Sep 01 2021

Installation Capturing Pandemic Wins 2021 Ithra Art Prize

by Victoria Chan

Portrait of NADIA KAABI-LINKE. Image via Wikicommons.

On August 30, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) announced Tunis-born, Berlin-based conceptual artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke as the winner of the 4th Ithra Art Prize. Kaabi-Linke will receive USD 100,000 to realize her proposal for a large-scale installation, provisionally titled E Pluribus Unum – Modern Fossil. The work will be unveiled at the inaugural Ad-Diriyah Biennale, scheduled for December 7–March 7, 2022, before entering the permanent collection of Ithra.

A reflection on the impacts of Covid-19, E Pluribus Unum will consist of a splintered, rising arrow, marouflaged in paper prints. The symbol alludes to the notion of growth and how that has been limited amid the pandemic. The idea for the work struck Kaabi-Linke when she saw an arrow painted on the ground of an airport near her home; the airport used to bustle with activity but had become empty because of Covid-19. For Kaabi-Linke, “the whole airport became a metaphor for our time,” according to The National newspaper. Simultaneously, the installation points to a new pathway or exit, and invites audiences to see the pandemic as a window of opportunity for society to create an alternative world. The artist explained that it’s “about leaving our comfort zones and heading towards something together . . . What we know is that our current state is definitely not leading us to survival.”

Kaabi-Linke is the first winner of the Ithra Art Prize from outside of Saudi Arabia. Starting with the 2021 edition and onward, the award will be open to artists from or based in the 22 Arab countries. Kaabi-Linke’s proposal was selected from a pool of 1,500 entries by a panel of seven judges, including art historian Ridha Moumni; curator and artist Amal Khalaf; Abdullah Al-Turki, art patron and board member of the Ad-Diriyah Biennale Foundation; Salwa Mikdadi, director of Al Mawrid Arab Center for the Study of Art, and a professor at NYU Abu Dhabi; curator and consultant Brahim Alaoui; Clare Davies, associate curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and Farah Abushullaih, head of museums and exhibits at Ithra.

The previous winners of the prize are conceptual artist Ayman Zedani, multimedia artist Daniah Al-Saleh, as well as installationist and architect Fahad Bin Naif. In the past, the completed Ithra Art Prize works were debuted at the Art Dubai fair.

Victoria Chan is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

SOTHEBY'S Artspace David Zwirner 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art Massimo de Carlo ACAW