Art Jameel announced Kuwait-based artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub as the winners of the inaugural Art Jameel Commissions: Sculpture.
The winning project will be revealed at the opening of the Jameel Arts Centre, in Jadaf, on the Dubai Creek, later this year.
Art Jameel is a Dubai-based organisation that supports heritage, education and the arts. The first of a three-year cycle of artist commissions that will inaugurate the Jameel Arts Centre, Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub’s winning proposal is a major, immersive installation, entitled Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees. The work plays on our relationship with the natural world – a site-specific installation that acts as a community botanical garden, made up of artificial, hybrid trees and flora.
As part of its Open Call for the programme held in October 2017, Art Jameel invited artists to submit proposals for sculptural works that utilised light technologies, reflecting on the role of light in a dynamic urban setting such as Dubai. Artists were encouraged to use the Jameel Arts Centre’s architectural façade, and other locations in and around the building as a point of inspiration. The Open Call garnered diverse applications from more than 57 countries.
Given the calibre of proposals received, the jury decided to expand the shortlist to include four artists – Mohammed Kazem, Anahita Razmi and Mounira Al Solh as well as the joint submission by Farid and AlYaqoub. All four artists developed their concepts and a final jury deliberation settled on the Kuwaiti artists as the winners.
Responding to the seven desert-themed courtyards designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel for the new Jameel Arts Centre, Farid and AlYaqoub’s installation, Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees, will incorporate artificial light trees alluding to native plant species, as well as artist-imagined hybrid species. Built on the elevated terrace that connects both wings of the Jameel Arts Centre and dotted with seating, the immersive installation will feature detailed species and climate information for each ‘plant’, evocative of a formal arboretum. Farid and AlYaqoub will receive a production budget of USD70,000 to realise the piece, as well as support from a network of architectural, engineering and technical experts.
The jury included writer and curator Shumon Basar, independent curator and art historian Reem Fadda, James Lingwood, Co-director, Artangel, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Senior Curator at Creative Time and Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President, Sharjah Art Foundation, as well as representatives of Art Jameel. The jury chose the piece for its thoughtful treatment of the site and its exploration of the human orchestration of nature.
“We were impressed by Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub’s thoughtful environmental and social research in the development of the work,” described the Art Jameel Commissions jury in their statement about the selection, continuing:
AlYaqoub and Farid’s installation reflects on regional symbology, flora and popular culture, as well as the specific design of the Jameel Arts Centre building. Contrary Life also responds to the ebb and flow of community, providing a space for communal gathering and individual reflection – the perfect first commission for a cultural centre with the mission of engaging with diverse audiences and conceptual practices.
Antonia Carver, Director of Art Jameel, said:
We are delighted with both the quality and quantity of proposals received in our first Commissions programme, and that so many artists rose to the challenge of working in the medium of light technologies, in such innovative ways. Congratulations not only to Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub, but also to the shortlisted artists, who delivered such diverse and compelling ideas for major new works. Art Jameel Commissions furthers our long-standing commitment to supporting artists in creating public works, and we’re thrilled that this programme has allowed us to work with two upcoming artists on a work that engages directly with the community.
About the artists
Aseel AlYaqoub (b. 1986) was born and raised in Kuwait, where she continues to live and work. She graduated from Chelsea College of Art and Design with a BA in Interior and Spatial Design. After four years in the architecture industry, AlYaqoub pursued a MFA from Pratt Institute (Sculpture). Her work offers an inspection of Kuwait’s past and how it emerges into the present. Using nostalgia as an instrument for critical thought, AlYaqoub’s practice investigates the invention / reinvention of heritage and tradition in a recently born nation-state. This often results in an examination of both the human need for conclusive stories and the question of how anecdotes come to represent history. Her work has been exhibited in London, New York, Dubai, Budapest and Kuwait City and she has given talks about her work at the Nuqat conference (2015) and Abu Dhabi Art (2017).
Alia Farid (b. 1985) works at the intersection of art, architecture and urban anthropology through video, spatial installations, drawings and other media. She holds a BFA from La Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico (Viejo San Juan), a MSc in Visual Studies from the Visual Arts Program at MIT (Cambridge) and a MA in Museum Studies and Critical Theory from the Programa d’Estudis Independents at MACBA (Barcelona). In 2014, Farid curated the Pavilion of Kuwait at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of at La Biennale di Venezia. In 2016, she participated in the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo and in 2018 will have a solo show at NC-arte, Bogota. Farid lives and works in Kuwait and Puerto Rico.
The Jameel Arts Centre’s mission
One of the first contemporary arts institutions in Dubai, the Jameel Arts Centre – a three-storey multi-disciplinary space designed by UK-based firm Serie Architects – will present curated exhibitions and act as a hub for educational and research initiatives. Located at the tip of Dubai’s Culture Village, overlooking the Dubai Creek, the Centre includes more than 1,200 square metres of dedicated gallery space, a 300-square metre open-access research centre, flexible studio and events spaces, a café and bookshop.
The 2018 commission is the first in a multi-year programme that reflects the Jameel Art Centre’s commitment to supporting artists and creative communities. The second Art Jameel Commission (2019) will focus on research, with an Open Call to launch this summer, followed by a commission for drawing and painting in 2020. Art Jameel Commissions is open to artists from or based in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, as well as those from around the world with an interest in and familiarity with these regions.
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