Carol Solomon (r.) with artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah.
Carol Solomon Wins Abraaj Capital Art Prize
Carol Solomon, Visiting Associate Professor, Independent College Programs, and French-Algerian artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah are among three curator/artist teams chosen from among 97 applicants as winners of the first Abraaj Capital Art Prize. The generous prize, provided by investment firm Abraaj Capital, gives the pair $200,000. With those funds, Bouabdellah, who is based in Paris, will create a major installation piece to be unveiled in March during Art Dubai, the Middle East’s largest contemporary art fair. An exhibition catalogue devoted to the winning projects will be co-authored by Solomon and the other curators.
Solomon, who traveled to London over the fall break to attend a reception for the winners of the competition, first got interested in Bouabdellah’s art in 2007 when she saw one of her works in the exhibition “Airs de Paris” at the Pompidou Center in Paris and another in the exhibition “Global Feminisms” at the Brooklyn Museum.
One of these, the short video entitled Dansons, shows the torso of a woman, clearly a belly dancer, as she ties scarves in the colors of the French flag around her waist. “When she gets them all into place, she starts to dance and the music is La Marseillaise [the French national anthem],” says Solomon. “The work deals with the hybrid nature of the artist’s French identity.”
Solomon, formerly curator of European Art at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum, included Dansons, and another of Bouabdellah’s pieces, in a 2008 exhibition she organized there called “The Third Space: Cultural Identity Today.” “That show focused on the effects of displacement, alienation, exile, hybridity and trans-nationalism in a global society,” says Solomon. “The “third space” refers to an in-between space where new cultural identities are formed. Artists at work in “the third space” speak of a creative edge that derives from the condition of being in a place that simultaneously is and is not one’s home.”
Solomon got to know Bouabdellah well when she subsequently spent a semester at Amherst as artist-in-residence. “We had the opportunity to talk at length about her art and the ideas behind it,” she says. When the pair heard about the new Abraaj Prize, with its aim of encouraging a creative collaboration between international curators and artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, they decided to put together a proposal.
Solomon describes the artist’s winning project as “an evocative installation piece that deals with astronomy and astrology, with elements inspired by Islamic art, science, and culture. But that’s all I can say until it’s unveiled in Dubai.”
The two other teams named as winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize are Italian curator Cristiana Perrella and Turkish artist Kutlug Ataman; and Leyla Fakhr, a curator at the Tate Museum, and Iranian artist Nazgol Ansarinia.
Next semester, Solomon will teach a course at Haverford on Art and Cultural Identity.