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The 2010 Abraaj Capital Art Prize Makes Its U.S. Debut at the Museum of Arts and Design this August

Second edition of the unique award, focusing on contemporary art of the MENASA, features works by Kader Attia (Algeria), Hala Elkoussy (Egypt), and Marwan Sahmarani (Lebanon)

New York, NY (August 9, 2010)

The Museum of Arts and Design presents the 2010 winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize. The show will run from August 31 through October 10, 2010. Now in its second year, this prize is unique among art awards; not only is it the world's most generous, disbursing $1 million to its recipients, but it is also distinct in its concentration and approach, focusing on work from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA) region and honoring proposals conceived by an artist and curator pairing rather than individual realized works. This year's three winning duos are the Algerian artist Abdel Kader Attia with Laurie Ann Farrell, executive director of exhibitions for the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD); the Egyptian artist Hala Elkoussy with Jelle Bouwhuis, a curator at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; and the Lebanese artist Marwan Sahmarani with the Lebanese-Spanish curator Mahita El Bacha Urieta. Among the international panel of jurors who selected the winners from nearly one hundred applicants was MAD's Charles Bronfman International Curator, Lowery Stokes Sims.

Firmly established as the leading award for the production of new work by artists from this dynamic and rapidly developing region, this is the second time the Abraaj Capital Art Prize exhibits at the Museum of Arts and Design. The works by the 2010 winners were unveiled at Art Dubai in March, with 18,000 visitors marveling at their scale and complexity, and many hundreds voting for their favorite in a People’s Choice, which was awarded to Marwan Sahmarani. The artists had six months to produce their pieces, which now form part of the Abraaj Capital Art Collection. “The work presented in the exhibition is truly some of the most important coming out of the MENASA region today and I could not be happier that MAD is once again introducing these winners to the U.S.,” states Holly Hotchner, the Museum’s Nanette L. Laitman Director. "The Museum’s partnership with Abraaj Capital continues the global outlook represented in our permanent collection and in our presentation of the work of artists from around the world."

On view in the MAD Projects gallery, the exhibition will showcase works by the three
winning artists:

• Celebrated Algerian artist Kader Attia has a wide roster of international  exhibitions including the Sydney Biennial, ICA, Boston and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. His Abraaj Capital Art Prize work—“History of a Myth: The Small Dome of the Rock”—developed with the American curator Laurie Ann Farrell, is a video installation, centering on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, a structure of enormous historical and contemporary significance.  A subtle combination of image and sound evokes the feelings the artist  experienced when he visited the monument, creating a deep impression on the viewer.

• Hala Elkoussy, co-founder of the Cairo-based Contemporary Image Collective, is an Egyptian artist for whom the archival history of modern Cairo is of utmost  importance. She presents “The Myths and Legends Room: The Mural,” an epic 27-foot-by-9-foot work, that references commemorative-propaganda art, but also suggests an alternative perspective on the city by exploring multiple narratives of how people live and navigate life under consumerism, political apathy and global economic conditions. Working with Dutch curator Jelle Bouwhuis, this is a new and exciting development in Elkoussy’s career.

• Marwan Sahmarani from Beirut is best known for his vibrant, highly-charged paintings. Working with curator Mahita El Bacha Urieta (Spain/Lebanon), Sahmarani presents “The Feast of the Damned,” an atmospheric installation integrating painting, drawing, ceramics and film. Inspired by Rubens’s “Hell: Fall of the Condemned Ones” and Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement,” Sahmarani’s interpretations of martyrdom and expiation resemble old fresco paintings but blended with contemporary media. The result is a poignant and intimately humane artwork of universal resonance and powerful visual and emotional impact.

Frederic Sicre, Executive Director of Abraaj Capital, comments: "In its second year, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize signifies not only our continued commitment to supporting the creativity found in MENASA, but also reinforces Abraaj Capital's unwavering commitment to empower and support young artists across the region, and bring their talents to the forefront of both the local and international art community."

Seen together, the three works-of-art represent a new stage of evolution for the artists and the region. In each of their projects, the artists examine a theme that is specific to their experience of living in the region but also has universal application. 

To date, the Abraaj Capital Art Prize has been awarded to six winning artist-curator teams (three in 2009, and three in 2010). The 2009 winners were the Turkish artist Kutluğ Ataman with Cristiana Perrella (Italy); the Algerian artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah with Carol Solomon (U.S.); and the Iranian artist Nazgol Ansarinia with Leyla Fakhr (UK). Abraaj Capital is the largest private equity group in the Middle East. Based in Dubai, it invests across MENASA and is committed to giving back to this region, which has generated its success. As well as the art prize, Abraaj Capital has been the principal partner of Art Dubai, the region’s leading contemporary art fair. Abraaj also set up an endowment to which it donated $10 million to finance the education of orphaned Palestinian children.

For images of the works and a video about the winning artists, visit: For more on the history and future of the prize visit:

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