One of the most prominent art grants in the Middle East and North Africa has opened its annual call for submissions.
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (or Ithra, from the Arabic word for “enrichment”) is accepting proposals for the sixth Ithra Art Prize—titled “Art in the Landscape”—for site-specific outdoor installations and sculptural works which reflect the Arab world’s cultural and natural heritage. Ithra is Saudi Arabia’s premier cultural and creative destination for talent development and cross-cultural experiences. It is a creative and interactive public space for workshops, performances, events and exhibitions.
The winning artist will receive a $100,000 prize and have their work included in the 2024 AlUla Arts Festival. Additionally, Ithra will cover up to $400,000 in production, shipping, insurance, and project management costs to realize the artwork. Artists or collectives are invited to apply if they either hail from or have resided in the following countries for more than 10 years: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
This year’s Ithra Art Prize is conferred in partnership with the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU). The government agency was founded in 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a 2,000-year-old archaeological and historical site in northwestern Saudi Arabia renowned for its early Arabic inscriptions. Once at the nexus of major trade and pilgrimage routes, AlUla is fast becoming a hub for culture and the arts, in addition to its designation as a UNESCO world heritage site. Among those attractions is the annual AlUla Arts Festival, which encompasses installations, murals, contemporary art (including a recent Andy Warhol exhibition), workshops, seminars, and more.
A panel composed of Ithra and RCU representatives—as well as artists, curators, academics, and art historians from around the globe—will review proposals and select a winner. To be considered, proposals must include a detailed artwork concept, including information about its medium, dimensions, and structural considerations; a budget; and a production timeline. Eligible projects must fit in the allotted 25-by-30-meter plot provided by the AlUla Arts Festival and cannot exceed a height of five meters or a weight of 500 kilograms per square meter. The artwork must be easily transportable, demonstrate a commitment to prioritizing local industry (across considerations like material, design development, and fabrication), and be able to withstand climatological effects with minimal maintenance (e.g. high temperatures, rain, wind, and erosion). Only new works will be considered; projects with minimal carbon footprints are encouraged.
Launched in 2017, the Ithra Art Prize was initially awarded only to Saudi and Saudi-based contemporary artists. In its fourth year, the prize expanded to include artists from or based in one of the 22 eligible Arab countries.