The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) has created a new art award and invites contemporary artists from or based in the Arab world to enter the Ithra Art Prize for the opportunity to receive $100,000 to bring their proposal to life. Ithra is one of Saudi Arabia’s leading cultural entities, and this is an open call for its fifth Ithra Art Prize, the region’s largest art grant. Applications close on 1 April, 2023.
The prize is open to established contemporary artists and art collectives from the 22 Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen). International artists who have lived in these countries for at least 10 years are also eligible to apply.
Ithra Art Prize Anniversary Celebrations in June
The winner will be announced on 15 May, and the 2023 winning artwork will be unveiled as part of Ithra’s 5th anniversary celebrations in June this year. Launched in 2017, the Ithra Art Prize was presented in collaboration with Art Dubai for its first three editions. The 4th edition’s winning artwork was unveiled with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation at the Kingdom’s inaugural biennale.
The Ithra Art Prize reaffirms Ithra’s commitment to developing the creative industries in the Kingdom, the region and the wider world,’ said Farah Abushullaih, Head of Museum at Ithra. ‘As one of the largest art grants internationally, we support artists from and based in the Arab world to develop important and meaningful work. The Ithra Art Prize aims to inspire creative thought, broaden cultural horizons and enable talent while empowering the art ecosystem’.
Ayman Zedani’s Meem Won Inaugural Prize
The UAE-based Saudi conceptual artist Ayman Zedani’s spatial installation Meem won the inaugural Ithra Art Prize. Zedani explored the realm of mathematics in his work of balance and equilibrium in objects of different weights and sizes. His work is characterised by experimentation with different media coupled with a fascination with scientific processes and the properties of unconventional materials. The nature of representation as it emerges through the manipulation of elements, objects, shapes and forms defines Zedani’s experimental attitude. Encompassing sculpture, photography, painting and digital techniques, his projects are informed by abstraction and the complexity of experiential phenomena, such as the reflection of light or the evaporation of water. His works celebrate the diversity of ideas that can be found through experimentation, and they often depict novel layers within accepted traditions and narratives. This winning artwork was also exhibited at Art Dubai in 2018.
Daniah Al Saleh, a Saudi-born London-based artist, won the second edition of the Ithra Art Prize for Sawtam – a digital, audio-visual presentation based on the phonemes of the Arabic language, the effect of which is rather like a digital wind chime. The large-scale multimedia installation explores the structure of language to break it up into smaller units of sound, presenting a striking artistic creation that was unveiled at Art Dubai 2019.
Rakhm by Fahad bin Naif
Saudi-based architect and urban designer Fahad bin Naif became the third Ithra Art Prize winner for Rakhm, meaning ‘incubation’. The title of the installation mirrors both the sensitivity and urgency of the content, safely and carefully incubating an intelligent green infrastructure. Rakhm is a Polytunnel nursery that mimics the existing urban nurseries in the Kingdom with endemic plants and flowers instead of conventional foreign houseplants. Unlike most nurseries, however, the viewer can only experience the exterior of the nursery, which mirrors the general local approach to xeriscaping wherein local foliage is not an environmental or aesthetic priority. The experience of the viewer from the outside also highlights the notion that contextually there is very little interaction between local human inhabitants and local plant-life and the importance on an environmental level of changing this narrative. Bin Naif is known for creating architecturally conscious art projects, and Rakhm was one of the highlights of Art Dubai in 2021.
Berlin-based Tunisian-Ukrainian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke is the fourth and most recent Ithra Art Prize winner. Her winning artwork, E Pluribus Unum – A Modern Fossil, takes a reflective look at one of the effects of the pandemic which, among other things, grounded many of the Arab world’s commercial airlines and led to questions about how humanity measures progress and economic growth. The image looks at the cracks in a sign bearing an arrow, a symbol associated with air travel and with economic growth and has us reflect on our priorities. Kaabi-Linke has exhibited in a number of countries, including at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. E Pluribus Unum – A Modern Fossil was unveiled in December 2021 at the Diriyah Biennale Foundation’s inaugural contemporary art biennale.
For more information on the prize, and the cultural centre, visit ithra.com