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Why Everyone Will Want a Rana Bagum Painting


The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2017 Winner, Rana Begum.
The Abraaj Group

The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2017 winner has been announced as Bangladesh-born artist, Rana Begum. The prestigious prize includes a US$100,000 commission of an artwork by Begum that will be presented at the next Art Dubai fair curated by Omar Berrada, the Director of Marrakech-based library, Dar al-Ma’mûn. This unique piece will join the highly sought-after The Abraaj Group Art Prize Collection that lends to premium galleries and museums across five continents, to institutes such as: Sharjah Biennial, the V&A (London), Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art (Washington D.C), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York).

“I have greatly admired the winning artists and works of previous years and consider it a privilege to follow in their footsteps,” added winning artist, Begum. The sculpture-come-painter cultivated her flair for form and bold color in her fine art studies at the Chelsea College of Art & Design, graduating in 1999. Begun then acquired an MFA in painting from the Slade School of Fine Art. With academic credentials duly noted, Begum is no stranger to winning having received the Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture from the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The Bangladesh native is based in London and her works enjoy a global stage; she has pieces displayed in Galeri Mani (Istanbul), Jhaveri Contemporary (Mumbai), and No.10 The Third Line (Dubai), to name but a few.

Art Dubai was founded in 2007 and now up to 90 galleries participating, making it the leading one in MENASA. The world-class fair plays host to an elite audience of museum directors, artists, and collectors. The Abraaj Group Art Prize has collaborated with the fair since 2008, and has established a space to incubate talent in the region.

Omar Berrada is well appointed as the guest curator of The Abraaj Group Art Prize 2017 exhibit. His experience includes curating public programs at the Centre Pompidou, convener for the Tangier International Book Salon, and lecturing at NYU. The exhibit will present the winner’s artwork followed by a conversation between curator and winner, punctuated by a gallery of works from the shortlisted artist. Berrada will close with a unique monograph.

Exclusive Q&A with Omar Berrada:

What will your early process be for curating the exhibit?
It begins with conversations with the artists, in-depth studies of their works, and then the relationship that develops through those interactions with that semblance of people. Then a theme can emerge.

How do you personally connect with Rana Begum’s work?
I connect with it in many different ways. She has recently done an exhibit of her work in London entitled the Parasol Unit, The Space Between: it was an extremely beautiful show and gave a real sense of the work and the arc of her career. She expresses a unique interplay between materials, colors, and light. Her work is at any one time a painting and a sculpture, protruding from color. Rana works geometrically, and expands on the heritage of minimalism. You can see how she fuses the cultural heritage of growing up partly in Pakistan. There is a repetition of motifs, ritual, and Muslim spirituality present in her work.

What advice do you have for artists wanting to succeed in the fine art world?
There is no recipe. For me it’s about having a lot of passion and dedication. Going to see art shows and a lot of reading. In the Marrakesh art space, we insist on having a library for the resident artists to use as a resource because ideas don’t come from the ether. It’s a combination of your own sensibilities, your biogeography, encounters with people and the interplay between all of those elements. It’s so important to read a lot and study art history to know all that has come before. But don’t get fully absorbed or cannibalized by the art world. Instead, you should be nourished by information.

Scroll through the gallery above to see the winner and shortlisted artists.


Philippa Morgan

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