Ithra Art Prize winner: Fahad bin Naif

Fahad bin Naif has been named by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) and Art Dubai as the winner of the third Ithra Art Prize.

The Prize aims to promote the work of Saudi contemporary artists “on a global scale”. Fahad bin Naif will get up to $100,000 to implement his work, which will be unveiled at Art Dubai in March before moving to Dharhan to join Ithra’s permanent collection.

An artist, urban designer and researcher, Fahad bin Naif has a BA Architecture from Central Saint Martins and recently joined the Saudi Ministry of Culture to work on cultural infrastructure projects. He is active in the regional art and design scene – conducting urban research and seminars, creating and showing art projects, and curating independent art shows.

For the Ithra Prize he proposed an installation titled Rakhm – ‘incubation’ in Arabic – which presents a polytunnel plant nursery as an urban typology and its contents as an environmental micro-economy. The title of the installation mirrors both the sensitivity and urgency of the need to develop an intelligent green infrastructure. Unlike most polytunnels, with Rakhm the viewer can only experience the exterior of the nursery – reflecting the widespread view that local foliage is not an environmental or aesthetic priority.

King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Dhahran: designed by Snøhetta, due to house Rakhm

Laila Faddagh, Head of Ithra Museums said she was “thrilled” to see the Ithra Art Prize grow in its third edition; there was a record number of responses to the open call. “The [selection] committee’s response to Fahad bin Naif’s work was enthusiastic, and we were touched by the contextualised thoughtfulness and interdisciplinary approach the artist has taken when developing his concept.

“We are looking forward to supporting him as he further evolves his work and we anticipate an exciting reveal of Rakhm at Art Dubai 2020.”

This year’s prize jury included members of the centre’s curatorial team and a starry group of international art experts with a regional focus – Reem Fadda from the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi; curator of visual arts for Expo2020 Dubai Abou El Fetouh; the American art historian and specialist in modern Iraqi art Nada Shabout; Eiman Elgibreen, artist and academic (Elgibreen lectures in Art History at the Princess Nourah University in Riyadh); and Maya El Khalil, an independent curator who has been influential in the development of the contemporary art scene in Saudi Arabia – she was the first director of the Athr contemporary art gallery in Jeddah.

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