Saeed Khalifa enjoys a very special delivery from the Emerging Emirati Artist Award

An Emirati artist and a South Korean painter have won the Emerging Artist Awards, with the honours including two years of representation at a Spanish gallery.

Saeed Khalifa, the winner of the Emerging Emirati Artist Award this year. Courtesy International Emerging Artist Award / May 2014
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Deliverance, an edgy self-portrait series using rebellious techniques, has won Saeed Khalifa the top prize in the third annual Emerging Emirati Artist Award. As part of his prize, Khalifa now begins a two-year representation at Sabrina Amrani Gallery in Madrid.

“I can’t narrow my feelings down to a certain word or feeling because what I do does not fit in with the common definition of what it means to be an Emirati artist,” he says.

“So I am very grateful to get this kind of attention. I’ve never won anything relating to my art work before.”

Khalifa was chosen from hundreds of entries to the annual award, which focuses on revealing the potential of lesser-known artists and supporting them towards a long and fruitful career.

Running parallel to the competition for Emiratis is the International Emerging Artist Award, open to any artist from anywhere in the world.

The winner in this category was Timothy Lee, a New York-based South Korean artist who, although he has only been painting for one year, has mastered the art of ­watercolour.

Lee has no background in art – he studied biology and neuroscience – and his winning work Compositions and Impressions explores anxiety as a different state of mind.

Lee’s and Khalifa’s works are on display on the 40th floor of the Media One Hotel until the end of the week, along with 30 top entries.

“When you look at all the work you realise there is no definition to contemporary art,” says Rebia Naim, the founder of the competition. “It was very interesting that at the end, the judges agreed on the winners. The best simply were the best.”

Naim says she’s satisfied with the growing popularity of the award and the fact that she is bringing light to unknown talent.

“This award is all about potential. We find that many artists, especially the Emiratis, are shy about coming forward. But we are not a gallery and don’t have the same criteria so I think we are more approachable,” she says. “We want to show these artists and all their potential and we try to support them as much as we can.”