Oct 15 2015

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme Win 2016 Abraaj Group Art Prize

by Siobhan Bent

Ruanne Abou-Rahme and Basel Abbas, winners of the 2016 Abraaj Group Art Prize. Courtesy the artists. 

Palestinian artist-duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, who investigate the concept of fact versus fiction through mixed-media installations and live performances, have been awarded the 2016 Abraaj Group Art Prize (AGAP). The Abraaj Group made the announcement on October 13.

Based between Palestine and New York, the longtime collaborators—who are both 32 years old—integrate film, video, sound, image, text, installation and performance in an eclectic practice that has earned the duo solo shows in the United States and Europe, and is attracting increasing attention on the international stage. The award comes just months after Abbas and Abou-Rahme were named among the recipients of the 2015 Sharjah Biennial Prize in March.

The pair’s winning proposal beat out hundreds submitted by artists and curators from the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia) region. The competition, now in its eighth year, is hosted by Dubai-based Abraaj Group, which is unique in its approach to granting awards based on proposals rather than completed works. Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s finished project, which will be realized with their USD 100,000 prize, will be unveiled (along with existing works by three shortlisted artists) in an exhibition led by a guest curator, at the tenth edition of Art Dubai on March 16–19, 2016. As of press time, details about the exhibition have not yet been released.

The three shortlisted winners, who each won a USD 10,000 prize, include two Egyptian artists Dina Danish and Mahmoud Khaled, whose installations combine photographs and video with sculpture, sound and text, as well as Pakistani artist Basir Mahmood, who also works in film and photography. Antwerp-based Pakistani-born curator Nav Haq will work with all five artists to develop the exhibition at Art Dubai.

The artists and curator were selected by an international jury that included: Art Dubai director Antonia Carver; Whitechapel Gallery curator Omar Kholeif of London; and Sandhini Poddar, art historian and curator at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim. Jury chair Dana Farouki, a Palestinian-American independent curator, commented that the Abraaj Group Art Prize “allows artists to make important work that help shape society.”

An early sponsor of Art Dubai, Abraaj manages private equity and real estate funds. In eight years, it has recognized a total of 30 artists and 11 curators whose resultant works have been loaned to exhibitions and biennials around the world.

BASEL ABBAS and RUANNE ABOU-RAHMEThe Part About the Bandits, 2012, a video still from the first segment of their “The Incidental Insurgents” (2012–15) series. Courtesy of IKSV Bienal, Istanbul.