Under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, NYU Abu Dhabi, in partnership with Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF), unveiled the winning submission of the sixth edition of The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award at the University’s campus on Saadiyat Island.
Crafted by Abu Dhabi University undergraduate architecture students, Maram Kassab and Mariam Ayoub, the award-winning, socially interactive pavilion inspired by Emirati poetry, Qasa’ed, will be on display until December 11 at NYU Abu Dhabi. It will then be exhibited at Umm Al Emarat Park in Abu Dhabi from December 12-22.
In attendance at the unveiling were Founder of ADMAF H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Christo, Director of the Award Emily Doherty, Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi and Executive Director of the NYUAD Art Gallery Maya Allison, as well as the winning artists, both of whom received $5,000 from Christo to further advance their careers.
Throughout the process, these artists were supported by accompanying professionals including Doherty, Allison and her team of museum professionals from NYUAD, and the faculty of NYUAD’s Visual Arts department, as well as the team’s mentor Basem Eid Mohamed from Abu Dhabi University.
H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, said: “This year we saw exceptional and diverse responses to the Christo and Jeanne-Claude award. Qasa’ed not only exemplifies the passion and innovation of local artists, but is also a visual representation of Emirati poetry, tradition and spirit. ADMAF is proud to support these emerging artists to envisage and realise their artistic proposals and showcase their finished work to the nation – it is a vital part of what we do for our youth and the UAE community.”
“With Qasa’ed, it is evident that contemporary Arab art is transforming with influences from local Emirati heritage, and it is joyful to witness the emergence of these exciting young talents. The partnership we have with Christo and New York University Abu Dhabi is a longstanding one, and together we look forward to nurturing and rewarding many more artists in the future.”
Director of the Award Emily Doherty said: “We are so proud of this year’s winners, Mariam Ayoub and Maram Kassab. Their hard work, in pursuit of the production of their winning artwork, has resulted in a truly stunning sculpture that is testament to their aesthetic vision but also to their five years studying architecture. The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award is about giving young artists an opportunity to get practical experience in the field and to launch their careers, and we hope that this year’s winning work will inspire others to go for it in 2019.”
Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi and Executive Director of the NYUAD Art Gallery Maya Allison commented: “I have had the pleasure of collaborating on this award from its first presentation in 2013, and now I look back: some of the first finalists I met back in 2013 are now full-fledged art professionals, my colleagues, leaders in their field. It is deeply gratifying for NYU Abu Dhabi to play this role in such a key stage in creative professional development. These artists and their mentor impressed the jury, and have impressed my team as well, with their research and development of this ambitious and successful project. I look forward to seeing what they and their cohort of finalists do next.”
Qasa’ed finds its roots in the conversations of UAE citizens when they talk about their relationship with the desert and its significance in their writing. Their oral emphasis on sitting atop the dunes and sharing their poetry is reflected in the form and sense of movement in this piece. The wooden infrastructure of Qasa’ed resembles the desert in its fluidity and curvature. The exterior and sectional elements of Qasa’ed mimic Arabic calligraphy, while the interior resembles sand dunes with its smooth and curvaceous spatial qualities.
Kassab and Ayoub came upon the design for Qasa’ed through their passion for researching, exploring, and creating new ways to interpret their philosophical backgrounds by developing architecture. They previously participated in the fourth edition of the United Arab Emirates Undergraduate Student Research Competition (UGSRC), where they won first prize for their housing proposal Diver-City.
Open to UAE-based students and graduates within the past six years, The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award was established to encourage the creation of new artwork in the UAE, acting as a launch pad for visual artists across the Emirates and offering winners an insight into professional life as an artist from commission to exhibition.