Jul 02 2013

Abraaj Group Picks Five for Prize

by HG Masters
ABBAS AKHAVAN, Study For a Garden: Variation on an English Garden, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Delfina Foundation. Photo by Christa Holka.
ABBAS AKHAVAN, Study For a Garden: Variation on an English Garden, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Delfina Foundation. Photo by Christa Holka.

DUBAI–On June 11, artists Abbas Akhavan, Anup Mathew Thomas, Basim Magdy, Bouchra Khalili and Kamrooz Aram were named the winners of the 2014 Abraaj Group Art Prize. The five artists will each receive USD 100,000 in funding for a large-scale project that will be presented at the Art Dubai art fair in March 2014, and which will then become part of the Abraaj Art Collection.

The selected artists for 2014 hail from Iran (Akhavan, Aram), Egypt (Magdy), Morocco (Khalili), and India (Thomas), although all of them are based in either North America or Europe, except for Thomas, who lives in Bangalore. The guest curator for the 2014 edition, Nada Raza, had been named early in May. Raza, from Karachi, is an assistant curator at Tate Modern, in London, with a focus on South Asia. She will work with the artists on the development of their works, as well on the installation of the pieces at Art Dubai.

As in past years, the artists work in a variety of media. Tehran-born, Toronto-based Abbas Akhavan creates installations and sculptures that are strongly influenced by or suited to their context. Shiraz-born, New York-based Kamrooz Aram is a primarily a painter whose works address ideas of abstraction and ornamentation. With an interest in science-fiction, Cairo-born, Basel-resident Basim Magdy works in film, sculpture as well as photography. Anup Mathew Thomas is a photographer known for his works that pair text and image. Casablanca-native and now living in Berlin, Bouchra Khalili, the lone woman in this year’s lineup, makes videos and photographs detailing the plight of migrant laborers and immigrants to Europe.

Over the course of its five previous editions, the Abraaj Group Prize has gradually shifted from bankrolling already established artists to giving still-emerging artists the opportunity (and budget) to produce a more ambitious project than they have previously been able to create. Not coincidentally then, all of the 2014 recipients were born between 1975 and 1977. They are all artists at the points in their careers where they have had solo gallery exhibitions and appeared in regional biennials, including recent editions of the Sharjah Biennial and the Kochi Muziris Biennale, but who could still benefit from the increased international visibility brought by the prize.  

One of the main sponsors of Art Dubai since its inception, the Abraaj Group (formerly Abraaj Capital) manages private equity and real estate funds. After five previous editions of its prize, the collection holds 21 artworks to date, which circulate to exhibitions and biennials around the world.