Fahad bin Naif’s installation ‘Rakhm.’
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) has announced Fahad bin Naif as the latest winner of the Ithra Art Prize, one of the newest and most substantial prizes globally, in partnership with Art Dubai.
His winning installation, Rakhm, was shown to the public for the first time at Art Dubai (Mar. 29 — Apr. 3), before joining Ithra’s permanent collection.
Rakhm, meaning “incubation” in Arabic, was a highlight of 14th Art Dubai, one of the most globally prominent contemporary art fairs.
The installation aims to conceptually preserve a nursery as both an urban typology and also “incubates” as an environmental micro-economy. The title mirrors the sensitivity and urgency of the content, safely and carefully incubating an intelligent, green infrastructure.
Launched in 2017, the Ithra Art Prize at Art Dubai supports the development of the art industry in the kingdom and beyond, while fostering cross-cultural engagement through the showcasing of Saudi and Saudi-based talent on an international platform.
This was the third iteration of the prize, which is held every year by Ithra. It celebrates contemporary artists through an open call, and the winner is granted up to $100,000 in the commission of a single work of art that will be shown to a global audience.
Saudi-based architect and urban designer Bin Naif creates architecturally conscious art projects. He has been working professionally after completing his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Central Saint Martins — University of the Arts London. His final year project “The Islamic Cultural Center of Peckham” was nominated for a Royal Institute of British Architects’ regional award. He is part of the regional art and design scene; creating artwork, conducting urban research and seminars, participating in group exhibitions and curating independent art shows.
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, where 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 of an environmental-level changing of this narrative.
The Ithra Art Prize winner is decided by a global jury of experts, including artists, curators, academics and art historians.
The panel for the third iteration of the programme was artist, art historian, freelance writer and art consultant Eiman Elgibreen; independent curator Maya El Khalil; Nada Shabout, art historian and founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran and Turkey (AMCA); independent curator and art historian Reem Fadda and independent curator and architect, Tarek Abou El Fetouh.
UAE-based Saudi conceptual artist Ayman Zedani was the inaugural winner of the 2018 edition, with his spatial installation Mēm. It comprises of a spatial installation and is a continuation of his ongoing engagement with the material, space and the creation of systems, as well as the communicative possibilities that exist within a set of rules.
Saudi-born London-based Daniah Al Saleh was the winner of the second edition. She won the award for Sawtam – a digital, audio-visual presentation based on the phonemes of the Arabic language.
Sawtam (the Arabic translation of phoneme) is a large-scale multimedia artwork that explores the structure and complexities of language, deconstructing it to its smaller unit of sound, the phoneme.
The digital, audio-visual presentation is based on the phonemes of the Arabic language, the effect of which is rather like a digital wind chime. The work consists of 28 screens, arranged in a 4×7 grid.
Each screen is dedicated to a separate sound or phoneme, representing a letter of the Arabic alphabet and the installation is programmed to play the sounds at random, meaning, that when a viewer stands in front of the work, they are enveloped within a wall of sound that is meaningless, but comprised of the parts of verbal language that are used every day.
The effect she wanted to create was that of a wind chime. In the same way as the wind moves the chimes and creates a sound, the air we use to produce the sound of our voices, vibrates the lines in her coding.
Entries for the fourth edition of the Ithra Art Prize will open later this year.
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is an interactive public space for workshops, performances, events, exhibitions and experiences.
It aims to offer an enriching journey for everyone by championing diversity, celebrating creativity and encouraging collaboration with the objective of energising Saudi Arabia’s knowledge economy.
Ithra is Saudi Aramco’s most ambitious corporate social responsibility initiative and the largest cultural contribution to the Kingdom.Through its series of programmes and initiatives, Ithra creates quality experiences that bring together culture, innovation and knowledge and are designed to appeal to one and all.
Ithra’s components include the Idea Lab, library, theatre, museum, cinema, Great Hall, Energy Exhibit, Children’s Museum and Knowledge Tower.
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