based between Palestine and New York, have been working together since 2007 and have exhibited extensively worldwide, including at Gwangju Biennale (2014), Sao Paulo Biennale (2014), Insert 2014 (New Delhi), Istanbul Biennial (2013), Asian Art Biennial (2013) and Liverpool Biennale (2010).

Their practice uses sound, image, text, installation and performance to explore contemporary reality and transform it through a different imaginary, probing into the possibilities of alternative presents. The artists see the ‘present’ as a reality increasingly shaped by a politics of desire and disaster. By “excavating, activating and inventing incidental narratives, figures, gestures and sites”, as they write in their website, Abbas and Abou-Rahme construct and re-imagine the possibilities of the present. Through the use of various media and the exploration of their material possibilities, the artists create multi-media installations and live sound/image performances that transcend the boundaries of reality and fiction, and the spatio-temporal limits.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 'When the fall of the dictionary leaves all words lying in the street', Part 3 of 'The Incidental Insurgents', 2012-2015, installation view at Sharjah Biennial 2015. Photo © Sharjah Art Foundation

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, ‘When the Fall of the Dictionary Leaves All Words Lying in the Street’, Part 3 of ‘The Incidental Insurgents’, 2012-2015, installation view at Sharjah Biennial 2015. Photo © Sharjah Art Foundation.

The Abraaj Group Art Prize is not the first award for the duo this year. In March 2015, they won the Sharjah Biennial Prize. Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s work commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation for Sharjah Biennial 12 (SB12) is entitled When the Fall of the Dictionary Leaves All Words Lying in the Streets (2015). The four-channel video is the third and final chapter of their Incidental Insurgents installation (2012–15) and “furthers their exploration of the liminal space between the political present and its unseen potential direction”, as Art Asia Pacific reported at the time.

Quoted in the announcement press release, 2016 Guest Curator Nav Haq commented:

Basel and Ruanne have demonstrated that they possess maturity in how they use sound, image and space in their practice, but also a real sense of experimentation in their artistic visions of a social and political imaginary. There is a rare complexity to their art that I feel makes them genuinely significant artists, and I’m looking forward very much to working with them to develop their project for the upcoming exhibition at Art Dubai.

Click here to watch ‘When the fall of the dictionary leaves all words lying in the street’ (Extract from Part 3 of ‘The Incidental Insurgents’) by Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme on Vimeo

The 2016 shortlisted artists

The Abraaj Group Art Prize’s new format was piloted in 2015, with the award of Yto Barrada and a shortlist of three additional artists who won a smaller cash prize and participated in the Prize’s exhibition “Before History” (PDF download) at Art Dubai 2015 with existing bodies of work, as opposed to a new commission by the winner.

The 2016 shortlisted artists won USD10,000 each and include Egyptian artists Dina Danish and Mahmoud Khaled, who create installations combining photography and video with sculpture, sound and text, and Pakistani artist Basir Mahmood, whose practice revolves around film and photography.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: art prizes, art awards, collaborative art, Palestinian artists, Egyptian artists, Pakistani artists, events in Dubai, news

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