Under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), in partnership with Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF), have unveiled the winning submission for The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award 2020.
Titled Haweia, the installation, conceived and built by three architecture students from the American University of Sharjah (AUS), is now live in a 360-degree view on The NYUAD Art Gallery’s website, along with a time-lapse video of the winning work being installed on NYUAD’s campus. The innovative virtual gallery was developed in response to ongoing social distancing measures.
Haweia, an Arabic term meaning “identity”, was designed and constructed by Laura AlDhahi from Kuwait, Sara Mohamed from Egypt, and Sahil Rattha Singh from India. The sculptural installation with a smooth exterior façade of folded aluminum converges at an oculus, which accentuates a focused moment in time and space. This contrasts with a complex interior of reflective surfaces and fins oriented to frame different perspectives. The installation thus serves as a lens through which visitors can contemplate their inner selves and discover different configurations of their haweia as they move virtually around and inside the piece.
H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, said: “ADMAF is committed to continuing this valuable cultural work in partnership with NYUAD in spite of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award reaffirms the importance of arts and culture as well as ADMAF’s mission to invest in our nation’s youth and unlock creative potential. ‘Haweia’ celebrates the unity of the participating artists from diverse backgrounds. Joined together in the creation of an artwork, they embody the power of art, culture and knowledge to create dialogue and openness toward others.”
She added: “The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award was established nearly a decade ago, along with the late Christo, to cultivate creativity in the UAE that is inspired by his and Jeanne-Claude’s work. Through the award, we continue his legacy, providing young artists with the opportunity to realise their project and showcase their work.”
Director of The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award Emily Doherty added: “Our winning team faced university campus closure, having to create home studios – sometimes in different countries – and now the launch of Haweia in a virtual setting. And yet, throughout the competition, they have shown their mettle by leaning into the challenges and continuing to work intensively. Congratulations to them all.”
Doherty also paid tribute to Christo, who died in 2020, aged 84. “Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s relationship with the UAE spanned forty years, and it was Christo’s desire to support the emerging arts scene in 2012 that resulted in the creation of an award in his name. Christo sought to encourage a new generation of artists to find inspiration in creativity and bring joy to others, although it might be said that his true legacy was one of tenacity: in the pursuit of his vision, he never gave up. And in the context of the past year, this approach to life will chime with many.”
The winning artists were supported throughout the process by experts including artists’ mentor, Associate Professor at AUS Jason Carlow, The NYUAD Art Gallery, NYUAD’s Visual Arts faculty, and the award team at ADMAF.
Members of last year’s selection committee included H.E. Huda Al Khamis-Kanoo, former NYUAD Provost Fabio Piano, Director of Abu Dhabi Art Dyala Nusseibeh, artist Azza Al Qubaisi, and guest juror Kevin Jones.
The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award is open to UAE-based students and recent graduates and was established as a launch pad for visual artists across the Emirates, encouraging new artwork and offering winners an insight into professional life as an artist from commission to exhibition.
Winners are awarded USD 10,000 to complete their installation, working closely with The NYUAD Art Gallery alongside their mentor, Associate Professor at the American University of Sharjah’s Department of Architecture, Jason Carlow. At the end of their exhibition, the artists are gifted USD 5,000 by the Christo Estate to fund future artistic projects, study, or work experience.