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The Museum of Arts and Design Presents Winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, Honoring Contemporary Art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia

Works by Nazgol Ansarinia, Zoulikha Bouabdellah and Kutlug Ataman to be On View From August 26 - October 4, 2009

New York, NY (July 29, 2009)

The Museum of Arts and Design is proud to present the Abraaj Capital Art Prize and the first exhibition of its prize winners. The Abraaj Capital Art Prize is an award that seeks to raise international awareness of artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA). The work of the three winners will be on view from August 26 through October 4, 2009 at the Museum’s Design and Innovation Gallery, which explores emerging trends in art and design through a series of short-term exhibitions guest-curated by leading voices in the field.

The Abraaj Capital Art Prize, established by the Dubai-based private equity company Abraaj Capital, provides international exposure to artists from the MENASA region, aiming to empower contemporary artists from this culturally rich and diverse area. The prize encourages collaborations between the artists and established and internationally acclaimed curators, bridging the gap between Middle Eastern and Western art worlds and offering these artists opportunities to realize ambitious art projects and to gain recognition beyond their immediate cultural environment.

“We are honored to be partnering with Abraaj Capital in presenting this significant art prize,” states Holly Hotchner, the Nanette L. Laitman Director of the Museum of Arts and Design. “The Abraaj Capital Art Prize was born out of an essential need to support artists who have little or no access to the international art scene. It will bring global awareness to artists from the MENASA region who have historically been underrepresented in the Western art world. The work presented emphasizes extraordinary craftsmanship and reflects the Museum’s focus on the ways in which artists from around the world transform materials through innovative processes and techniques. The Museum’s partnership with Abraaj continues our global outreach, represented in our permanent collection and our culturally diverse exhibitions.”

The three winners, whose spectacular art works were unveiled at Art Dubai, the Middle East’s largest contemporary art fair and who each received $200,000, are Iran’s Nazgol Ansarinia, Algeria’s Zoulikha Bouabdellah and Turkey’s Kutluğ Ataman. Respectively, they worked with Leyla Fakhr, Assistant Curator at Tate Britain; Carol Solomon, Visiting Associate Professor of Art History at Pennsylvania’s Haverford College; and Cristiana Perrella, curator of the Contemporary Arts Program at the British School in Rome.

The three winners were chosen from ninety-seven applications selected by an international jury comprised of Ali Yussef Khadra, art consultant and founder and publisher of Canvas, the premier magazine for art and culture from the Middle East and Arab World; Antonia Carver, editor of Bidoun magazine and the Middle East correspondent for The Art Newspaper and Screen International, Daniela da Prato, founder of F & A Financial and Art Advisory Services; Elaine W. Ng, editor and publisher of Art AsiaPasific; Maya Rasamny, an arts advocate and patron of the Tate, The Royal Academy of Arts and Outset Contemporary Art Fund; Savita Apte, director of Art Dubai and Asal Partners; John Martin, co-founder of Art Dubai and London gallery owner, and Frederic Sicre, Executive Director of Abraaj Capital and former MD of the WEF. The Museum’s curator Lowery Stokes Sims will be part of the 2009 jury.

Prize-winner Nazgol Ansarinia, who partnered with curator Leyla Fakhr, offers what seems at first glance to be a classic Persian carpet, rich in color and swirling recurring patterns and shapes. A closer look reveals scenes from local Iranian life woven into and reflecting her interest in pattern and language. Ansarinia, born and raised in Iran, has studied and worked in London and New York and now lives in Tehran.

Zoulikha Bouabdellah collaborated with Carol Solomon from the United States to create a meditative installation entitled Walk on the Sky. Pisces, which references ancient Persian astrology and Arab legend. Bouabdellah, born in Moscow and raised in Algeria, is much attuned to the nuances of cultural identity, but picks and chooses influences and inspirations from wherever is suited to her projects.

Artist Kutluğ Ataman with curator Cristiana Perrella made a recorded performance piece, Strange Space, which was filmed in Erzincan, a small city set high in a north-eastern mountain plateau of his native Turkey. This region is extreme, not only in its physical environment (scorching hot summers, icy winters) and its war-torn history, but more recently in adapting to modernity. His video, based on a Turkish fable of tragic love, looks to illustrate the tension between Turkey’s eastern heritage and its western outlook.

“There has been misunderstanding between East and West in recent years,” said Savita Apte, Chair of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize. “This prize seeks to celebrate the extraordinary talent of artists from countries like Morocco across to India, and show the world what amazing works they can create. Art is also a form that can bring people together, help them understand each other’s cultures and value each other’s differences.”

Abraaj Capital, which was founded in 2002, invests in the growing MENASA region, taking well-run, promising companies and turning them into regional and even global champions. Works of the prize form part of Abraaj Capital’s corporate collection.

Savita Apte, Chair of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, along with artists and curators working in the Middle East, will discuss unique issues effecting contemporary art in that region. The talk will take place on Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 6:30pm as part of the Museum’s public programs at the Museum’s auditorium. Admission is free with Pay-What-You-Wish admission.

Kutluğ Ataman studied at UCLA in Los Angeles and has pursued successful careers in both feature film-making and contemporary art. His works primarily document the lives of the marginalized individual, examining the way in which people create and recreate their identities. In 2003 the London Observer named him ‘artist of the year’ and in 2004 he was short-listed for the prestigious Turner prize. Ataman’s movies include The Serpent’s Tale (Karanlik Sular, 1994); Lola+Bilidikid (1999); and 2 Girls (2005).

Curator Cristina Perrella saw Ataman’s first work Semiha B. Unplugged, in 1997 and has followed his career ever since. In 2006 his work was included in a Perrella-curated show and in 2007 she invited him for a residency program at the British School in Rome. She is curator of the Contemporary Arts Program there where she has developed a series of events focusing on the dialogue between the British and Italian art scenes. She has curated several one-man shows and published a number of monographs.

Video and installation artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah was raised in Algeria and studied in Paris. Since finishing her studies in 2002, Zoulikha has been widely exhibited and major shows include L’art au fémin (2008) in Algiers and Airs de Paris (2007) in Paris. In 2007 her work was featured in the African Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale.

Carol Solomon first encountered Zoulikha Boubadellah in 2007 in Paris during the Airs de Paris show. In 2008 she included two of Boubadellah’s works in The Third Space: Cultural Identity Today at the Mead Art Museum in Amherst College and invited her to be a visiting artist in residence during the same time. Solomon is Visiting Associate Professor of Art History at Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania. She was Curator of European Art at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Massachusetts, worked at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and has taught at several prestigious universities in the US and Canada.

Nazgol Ansarinia studied graphic design in London followed by an MFA in San Francisco. After having worked in the US and Europe, she returned to Tehran. Her work focuses on everyday objects and their relationship to a larger social context. Dissecting the daily and piecing it back together to make other structures and patterns apparent often forms the core of her work.

Nazgol Ansarinia and Leyla Fakhr met while working at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Since then a strong artist-curator relationship as well as a profound friendship has underpinned their collaborations. In 2007 Fakhr curated Ansarinia’s first solo show at the Ave Gallery in Tehran. Leyla Fakhr studied in London and Tehran and is assistant curator at Tate Britain and an independent curator in Tehran. In 2006 she curated Untitled (do not give your opinion), an exhibition of works by Nazgol Ansarinia.

The Abraaj Capital Art Prize is the world’s largest art prize, worth a total of US $1 million. It provides an opportunity for creative collaboration between international curators and artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region. The prize was established in April of 2008 and is designed to create a viable platform for individual artists who are revered in their local communities but lack international critical and commercial exposure. The Abraaj Capital Art Prize provides them with the opportunity to hone their talents working alongside international curators and to reach a global audience through the display of their work at Art Dubai and the Museum of Arts and Design. Displaying their work at the Middle East’s largest modern and contemporary art fair raises the curtain on their talent, affording finalists a global platform.

About Abraaj Capital
Dubai-based Abraaj Capital is the largest private equity group outside Europe and North America, and invests in the growing Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region. Since inception in 2002, it has raised about US $7 billion and distributed almost US $3 billion to investors. Abraaj believes Corporate Social Responsibility plays a vital role in the economic and social welfare of the region. It was the first private sector organization in MENA to sign the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investments (UNPRI). Abraaj has long funded its Community Partnership Programme with 5 per cent of the group's management fees, as well as employee donations, to support educational, medical and social needs of children in the MENASA region. The group operates offices in five countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. More than 150 world-class professionals work at Abraaj from 27 different nationalities. Abraaj’s holdings include some of the region’s most prominent companies, such as Air Arabia, the region’s largest low-cost carrier; Acibadem Healthcare Group, Turkey’s biggest privately owned operator of premium hospitals; and Al Borg Laboratory, the Middle East’s biggest medical laboratory-testing company. Abraaj has won several international awards. Abraaj Capital Ltd. is licensed by the Dubai Financial Services Authority, which operates according to international regulatory standards.

The Museum of Arts and Design explores how craftsmanship, art, and design intersect in the visual arts today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes ranging from the handmade to cutting edge technologies.

The Museum’s exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by creative and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1950 to the present day.

At the center of the Museum’s mission is education. The Museum’s dynamic new facility features classrooms and studios for master classes, seminars, and workshops for students, families and adults. Three open artist studios engage visitors in the creative processes of artists at work and enhance the exhibition programs. Lectures, films, performances and symposia related to the Museum’s collection and topical subjects affecting the world of contemporary art, craft and design are held in a renovated 150-seat auditorium.

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