Artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub awarded the inaugural ‘Art Jameel Commissions: Sculpture’

Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Art Jameel, an organisation that supports heritage, education and the arts, today announces that Kuwait-based artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub are awarded the inaugural Art Jameel Commissions: Sculpture. The commission by Farid and AlYaqoub will be revealed at the opening of the Jameel Arts Centre, in Jadaf, on the Dubai Creek, later this year.

Aseel AlYaqoub and Alia Farid

Farid and AlYaqoub’s winning proposal riffs on our relationship with the natural world; their site-specific installation acts as a community botanical garden, albeit one made up of artificial, hybrid trees and flora.

The announcement follows a highly popular call to artists in 2017 that garnered diverse applications from more than 57 countries. Given the calibre of proposals received, the jury decided to expand the shortlist to include four artists — Mohammed Kazem, Anahita Razmi and Mounira Al Solh as well as Farid and AlYaqoub; all four artists developed further their concepts and a final jury deliberation settled on the Kuwaiti artists as the winners.

Responding to the seven desert-themed courtyards designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel for the new Jameel Arts Centre, Farid and AlYaqoub’s installation – Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees – will incorporate artificial light trees alluding to native plant species, as well as artist-imagined hybrid species. Built on the elevated terrace that connects both wings of the Jameel Arts Centre and dotted with seating, the immersive installation will feature detailed species and climate information for each ‘plant’, evocative of a formal arboretum. Farid and AlYaqoub will receive a production budget of USD 70,000 to realise the piece, as well as support from a network of architectural, engineering and technical experts.

The jury – which included writer and curator Shumon Basar; independent curator and art historian Reem Fadda; James Lingwood, Co-director, Artangel; Elvira Dyangani Ose, Senior Curator at Creative Time and Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London; and Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President, Sharjah Art Foundation; as well as representatives of Art Jameel – chose the piece for its thoughtful treatment of the site and its exploration of the human orchestration of nature.

“We were impressed by Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub’s thoughtful environmental and social research in the development of the work,” described the Art Jameel Commissions jury in their statement about the selection. “AlYaqoub and Farid’s installation reflects on regional symbology, flora and popular culture, as well as the specific design of the Jameel Arts Centre building. Contrary Life also responds to the ebb and flow of community, providing a space for communal gathering and individual reflection – the perfect first commission for a cultural centre with the mission of engaging with diverse audiences and conceptual practices.”

One of the first contemporary arts institutions in Dubai, the Jameel Arts Centre – a three-storey multi-disciplinary space designed by UK-based firm Serie Architects – will present curated exhibitions and act as a hub for educational and research initiatives. Located at the tip of Dubai’s Culture Village, overlooking the Dubai Creek, the Centre includes more than 1,200 square metres of dedicated gallery space, a 300-square metre open-access research centre, flexible studio and events spaces, a café and bookshop.

Antonia Carver, Director of Art Jameel, said, “We are delighted with both the quality and quantity of proposals received in our first Commissions programme, and that so many artists rose to the challenge of working in the medium of light technologies, in such innovative ways. Congratulations not only to Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub, but also to the shortlisted artists, who delivered such diverse and compelling ideas for major new works. Art Jameel Commissions furthers our long-standing commitment to supporting artists in creating public works, and we’re thrilled that this programme has allowed us to work with two upcoming artists on a work that engages directly with the community.”

The annual Art Jameel Commissions is foundational to the Jameel Arts Centre’s future programming, reflecting the institution’s aims to be a multidisciplinary, exploratory space. The second in the Commission’s three-year cycle focuses on research and lecture series (2019), with applications open from summer 2018. The third Art Jameel Commissions (2020) will explore drawing and painting. Art Jameel Commissions is open to artists from or based in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, as well as those from around the world with an interest in and familiarity with these regions.

Until the Jameel Arts Centre launches, Art Jameel’s temporary Project Space in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, hosts a dynamic programme of exhibitions, projects, talks and events. Past exhibitions have presented works by artists Maha Maamoun, Hazem El Mestikawy and Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, among others. In collaboration with Delfina Foundation, Art Jameel next presents Plan for Feminist Greater Baghdad, a solo exhibition by Ala Younis. The exhibition includes a major new installation co-commissioned by the two organisations and runs in London until March 24 and in Dubai, March 1 to April 14, 2018.


Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees (2018) by Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub, Commissioned by Art Jameel for the Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai. Images courtesy of the artists.