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Ithra Art Prize 2020

The winner of the third edition of the Ithra Art Prize was Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif, for his proposed installation Rakhm, meaning ‘incubation’ in Arabic, which was shown at Art Dubai 2021.

Bin Naif’s installation Rakhm aims to conceptually preserve a nursery as both an urban typology and its ‘incubatees’ as an environmental micro-economy. The title of the installation mirrors both the sensitivity and urgency of the content, safely and carefully incubating an intelligent green infrastructure. Rakhm is a Polytunnel nursery that mimics the existing urban nurseries in the Kingdom with endemic plants and flowers instead of conventional foreign houseplants. Unlike most nurseries, however, the viewer can only experience the exterior of the nursery, which mirrors the general local approach to xeriscaping wherein 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.

Rakhm detail


Fahad is an architect and an urban designer who creates architecturally-conscious art projects. He has been working professionally after completing his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Central Saint Martins – University of the Arts London. His final year project “The Islamic Cultural Center of Peckham” was nominated for a Royal Institute of British Architects’ regional award. Moreover, he is part of the regional art and design scene; creating artwork, conducting urban research and seminars, participating in group exhibitions and curating independent art shows.


Launched in 2017 by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in collaboration with Art Dubai, the Prize is awarded to emerging Saudi and Saudi-based talent in contemporary art as a means to fund, promote and offer Saudi artists a global platform. The selection committee is made up of highly-acclaimed art critics and both regional and international institutional figures. As part of a collaboration between Ithra and Art Dubai, the winning work is unveiled at Art Dubai each year, and subsequently joins Ithra’s prestigious permanent collection. Previous Ithra Art Prize winners are Sharjah-based conceptual artist Ayman Zedani whose commission, Meem, was exhibited at Art Dubai in 2018 and, London-based Saudi Arabian artist, Daniah Alsaleh, whose large-scale multimedia installation, Sawtam, was unveiled at Art Dubai 2019 and is currently part of ‘Artificial Intelligence and Intercultural Dialogue Art Exhibition’ at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.


Eiman Elgibreen is an artist and an Assistant Professor of Art History at the Princess Nourah University in Riyadh/Saudi Arabia. She obtained a PhD in Modern and Contemporary Saudi Art from The University of Sussex for her research on “Image Making: Representations of women in the Art and Career of Safeya Binzagr 1968-2000”.  She is also a freelance writer since (2011) for Al-Riyadh Daily Newspaper, and Al-Jazirah Daily Newspaper, and an art consultant for individuals and organisations that is concerned to preserve the legacy of Saudi pioneer artists such as Darat Safeya Binzagr, and Saudi Arts House. In addition, she curated a few exhibitions including the Saudi National Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, 2019.

Maya El Khalil is an independent curator, who for the last decade has been working locally, regionally and internationally with artists, collectors and institutions to develop the identity and ideas that have defined the contemporary art scene in Saudi Arabia. From its inception in 2009 until 2016, she was the Founding Director of Athr, a leading contemporary art gallery based in Jeddah. She has currently been appointed as the curator of the upcoming 7th edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts. El Khalil is a holder of a bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from the American University of Beirut. She is pursuing an MA in Art and Politics at Goldsmiths University. Born in Beirut, currently lives and works in Oxford, UK

Nada Shabout is a professor of Art History and the Coordinator of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Initiative (CAMCSI) at the University of North Texas, Shabout is the founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran and Turkey (AMCA). She has published numerous articles on modern and contemporary Arab and Iraqi art. She is the author of Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics, University of Florida Press, 2007; co-editor with Salwa Mikdadi of New Vision: Arab Art in the 21stCentury, Thames & Hudson, 2009; and co-editor with A. Lenssen and S. Rogers, Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2018.

Reem Fadda is an independent curator and art historian. From 2010 to 2016, Fadda worked as Associate Curator, Middle Eastern Art for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Project of the Solomon R. Guggenheim based at their headquarters in New York City. She had a leading role in shaping the strategy and holdings of West Asian and North African art within its collection and the curatorial vision for the future museum. From 2005 to 2007, Fadda was Director of the Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA), Ramallah and served as Academic Director for the International Academy of Art Palestine, Ramallah, which she helped found in 2006. She has curated many international exhibitions and biennials, especially those pertaining to art and geopolitics in the Middle East, including Jerusalem Lives (Tahya Al Quds) the inaugural exhibition at The Palestinian Museum, Birzeit (2017); Not New Now, 6th Marrakech Biennale, (2016) and the United Arab Emirates National Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale (2013).

Tarek Abou El Fetouh is an independent curator and architect who lives and works in Brussels. His curatorial works include “It’s Happening in the Garage”, Alexandria 2000;DisOrientation, House of World Cultures, Berlin in 2003; Roaming Inner Landscapes, Alexandria in 2004 and Sharjah Biennale 9 in 2009. He initiated Meeting Points – Festival for Contemporary Arts and curated the first four editions that took place across several cities in the Middle East. Abou El Fetouh has worked as Artistic Director of Meeting Points with curators Frie Leysen for MP5, Okwui Enwezor for MP6 and the Zagreb based collective WHW for MP7. His curatorial works include the exhibition of Home Works 6, organised by Ashkal Alwan in Beirut 2013, Lest the Two Seas Meet at MoMA, Warsaw in 2015, “The time is out of joint in Sharjah and Gwangju in 2016, “A Captive of Love” 2017 and :Rituals of Signs and Metamorphosis” in Red Bricks Museum, Beijing. Abou El Fetouh was recently appointed curator of visual arts of Expo2020 Dubai.