In ART

Ten years after its launch, the Abraaj Group Art Prize has established itself as a major art authority.

In November 2008, after announcing the winners of the first edition of the Abraaj Group Art Prize (then the Abraaj Capital Art Prize), executive director Frederic Sicre said he was empowering the artists “as important agents of cross cultural respect” and hailed the prize as promoting the understanding of the region’s richly varied community. A decade on, the AGAP has had a huge impact on the individual winners, as well as on the art landscape in general, helping to give it credibility and international status.

The award is given to proposals from mid-career artists who are then awarded significant financial help and curatorial support to realise their projects. These projects are unveiled at Art Dubai upon completion. The 2018 winner, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, works with sound and visuals to create politically charged works, and his current $100,000 commission will be unveiled in March. Given his history – he is perhaps best known for working with prisoners in Saydnaya, Syria, and creating a soundscape of memory – the new piece is bound to raise significant international interest.

From the outset, the AGAP has had an outstanding track record for pinpointing and selecting promising artists. The majority of the winners have gone on to become well-known names in the international art world, represented by high-profile galleries and with shows in prominent art institutions all over the world.

In 2008, Zoulikha Bouabdellah created Walk on the Sky, Pisces an evocative installation that recreated the night sky. In 2011, Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s Flying Carpets – a suspended iteration of a bridge in Venice, made of shining metal and rubber thread – was exhibited. An edition of the piece was acquired by the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2016 as part of their MAP Collection.

The following year, Wael Shawky won the prize, and it catapulted him to an elevated status. He is now highly collected, represented by Lisson Gallery in London and has had shows in the Serpentine, at the Museum of Modern Art and at Sharjah Art Foundation.

The Prix Marcel Duchamp, one of the world’s most well-respected art prizes, which awards a €35,000 personal prize and up to €30,000 to produce an exhibition of work in the Modern Art museum at Centre Georges Pompidou, has been given to two former winners of the AGAP. Kader Attia, the 2010 winner for his History of a Myth: The Small Dome of the Rock project won the Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2016.

Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, who won the AGAP prize in 2012, took home the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2017. In their work, the artists explore the way Western media portrays Lebanon, their home country. Over the past decade and a half, the duo has appropriated archival materials, photographs and film footage, often as a way of exposing these materials as constructions or fantasies. Their winning installation for the Marcel Duchamp prize looks at the stratification of history and human encounters with the earth, material and other people.

In total, the Abraaj Group’s art collection now includes 30 major works, and it has lent pieces to over 60 institutions across the world. This, if nothing else, is a testament to its significant impact and long-lasting legacy.


Featured image: Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Flying Carpets, ACAP 2011, Photograph by Tom Brown.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Curriculum Vitae #44, pages 56-63.

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