Art Jameel announces winner of sculptural commission

Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees (view in the daytime).  Courtesy of the artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub.

Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees (view in the daytime). Courtesy of the artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub.

Art Jameel have announced the winners of the inaugural Art Jameel Commissions: Sculpture. The open call competition calling for designs for a sculpture to be installed in the grounds of the Jameel Arts Centre, set to open in Jadaf, on the Dubai Creek, later this year, was based on the theme of light and entries were asked to consider this natural element in their submissions.

The winners, Kuwait-based artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub proposed a site-specific installation that plays on our relationship with the natural world and acts as a community botanical garden, albeit one made up of artificial, hybrid trees and flora.

Responding to the seven desert-themed courtyards designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel for the new Jameel Arts Centre, Farid and AlYaqoub’s installation – Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees – will incorporate artificial light trees alluding to native plant species, as well as artist-imagined hybrid species. Built on the elevated terrace that connects both wings of the Jameel Arts Centre and dotted with seating, the immersive installation will feature detailed species and climate information for each ‘plant’, evocative of a formal arboretum. Farid and AlYaqoub will receive a production budget of USD 70,000 to realise the piece, as well as support from a network of architectural, engineering and technical experts.

Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees (view at night).  Courtesy of the artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub.

Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees (view at night). Courtesy of the artists Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub.

The jury – which included writer and curator Shumon Basar; independent curator and art historian Reem Fadda; James Lingwood, Co-director, Artangel; Elvira Dyangani Ose, Senior Curator at Creative Time and Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London; and Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President, Sharjah Art Foundation; as well as representatives of Art Jameel – chose the piece for its thoughtful treatment of the site and its exploration of the human orchestration of nature.

“We were impressed by Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub’s thoughtful environmental and social research in the development of the work,” described the Art Jameel Commissions jury in their statement about the selection. “AlYaqoub and Farid’s installation reflects on regional symbology, flora and popular culture, as well as the specific design of the Jameel Arts Centre building. Contrary Life also responds to the ebb and flow of community, providing a space for communal gathering and individual reflection – the perfect first commission for a cultural centre with the mission of engaging with diverse audiences and conceptual practices.”

One of the first contemporary arts institutions in Dubai, the Jameel Arts Centre - a three-storey multi-disciplinary space designed by UK-based firm Serie Architects - will present curated exhibitions and act as a hub for educational and research initiatives. Located at the tip of Dubai’s Culture Village, overlooking the Dubai Creek, the Centre includes more than 1,200 square metres of dedicated gallery space, a 300-square metre open-access research centre, flexible studio and events spaces, a café and bookshop.

Antonia Carver, Director of Art Jameel, said, “We are delighted with both the quality and quantity of proposals received in our first Commissions programme, and that so many artists rose to the challenge of working in the medium of light technologies, in such innovative ways. Congratulations not only to Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub, but also to the shortlisted artists, who delivered such diverse and compelling ideas for major new works. Art Jameel Commissions furthers our long-standing commitment to supporting artists in creating public works, and we’re thrilled that this programme has allowed us to work with two upcoming artists on a work that engages directly with the community.”