The Kuwait-based artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub have been named as the inaugural recipients of the Art Jameel Commissions: Sculpture commission. It will be unveiled at the opening later this year of the Jameel Arts Centre on Dubai Creek.
The winning proposal – Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees – riffs on our relationship with the natural world, a site-specific installation that acts as a botanical garden of artificial trees and flora.Farid and AlYaqoub’s installation responds to the seven desert-themed courtyards designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel for the new Jameel Arts Centre. It will incorporate artificial light trees alluding to native plant species as well as some hybrids straight from the artists’ imagination. Built on the elevated terrace that connects the two wings of the Jameel Arts Centre, the installation will feature detailed species and climate information for each ‘plant’, just as in a formal arboretum.
The announcement follows an open call last year that pulled in applications from more than 57 countries. Given the calibre of proposals received, the jury decided to expand the shortlist to include four proposals – from Mohammed Kazem, Anahita Razmi and Mounira Al Solh as well as Farid/AlYaqoub; all four were invited to develop their concepts further before the final jury selection.
Farid and AlYaqoub will receive a production budget of $70,000 to realise the piece, as well as support from a network of architectural, engineering and technical experts.
The jury included representatives of Art Jameel plus some heavy hitters from the local art world – writer and curator Shumon Basar, independent curator and art historian Reem Fadda; Artangel co-director James Lingwood; Senior Curator at Creative Time and Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London, Elvira Dyangani Ose; and Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, president of the Sharjah Art Foundation.
They say they chose the winning 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,” said the jury’s statement. “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 the organisation was very happy with both the quality and quantity of proposals received in this first Commissions programme. “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.”
The annual Art Jameel Commissions is central to the Jameel Arts Centre’s future programming, reflecting the institution’s aims to be a multidisciplinary, exploratory space. The Sculpture commission is the first in a three-year cycle; the second will focus on research and lecture series (due in 2019, with applications open from summer 2018). The third Art Jameel Commissions (in 2020) will explore drawing and painting.
One of the first contemporary arts institutions in Dubai, the Jameel Arts Centre (right) – a three-storey multi-disciplinary space designed by UK-based Serie Architects – will present curated exhibitions and act as a hub for educational and research initiatives. Overlooking Dubai Creek on the Jadaf bank, and a mainstay of the putative Cultural Village under development there, the Centre will have more than 1,200 sq m of gallery space, an open-access research centre, flexible studio and events spaces, and a café and bookshop.
In the meantime, Art Jameel’s temporary Project Space in Alserkal Avenue is hosting a busy schedule of exhibitions, projects, talks and events – next up is Plan for Feminist Greater Baghdad, a solo exhibition by Ala Younis, that runs 1 March to 14 April.