In collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF), New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) hosted the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award ceremony, which unveiled NYUAD senior Erin Meekhof’s sculptural installation. Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, the unveiling of the winning artwork took place at NYUAD's Downtown Campus in Abu Dhabi.
Meekhof’s winning project, Abjad, was selected from 27 entries for its originality, multidisciplinary nature, and profound scope of research. Inspired by Meekhof’s independent visual investigation of language, Abjad is a series of five large wooden sculptures, each representing a different letter and the history of how it evolved from a pictogram to the English and Arabic alphabets. Each sculpture depicts the story of a single phoneme, a distinct unit of sound beginning as a pictogram, developing into Phoenician, and splitting into Arabic through Aramaic and Nabatean, and Roman script, through Etruscan and Greek letterforms.
Meekhof said: “Abjad has grown out of my own experience here studying in the UAE, and I think it speaks to everyone's experience living in such a multilingual, multicultural place. I want people to come away from the work having learned something and having been challenged to rethink their own assumptions about language, culture, and history, just the way I have been."
ADMAF Founder H.E. Mrs Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo said: “The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award has proven itself as a highly effective and inspirational platform to nurture the creative abilities of promising young artists in the UAE. The journey from concept to completion calls upon all facets of an artist’s palette — from the artistic to the logistical — and gives applicants a chance to experience everything that is required when sharing one’s creativity with the world. I’m very proud to be on the committee of this award, and Erin Meekhof is an outstanding example of a young artist who has applied her intellectual curiosity, artistic intuition, and practical skills to produce an artwork that speaks to us all.”
NYUAD Visual Arts Professor Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Meekhof’s nominating mentor, commented: “It brings me great pleasure and pride to know that one of our students here at NYUAD has been granted the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award. Meekhof’s work considers the boundaries between fine art and design which happens to be a current topic of debate from a pedagogical point of view within academic circles.”
The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, which accepts proposals for public art pieces from UAE student applicants and recent graduates, has created an important platform for young promising artists in the community.