Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award 2023 winners

The 2023 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award was presented at Abu Dhabi Art last week to the artists responsible for Shaheeq – an interesting installation made from rammed earth that one day will return to the earth.

Produced annually since 2013 by ADMAF in collaboration with The NYUAD Art Gallery, The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award aims to serve as a launch pad for artists across the Emirates, encouraging new artwork and offering winners insight into professional life as an artist,. It’s open to UAE-based students and recent graduates.

The winning artists this time are NYUAD graduate Vivi Zhu, a Chinese-born documentary filmmaker, artist, and social entrepreneur whose interest lies in discovering and telling microcosmic stories that reflect bigger social-political pictures; University of Sharjah graduate Hala El Abora, a Dubai-based Palestinian/Jordanian artist whose practice is “driven by her obsession with the concept of non-ephemerality, permanence, and the desperate need to preserve”; and Majd Alloush, one of the first graduates from NYUAD’s MFA programme, whose work spans multiple disciplines including printmaking, sculpture, photography, moving image, installation, and performance.

Shaheeq “aims to inspire viewers to acknowledge and maintain the solutions already activated in our environment, and to illuminate a positive philosophy towards ‘metaphysical grief’ caused by the climate crisis”. It was sculpted from a mixture of mangrove soil, sand, and clay.

Shaheeq will be on display at NYU Abu Dhabi, Um El Emarat Park, and Jubail Mangrove Park, where it will eventually biodegrade and return to the earth from which it came, leaving no trace of its existence.

“Shaheeq reminds me of our intrinsic cohesiveness as a species,” said Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery and the University’s Chief Curator Maya Allison. “We aren’t separate from each other or nature. The artists’ collaboration with the environment highlights this generation’s concerns for climate change and the urgent need to imagine and manufacture a more sustainable future. The use of the mangrove trees, and the forest ecosystem that supports them, encourages us to look for solutions within our own natural ecosystems”.

And Emily Doherty, Director of the Award, commended the artists’ ability to think creatively and conscientiously, with skill and attention to detail. “Through their work, Vivi, Hala and Majd are not only finding ways to highlight immediate environmental concerns and seeking solutions, they are using ancient construction techniques and sculpting the piece with their own hands.”

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