Art Jameel has a longstanding interest in commissioning artists to make new works, often for the public realm, as well as in media or situations that further their ongoing artistic practice. In 2017, Art Jameel launched a commissioning programme anchored at Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, UAE. The programme was planned to run in a 3-year cycle, focusing on Sculpture (2018); Arts Writing and Research (2019); and Drawing and Painting (2020). With 2020 proving to be a year of an exceptional circumstance, the programme has been adjusted and expanded to include a new iteration—Art Jameel Commissions: Digital. (The drawing and painting commission will move to 2021-2022.)

Through an Open Call, Art Jameel invited artists to respond to the brief for this exciting opportunity – specifically, artists from or based in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey and those around the world (regardless of nationality) who have sustained and demonstrable links to, and a meaningful understanding of, the wider ‘Middle East region’. Applicants may originate from the region, reside either in the region or diaspora, and/or have contributed to the various cultural scenes across this diverse and nuanced region.

An eminent jury will discuss the applications received and select a work to be commissioned and produced. Jury members include Nadim Samman, Curator for the Digital Sphere, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Finnish digital and organic media artist Jenna Sutela; and publisher and Chief Technology Officer at the Serpentine Galleries, London, Ben Vickers. The 2020 commission also provides an opportunity for mentoring by technical experts from MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL).

Art Jameel Commissions: Arts Writing and Research

For the 2019 cycle, Art Jameel announced that Nadia Christidi, a Syrian, Palestinian, and Greek researcher and writer was awarded Art Jameel Commissions: Arts Writing and Research. Christidi’s winning proposal culminates in a publication following her three-month residency at Jameel Arts Centre; her interests include impending water crises, and the present plans and future planning scenarios that have emerged in response.

The 2018-2019 jury included writer, curator and Director of Dar al-Ma’mun, a library and artists’ residency in Marrakech, Morocco, Omar Berrada and independent writers and critics, Negar Azimi and Nida Ghouse. Art Jameel Commissions: Arts Writing and Research was open to all areas of enquiry, although with preference to those who engage with the thematic focusses within Jameel Art Centre’s current programming which are:

Confluence: Inspired by the UAE’s standing as an international meeting place and point of convergence, as well as Jameel Arts Centre’s waterside location on Dubai Creek.

Museology: As a new independent arts institution, the Centre is invested in critically investigating modes of art production and exhibition making.

The GCC: While the scope of its programme is intentionally international, the Centre is also rooted in its local context and includes artists’ works and projects that explore experiences of living and working in the Gulf countries.

About Nadia Christidi

Nadia Christidi is a Syrian, Palestinian, and Greek researcher, writer, and arts practitioner based between Cambridge, MA and Beirut, Lebanon. Her work explores the political and economic dimensions of environmental imaginaries, earth sciences, and their representation in literature, art, and design. She has exhibited at Beirut Art Center; SALT Galata, Istanbul; and SALT Ulus, Ankara. Nadia was previously Assistant Director at Beirut Art Center and Interpretation and Learning Lead at Darat al Funun, Amman, and has worked on exhibition projects with Ashkal Alwan and the Young Arab Theatre Fund. Her writing has been published by Arteeast, ArtAsiaPacific, and TandemWorks. Nadia holds a BA in History of Art (2006) from Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania and an MA in Historical Studies (2015) from the New School for Social Research, New York. She is currently a PhD candidate in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society at MIT.

Art Jameel Commissions: Sculpture

The Art Jameel Commissions: Sculpture jury awarded Kuwait-based artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub. The artists’ major, immersive installation Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees debuted at the opening of Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai on November 11, 2018. The announcement took place on February 26, 2018 and the artists were granted a commission to realize their work, which 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.

awarded Kuwait-based artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub. The artists’ major, immersive installation Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees debuted at the opening of Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai on November 11, 2018. The announcement took place on February 26, 2018, and the artists were granted a commission to realise their work, which 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 followed a highly popular call to artists in 2017 that garnered diverse applications from over 57 countries. The shortlist included 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.

The 2017-2018 jury included writer and curator Shumon Basar; independent curator and art historian Reem FaddaJames Lingwood, Co-director, Artangel; Elvira Dyangani Ose, Senior Curator of Creative Time and Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London; and Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President, Sharjah Art Foundation; plus representatives from Art Jameel.

As part of its Open Call for the programme in October 2017, Art Jameel invited artists to submit proposals for sculptural works that utilise light technologies, reflecting on the role of light in a dynamic urban setting such as Dubai. Artists were encouraged to use Jameel Arts Centre’s architectural façade, and other locations in and around the building as a point of inspiration; the new work debuted in conjunction with the opening of the Centre on November 11, 2018.

About the Artists

Aseel AlYaqoub (b. 1986) was born and raised in Kuwait, where she continues to live and work. She graduated from Chelsea College of Art and Design with a BA in Interior and Spatial Design. After four years in the architecture industry, AlYaqoub pursued a Masters in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute (Sculpture).  Her work offers an inspection of Kuwait’s past and how it emerges into the present. Using nostalgia as an instrument for critical thought, rather than the longing for the past, AlYaqoub’s practice investigates the invention/reinvention of heritage and tradition in a recently born nation-state. This often results in an examination of both the human need for conclusive stories and the question of how anecdotes come to represent history. Her work has been exhibited at Edge of Arabia (London), Boiler Room (New York), A1 Gallery (Dubai), Design Terminal (Budapest), Museum of Modern Art (Kuwait City), Contemporary Art Gallery (Kuwait City) and The Sultan Gallery (Kuwait City). She has given talks about her work at the Nuqat conference (2015) and Abu Dhabi Art (2017).

Alia Farid (b. 1985) works at the intersection of art, architecture and urban anthropology through video, spatial installations, drawings and other mediums. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts from La Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico (Viejo San Juan), a Master of Science in Visual Studies from the Visual Arts Program at MIT (Cambridge) and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies and Critical Theory from the Programa d’Estudis Independents at MACBA (Barcelona). Farid curated the Pavilion of Kuwait at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of at La Biennale di Venezia. She has completed residencies at Beta Local (San Juan), Casa Árabe in conjunction with Delfina Foundation (Córdoba), Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (Doha), Davidoff Art Initiative (La Romana), The Serpentine Galleries (London), La Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris) and marra.tein (Beirut). Recent and upcoming shows include participation in the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (2016); the 20th Contemporary Art Festival by SESC Pomépia and VideoBrasil (2017); and solo shows at NC-arte, Bogota (2018) and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris (2017). Farid lives and works in Kuwait and Puerto Rico.