JEDDAH: A Berlin-based Tunisian artist has won the fourth Ithra Art Prize in one of recent history’s most difficult years.
Capturing a moment created by the pandemic, which shut down the global economy, Nadia Kaabi-Linke employed the iconic symbol for economic growth — a rising arrow — for what she describes as directing humanity to a safer exit from the crisis.
Chosen from 1,500 submissions, evaluated and reviewed by a jury of local and international leaders in the global art scene, Berlin-based artists Nadia Kaabi-Linke won the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) fourth Ithra Art Prize. The prize money is worth $100,000, and her artwork proposal will make its debut this coming December.
“I chose to work with the symbol of the arrow as a symbol for economic growth, but at the same time I am using it to represent an exit sign, an exit from what we know, our comfort zones which is the world that is leading us to our extinction,” Nadia Kaabi-Linke told Arab News.
Kaabi-Linke is inviting humanity to view the pandemic as an opportunity to create an alternative world and think of a new economy that does not focus on growth anymore. “It is more about hope, being together, and exiting the old world to a new one and to have all the courage to go in a new direction that we do not know,” she said.
After its presentation at Ad-Diriyah Biennale in December, Kaabi-Linke’s work will join Ithra’s prestigious permanent art collection.
I am extremely optimistic for the regional art scene and particularly for Saudi Arabia, I am so happy from the bottom of my heart that it is opening and that people can come and discover the treasures.
Launched in 2017, Ithra Art Prize was held abroad for three years, supporting Saudi and Saudi-based contemporary artists.
“This time we decided to reach out to 22 Arab countries for contemporary artists who currently live in the Arab region or have been for more than 10 years, we are very proud of the shortlisted artists for the prize, we got great names of very well established in the scene, and the awarded winner will not disappoint the public, I assure,” Farah Abushullaih, head of the museum of Ithra told Arab News.
Born in Tunis in 1978, Kaabi-Linke has lived between Paris, Dubai and Tunis. After graduating from the University of Fine Arts in Tunis in 1999, she went on to earn a Ph.D. at Université Paris-Sorbonne, in 2008.
The artist’s multinational background and history of migration have influenced her works.
The Ithra Art Prize was established to create a platform for artists to exhibit their works beside other distinguished artists within the region and internationally. It focuses on local artists’ enablement and knowledge transfer enhancement between artists, Abushullaih said.
Ithra’s partnership with Ad-Diriyah Biennale Foundation is biannual; the next competition will take place in 2023 and will also target Arab artists.
“I am extremely optimistic for the regional art scene and particularly for Saudi Arabia, I am so happy from the bottom of my heart that it is opening and that people can come and discover the treasures,” Kaabi-Linke said.
“Through the economic crises, the western world no longer invests in culture as it used to, but the opposite is happening in the Gulf region,” she said. “I am happy for the region for the upcoming period of culture and extremely honored to be part of it.”
The Ithra Art Prize is presented in partnership with the Ad-Diriyah Biennale Foundation. The winning submission will be unveiled at the inaugural Ad-Diriyah Biennale this December, the Kingdom’s first biennale.