Lawrence Abu Hamdan wins Abraaj Group Art Prize

The Abraaj Group has announced Lawrence Abu Hamdan (above) as the winner of the tenth Abraaj Group Art Prize, with Basma Alsharif, Neil Beloufa and Ali Cherri named as the shortlisted artists. 

Each year, The Abraaj Group awards $100,000 to one artist to realise a dream project. The three shortlisted artists each get $10,000 each to support their artistic practice. As a result, the Prize has genuinely become a cornerstone of the art scene in the Middle East and an important stepping stone for mid-career artists.

The winning works will be exhibited at the next edition of Art Dubai next March.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan predictably said he was delighted to win this year. “The Prize allows me to produce and conceive a work using materials and technologies previously unavailable to me, and in doing so enables me to deepen my exploration of the most contemporary ways of seeing and hearing our world.

“I very much appreciate this generous opportunity and I am honoured by the jury’s selection to support the production of an ambitious new artwork.”

Lawrence Abu Hamdan has just finished a PhD at Goldsmiths and a stint as a Fellow at the Vera List Centre for Art and Politics at the New School, New York. With a background in music production, his projects generally take the form of audiovisual installations or performances, with graphic works, photography, Islamic sermons, essays, and lectures. His work often concerns audio investigations, especially in relation to the role of voice in law, the politics of listening, and the limits of free speech – in a Vice article a couple of years ago he described his work as concerned with the “politics of listening”. He has made audio analyses for legal investigations at the UK Asylum Tribunal and advocacy for organisations such as Amnesty International and Defence for Children International.

He won the €25,000 Nam June Paik Award in 2016 for his exhibition Earshot (sample right), an impressive work displayed at the Portikus contemporary art space in Frankfurt am Main. It was a ballistic investigation into a 2014 shooting of two teenagers in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers, presented as an installation that included the resulting acoustic analysis, a hybrid of an artwork and a piece of forensic evidence.

He also gave a good presentation at Art Dubai’s Global Art Forum in 2015 on his ‘Aural Contract’ project, dedicated to understanding how we are being heard today. This could be one of the most interesting Abraaj Prize winners yet.

This year The Abraaj Group Art Prize saw applications from a record 65 countries. Myriam Ben Salah, Curator for the 2018 edition of the Prize, commented on a “challenging” selection process – “the number and quality of applications was outstanding” – but is clearly pleased with the final results: “I think Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Basma Alsharif, Neil Beloufa and Ali Cherri are four exceptional artists, and figures whose work is important in today’s world.

“Although their practices are very different, they share a certain number of interests and interrogations which I look forward to exploring while working with them on the exhibition.”

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