The Art Jameel Commissions: Sculpture jury has awarded Kuwait-based artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub. The artists’ major, immersive installation Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees will debut at the opening of the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai this coming winter. The announcement took place on February 26, 2018 and the artists are being 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.

The announcement follows 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.

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.

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 the Jameel Arts Centre’s architectural façade, and other locations in and around the building as a point of inspiration; the new work will debut in conjunction with the opening of the Centre during the winter of 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.