Yto Barrada wins the 2015 Abraaj Group Art Prize

BEIRUT: Yto Barrada was named the winner of the 2015 Abraaj Group Art Prize (AGAP) Tuesday, based on a proposal for a piece to be realized over the course of the next six months.

The Moroccan artist will be working closely with this year’s guest curator, London-based Egyptian writer, curator and editor Omar Kholeif.

Founded in 2008 as the Abraaj Capital Art Prize by the Dubai-based private equity firm, previous editions of the AGAP awarded five artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region based not on completed works but project proposals. Each artist was awarded a sum of $100,000, with which to realize an ambitious project that would not have been possible without substantial funding.

The finished works were displayed in a curated exhibition at Art Dubai each year, before being absorbed into the firm’s private collection and loaned out to exhibitors and curators.

The 2015 edition of the prize marks the first edition since a shift in format intended to make the prize more competitive, according the AGAP’s managing director Fred Sicre who announced the change at Art Dubai last March. The committee now selects a single winner to be awarded the $100,000 prize. Previous work by three shortlisted artists will be exhibited alongside the new piece realized by the winner.

“The shortlisted artists for The Abraaj Group Art Prize will be mid-career,” the committee said in a press release announcing the change of format, “having already participated in exhibitions to critical acclaim. Artists will have produced particularly significant bodies of work in the past couple of years, their practice having expanded or developed during this time. Their work must be original, initiating new ideas and concepts, and be seen as influential to emerging artists and their contemporaries.”

This year’s shortlist consists of Indian artist, filmmaker and graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee, Berlin-based Iranian artist Setareh Shahbazi and Lebanese artist Mounira Al Solh, who is based between Beirut and Amsterdam.

Kholeif said in a press release that he was excited by the new format of the prize. “By being able to access existing bodies of work alongside the new commission,” he said, “there will be potential for a rich storytelling experience and a rigorous curatorial framework.”

Chair of the AGAP Savita Apte drew attention to the diversity and maturity of the regional art ecosystem. “The 2015 winner and shortlisted artists have already participated in various exhibitions to critical acclaim,” she stated, “and are seen as influential on their peers and the art world at large.”

Barrada was born in Paris in 1971 and grew up in Tangier, Morocco. Her hometown has served as the subject of much of her work to date. Having studied history and political science at the Sorbonne and photography in New York, she works in a variety of media including photography, film, written publications, installation and sculpture. Her work has been exhibited at Tate Modern, MoMA and the Centre Pompidou, among other places.

Barrada’s new work, along with that of the shortlisted artists, will be exhibited at next year’s edition of Art Dubai, scheduled to run March 18 to 21, 2015.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 24, 2014, on page 16.




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