Exhibitions News Qatar

Strict guidelines imposed on Qatari exhibition prize

Award launched by museums authority and Prada Foundation restrict projects applications from involving sex, drugs, alcohol or politics

A high-profile new award launched by the Qatar Museums Authority in partnership with the Prada Foundation invites budding art professionals to create their own exhibitions. But the organisers have imposed strict guidelines on the subjects acceptable for the proposed exhibitions.

The initiative, called “Curate”, is open to anyone “with a great concept” for an exhibition—not just curators. Although proposals can encompass art in all media, the terms and conditions for the prize state that applicants must avoid projects that are “sexually explicit or suggestive”; “profane or pornographic”; that “promote alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco, firearms [and] weapons”, or that advocate “any particular political agenda or message”. Applicants are also advised to avoid proposals that are “derogatory of any ethnic, racial, gender, religious, professional or age group or the disabled”.

The jury for the prize, which includes the fashion designer Miuccia Prada, the architect Rem Koolhaas, the Serpentine Gallery co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Sheikha Al-Mayassa, the chair of the Qatar Museums Authority and sister of the Emir of the oil-rich state, will select the winning proposal to be realised in an exhibition likely to be held in either Qatar or Italy. Entries for the award must be submitted by 31 December; 20 finalists will be selected next February, and the winner will be announced in April.

“The Curate competition is open as stated for all entrants,” says a spokeswoman for the Qatar Museums Authority. “The terms and conditions… cover legal points that are there to protect the organisers and the entrants from infringing any potential governing law in the world. The members of the jury will make up their minds on the basis of their own views.”

“As far as I’m aware the competition is completely open,” says Hans Ulrich Obrist. “It is an important prize to support a new generation of curators and also for finding new unexpected voices in curating outside the art world in architecture, literature and science.” The Prada Foundation declined to comment.

Other international art competitions with an online application process restrict the material that may be submitted to the public portions of its website. For example, the Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk’s Future Generation Art Prize asks applicants to agree to not post online material that is “defamatory, obscene, indecent, threatening, abusive, harassing or unlawful” or that “incites discrimination, hate or violence towards any person or group”.

However, unlike the Curate award, the Future Generation Art Prize does not impose restrictions on the themes of the art being submitted for consideration. Meanwhile, the organisers of the BP Portrait award, which recently celebrated its 34th year at the National Portrait Gallery in London, state online that “contributions must not contain any offensive content, including offensive language or images, sexual content or imagery or text”.

“Controversial art can unlock communication between diverse nations, peoples and histories,” Sheikha Al-Mayassa recently told the Evening Standard newspaper in London. The Sheikha, who topped this year’s Power 100 list published last month by ArtReview, added that artists can work freely and without limitations in Doha.

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