The contemporary art landscape is littered with prestigious awards but the Jameel Prize, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s biennial award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic traditions, still stands out. There were almost 270 nominations for this year’s Jameel Prize 3 with entries drawn from countries as disparate as Kosovo, Algeria, Japan and Brazil. The work of the ten shortlisted artists and designers goes on show this month at the V&A’s Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art.
The prize was founded in 2009. “It continues to grow in terms of its international reach,” says the co-curator Salma Tuqan. “We are very fortunate to have a constantly evolving network of international nominators, and this helps to draw in diverse applications both geographically and in terms of practice.”
The winner of the £25,000 prize will be announced on 10 December; judges this year include the UK designer Thomas Heatherwick and Martin Roth, the director of the V&A. The Jameel 3 exhibition is also due to tour, but the venues and dates are yet to be confirmed.
“This year’s shortlisted works are as always, diverse and yet they all respond to the rich heritage of art and design ideas from Islamic cultures,” Tuqan says. The Baku-born artist Faig Ahmed, for instance, designs carpets based on Azerbaijan’s ancient weaving traditions, modifying aspects of the rug pattern. Meanwhile, the Moroccan artist Mounir Fatmi reconfigures Arabic calligraphy; his video, entitled “Modern Times: a History of the Machine”, 2010-12, depicts a futuristic locomotive, made up of wheels shaped from circular calligraphic compositions.
Miniatures on a grand scale
The practice of the Lahore-based artist Waqas Khan is particularly intriguing; he trained in traditional miniature painting but applies these skills to create large-scale drawings. He says: “The process is almost architectural, like building something slowly, brick by brick.” Visitors to the V&A may be just as startled by a series of stencils dotted around the gallery floor by the French artist Laurent Mareschal. The pieces, based on Arabic geometric designs, are made from five Palestinian spices. “Pulling together an exhibition which includes such a range of media presents an interesting challenge in terms of display,” Tuqan says.
The other shortlisted artists are: Nada Debs (Japan), Rahul Jain (India), Ece and Ayse Ege (Turkey), Nasser Al Salem (Saudi Arabia), Florie Salnot (France) and Pascal Zoghbi (Lebanon).
The prize has an impressive array of backers: the patron this year is the high-profile, Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, while the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, the “community services” arm of the ALJ Group conglomerate, supports the award initiative.
The Jameel Prize 3
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
11 December-21 April 2014
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘No figures available'