Art Jameel announces 2020 commission in digital art

This year's edition, which was supposed to be Drawing and Painting, has been changed and will focus on the theme of time

Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai inaugurated Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai’s first contemporary arts museum. The Centre is located at Jaddaf Waterfront, one of Dubai Holding’s iconic mixed-use destinations, located along the banks of the Dubai Creek. Dubai Media Office / Wam
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Art Jameel has adapted its commissioning programme to support digital arts this year, in response to how people are engaging amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Saudi Arabian family foundation started an annual Commissions series two years ago to support artists from the Middle East and North Africa in creating new works, with a focus on a different medium every year.

The new Art Jameel Commissions: Digital will award an artist or a group of artists $7,500 (Dh27,500). Recipients will be chosen via an open call, and completed artworks will be added to the Art Jameel collection.

This commission allows us to address these realities, while also encouraging artists to challenge existing concepts of digital art, the impact of our daily online lives and the temporal nature of the human experience.

This year’s medium was slated to be Drawing and Painting, before the foundation pivoted towards digital artworks.

“Along with serving diverse communities across the UAE, Jameel Arts Centre has a long-term focus on engaging with audiences beyond its physical location, aware that for many in the Middle East and South Asia, travel can be a luxury,” says Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel. “And as we all know, 2020 is sadly proving to be a year where many artists and arts institutions find themselves ‘on pause’, while audiences are more reliant than ever on engaging with art and with each other online.

“This commission allows us to address these realities,” Carver continues, “while also encouraging artists to challenge existing concepts of digital art, the impact of our daily online lives and the temporal nature of the human experience.”

The theme for submissions is "time", and artists are encouraged to think about how it can be cancelled, lost or frozen. The call for submissions is open and winners will be decided by a jury comprising Nadim Samman, digital curator at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Jenna Sutela, a Finnish media artist; and Ben Vickers, curator of digital art at the Serpentine Galleries in London.

Alia Farid and Aseel AlYaqoub won the first Art Jameel Commissions award with their Contrary Life: A Botanical Light Garden Devoted to Trees, which was installed at the Jameel Arts Centre in 2018. Courtesy Art Jameel

The digital commissions will also be able to take advantage of the Jameel family’s other philanthropic activity, which provides humanitarian assistance and education via Community Jameel. In 2017, the organisation founded the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to bring together researchers to reform education. The winner of the Art Jameel Commissions: Digital grant will receive curatorial support in the process of making their work at the Jameel Arts Centre, as well as technical mentorship and support from J-WEL. The completed works will be exhibited online until the end of next year.

Earlier this month, Art Jameel announced grants totalling Dh550,000 for artists and art professionals in the region who might have lost income from cancelled events. The foundation is also streaming sessions led by curators and a radio series called The Breakup hosted by American-Iraqi artist Michael Rakowitz. It has produced an Arabic/English guide helping children understand the Covid-19 pandemic.

The open call runs until Wednesday, June 10, 2020. For more information, visit