Female artists dominate the Abraaj Group Art Prize 2017
By Henrietta Wilson
The winners of the Abraaj Group Art Prize 2017 were announced on October 5 with Bangladeshi-born, London-based artist Rana Begum’s proposal securing the top prize. Set to receive a USD 100,000 commission to produce a major work, which will be unveiled at Art Dubai in March 2017, Begum stated, “It is such an honor to win the Abraaj Group Art Prize. I have greatly admired the winning artists and works of previous years and consider it a privilege to follow in their footsteps.”
Informed by the constructivist beauty of city life, Begum contrasts industrial materials such as aluminum and raw metal against softer, pastel tones, that play with our spatial and visual senses. Interested in architectural space and the play of light within, her work has been likened to Minimalism and Op-art, with an influence of geometric repetition taken from Islamic patterns. The award comes shortly after Begum held a solo exhibition at London's Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art in June.
The most significant award dedicated to artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia regions, the Abraaj Group Art Prize, now in its 9th edition, is unique in that each of the three shortlisted artists receive a stipend of USD 10,000. This year’s shortlisted artists—Doa Aly of Egypt, Sarah Abu Abdallah of Saudi Arabia and Raha Raissnia of Iran—will develop and exhibit work alongside Begum at next year’s Art Dubai.
The 2017 edition marks the first time an all-female line up has captured all top slots of the art prize. The award also selected Omar Berrada, director of Dar al-Ma’mûn in Marrakech, as guest curator of the Abraaj Group Art Prize exhibition at Art Dubai, which will include Begum and the shortlisted artists. "They are artists with very diverse backgrounds and practices, though I see fascinating echoes between their respective approaches, which I look forward to exploring further and articulating into an exciting and thought-provoking exhibition," said Berrada.
Fielding a record number of applicants—more than double that of previous years—the jury underwent extensive deliberations on the several hundred proposals received from 61 countries. Chaired by curator and patron Dana Farouki, the jury also comprised Defne Ayas, Antonia Carver, Nav Haq, Fayeeze Naqvi, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Sandhini Poddar and Frederic Sicre.
After the artists' exhibition at Art Dubai next year, their works will be incorporated into the Abraaj Group Art Prize Collection, which has an active lending policy that has extended locally and internationally to the Sharjah Biennial, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and the Biennale of Sydney, as well as to major institutions including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art in Washington DC.
Previous winners of the Abraaj Group Art Prize include artist-duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Yto Barrada and Abbas Akhavan.
Art Dubai will take place at Madinat Jumeirah from March 15–18, 2017.