Jameel Prize 3 : Celebrating Contemporary Art & Design


The annual international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition features a range of exciting works from an ornate necklace and video art to contemporary calligraphy this year.

Shortlisting entries for the first time from Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and India, the prize was set up by the V&A and Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives in 2009 following the inauguration of the exceptional Jameel Islamic galleries at the V&A in 2006, the small but powerful exhibition features this year’s award winners of £25,000 – alongside the other eight shortlisted finalists – selected by this year’s judging panel which includes British designer and architect Thomas Heatherwick and 2011 Prize winner Rashid Koraïchi.

The four calligraphy entries all feature intriguing, unique and detailed concepts of adaptation and development of one of the most influential scripts of the world; Saudi Arabian artist Nasser Al Salem finds that focussing on certain aspects of Arabic calligraphy, he is able to magnify and create abstract shapes of certain words or letters. His repetition of the word ‘all’ has been precisely distilled into striking and elegant vortex.

 The four calligraphy entries all feature intriguing, unique and detailed concepts of adaptation and development of one of the most influential scripts of the world;

Arabic script is certainly shown to be very adaptable in this exhibition – Typographer Pascal Zograbi successfully blends the contemporary pursuit of the ‘new’ by reshaping and paying homage to the rich heritage and multiple styles of Arabic calligraphy in creating new fonts for digital and design platforms.

Influenced by Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times, Moroccan artist Mounir Fatmi constructs digital calligraphy circles as cogs of a much larger machine gathering pace to represent the modernity of the Arab world in his video artwork Modern Times: A History of the Machine.

Lebanese furniture designer Nada Debs combines specially commissioned Arabic font with the minimalism of the country she was born in – Japan – to create a hybrid tatami/prayer mat of concrete which features a poem written in a blend of Japanese Kanji and Arabic Kufic scripts.

Another inherited and much vaunted practice aside from calligraphy are carpets, jewellery and embroidery which feature as the remaining entries; Azeri artist Faig Ahmed – who lives and works in Baku – has had his double artworks created according to Azerbaijan’s ancient weaving traditions but has subverted the centre of the carpet to include abstract designs which meld ancient and contemporary.

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Inspired by the tribal jewellery of women in the Western Sahara and the work of refugee crafts charity Sandblast, French designer Florie Salnot seeks to raise awareness of their craft made from limited resources by taking up the task herself – rendering sand and plastic bottles into a marvellous necklace of Plastic Gold.

Istanbul’s incredible architecture serves as the direct inspiration for Turkish fashion designers Dice Kayek work Istanbul Contrast, which features a trio of intricately beaded dresses. Indian textile designer Rahul Jain also alludes to the past through his textiles in recreating sumptuous silks inspired by the era of the Mughal emperors, which depict snow leopards and birds of paradise.

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Pakistani artist Waqas Khan’s meditative geometric drawings amplify and distil the traditional mark-makings of miniature painting into a large and abstract work of simple beauty. Finally, Laurent Mareschal, a French artist, has created a witty and literally fragrant work by stencilling Islamic geometric tile patterns onto the gallery floor by using different Middle Eastern spices – alluding to the ephemeral and the senses in his unique subversion of permanence.

The 3rd Jameel Prize has certainly excelled itself this year in that it continues to feature an exciting and internationally diverse range of contemporary practices enlivened and inspired by Islamic culture, craftsmanship and arts, as well as going beyond artifice in engaging with various communities and craftsmen in the artistic process.



Dice Kayek has won the £25,000 Jameel Prize 3 forIstanbul Contrast, a collection of garments that evoke Istanbul’s architectural and artistic heritage. The judges felt that Dice Kayek’s work demonstrates how vibrant and creative Islamic traditions continue to be today. Their translation of architectural ideas into fashion shows how Islamic traditions can still transfer from one art form to another, as they did in the past. Ece and Ayşe Ege were presented with the prize by Martin Roth, Director of the V&A and Fady Jameel, President of Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) at an awards ceremony at the V&A on Tuesday 10 December

by Ranbir Jhutty

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