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Ithra Art Prize winner Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif’s installation on show at Art Dubai

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The winner of the third edition of the Ithra Art Prize, Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif’s installation ‘Rakhm,’ meaning ‘incubation’ in Arabic, is on view for the first time at Art Dubai 2021.

The first in-person international art fair top open since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Art Dubai 2021 which opened on March 29 is being held at a purpose-built venue at the iconic Gate Building in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

‘Rakhm,’ meaning “incubation” in Arabic, will be on view till April 3, 2021, before joining Ithra’s permanent collection.

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The installation, an example of interdisciplinary approach, aims to conceptually preserve a nursery as both an urban typology and “incubates” as an environmental micro-economy. The title mirrors both the sensitivity and urgency of the content, safely and carefully incubating an intelligent green infrastructure.

Ithra Prize Winner, Fahad bin Naif, a Saudi-based artist, architect, urban designer, and researcher. (Courtesy of artist)
Ithra Prize Winner, Fahad bin Naif, a Saudi-based artist, architect, urban designer, and researcher. (Courtesy of artist)



‘Rakhm’ is a Polytunnel nursery that mimics the existing urban nurseries in the Kingdom with endemic plants and flowers instead of conventional foreign houseplants.

The installation ‘Rakhm’ by Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif at Art Dubai 2021. (Courtesy: Ithra)
The installation ‘Rakhm’ by Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif at Art Dubai 2021. (Courtesy: Ithra)



Unlike most nurseries, however, the viewer can only experience the exterior of the nursery, which mirrors the general local approach to xeriscaping where local foliage is not an environmental or aesthetic priority. The experience of the viewer from the outside also highlights the notion that contextually there is very little interaction between local human inhabitants and local plant-life and the importance on an environmental level of changing this narrative.

An artist, architect, urban designer, and researcher, Fahad bin Naif creates art projects with architectural elements and is deeply engaged in the Saudi and regional cultural scene. A graduate of Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts London, his final-year project was nominated for a Royal Institute of British Architects’ regional award.

When he was nominated, Fahad bin Naif had said: “It is an honor and a privilege to have been by selected by the prestigious jury panel as the winner of the Ithra Art Prize 2020. This opportunity, as a Saudi artist and architect who is also quite invested in the cultural, social and urban fabric of our society, is deeply meaningful. Initiatives like the Ithra Art Prize further highlight the Kingdom’s commitment to nurturing artistic talent and building our creative ecosystem both locally and globally.”

Supporting art in the Kingdom

Launched in 2017, the Ithra Art Prize at Art Dubai supports the development of the art industry in the Kingdom and beyond while fostering cross-cultural engagement through the showcasing of Saudi and Saudi-based talent on an international platform.

This is the third iteration of the prize, which is held every year by Ithra. The Prize celebrates contemporary artists through an open call, and the winner is granted up to $100,000 in the commission of a single work of art that will be shown to a global audience.

A testament to the growing impact and notability of the Prize, the third edition of the competition received twice the number of applications as 2019’s edition.

The Ithra Art Prize winner is decided by a global jury of experts, including artists, curators, academics and art historians. The panel for the third iteration of the program was artist, art historian, freelance writer and art consultant Eiman Elgibreen; independent curator Maya El Khalil; Nada Shabout, art historian and founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran and Turkey (AMCA); independent curator and art historian Reem Fadda; and independent curator and architect Tarek Abou El Fetouh.

UAE-based Saudi conceptual artist Ayman Zedani was the inaugural winner of the 2018 edition with his spatial installation Mēm. Saudi-born London-based Daniah Al Saleh was the winner of the second edition. She won the award for Sawtam – a digital, audio-visual presentation based on the phonemes of the Arabic language.

Entries for the fourth edition of the Ithra Art Prize will open later this year.

Read more: Art Dubai 2021 next week to feature 50 galleries from 31 countries