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The Museum of Arts and Design to Present Winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize
Nazgol Ansarinia, Rhyme and Reason, 2009 (detail), Carpet, handwoven wool, silk and cotton, 360 x 252 cm. Photo: Negar Arkani.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Arts and Design will present the Abraaj Capital Art Prize and the first exhibition of its prize winners. The Abraaj Capital Art Prize is an award that seeks to raise international awareness of artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA). The work of the three winners will be on view from August 26 through October 4, 2009 at the Museum’s Design and Innovation Gallery, which explores emerging trends in art and design through a series of short-term exhibitions guest-curated by leading voices in the field.

The Abraaj Capital Art Prize, established by the Dubai-based private equity company Abraaj Capital, provides international exposure to artists from the MENASA region, aiming to empower contemporary artists from this culturally rich and diverse area. The prize encourages collaborations between the artists and established and internationally acclaimed curators, bridging the gap between Middle Eastern and Western art worlds and offering these artists opportunities to realize ambitious art projects and to gain recognition beyond their immediate cultural environment.

“We are honored to be partnering with Abraaj Capital in presenting this significant art prize,” states Holly Hotchner, the Nanette L. Laitman Director of the Museum of Arts and Design. “The Abraaj Capital Art Prize was born out of an essential need to support artists who have little or no access to the international art scene. It will bring global awareness to artists from the MENASA region who have historically been underrepresented in the Western art world. The work presented emphasizes extraordinary craftsmanship and reflects the Museum’s focus on the ways in which artists from around the world transform materials through innovative processes and techniques. The Museum’s partnership with Abraaj continues our global outreach, represented in our permanent collection and our culturally diverse exhibitions.”

The three winners, whose spectacular art works were unveiled at Art Dubai, the Middle East’s largest contemporary art fair and who each received $200,000, are Iran’s Nazgol Ansarinia, Algeria’s Zoulikha Bouabdellah and Turkey’s Kutluğ Ataman. Respectively, they worked with Leyla Fakhr, Assistant Curator at Tate Britain; Carol Solomon, Visiting Associate Professor of Art History at Pennsylvania’s Haverford College; and Cristiana Perrella, curator of the Contemporary Arts Program at the British School in Rome.

The three winners were chosen from ninety-seven applications selected by an international jury comprised of Ali Yussef Khadra, art consultant and founder and publisher of Canvas, the premier magazine for art and culture from the Middle East and Arab World; Antonia Carver, editor of Bidoun magazine and the Middle East correspondent for The Art Newspaper and Screen International, Daniela da Prato, founder of F & A Financial and Art Advisory Services; Elaine W. Ng, editor and publisher of Art AsiaPasific; Maya Rasamny, an arts advocate and patron of the Tate, The Royal Academy of Arts and Outset Contemporary Art Fund; Savita Apte, director of Art Dubai and Asal Partners; John Martin, co-founder of Art Dubai and London gallery owner, and Frederic Sicre, Executive Director of Abraaj Capital and former MD of the WEF. The Museum’s curator Lowery Stokes Sims will be part of the 2009 jury.

Prize-winner Nazgol Ansarinia, who partnered with curator Leyla Fakhr, offers what seems at first glance to be a classic Persian carpet, rich in color and swirling recurring patterns and shapes. A closer look reveals scenes from local Iranian life woven into and reflecting her interest in pattern and language. Ansarinia, born and raised in Iran, has studied and worked in London and New York and now lives in Tehran.

Zoulikha Bouabdellah collaborated with Carol Solomon from the United States to create a meditative installation entitled Walk on the Sky. Pisces, which references ancient Persian astrology and Arab legend. Bouabdellah, born in Moscow and raised in Algeria, is much attuned to the nuances of cultural identity, but picks and chooses influences and inspirations from wherever is suited to her projects.

Artist Kutluğ Ataman with curator Cristiana Perrella made a recorded performance piece, Strange Space, which was filmed in Erzincan, a small city set high in a north-eastern mountain plateau of his native Turkey. This region is extreme, not only in its physical environment (scorching hot summers, icy winters) and its war-torn history, but more recently in adapting to modernity. His video, based on a Turkish fable of tragic love, looks to illustrate the tension between Turkey’s eastern heritage and its western outlook.

“There has been misunderstanding between East and West in recent years,” said Savita Apte, Chair of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize. “This prize seeks to celebrate the extraordinary talent of artists from countries like Morocco across to India, and show the world what amazing works they can create. Art is also a form that can bring people together, help them understand each other’s cultures and value each other’s differences.”

Abraaj Capital, which was founded in 2002, invests in the growing MENASA region, taking well-run, promising companies and turning them into regional and even global champions. Works of the prize form part of Abraaj Capital’s corporate collection.

Museum of Arts and Design | Abraaj Capital Art Prize | Dubai | Western | world |

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