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Coronavirus: Regional art competition has gone digital and focused on COVID-19 as inspiration

Art Jameel announces a commission for digital art, inviting artists across the Middle East

Calling all artists in the UAE and the Middle East! Art Jameel, an independent, international organisation that supports arts in the Middle East announced on Monday, an open call for proposals to Art Jameel Commissions: Digital.

Responding to unprecedented global events, the third cycle of Art Jameel’s multi-year commissioning programme has been adjusted and expanded to include a new iteration designed for maximum audience engagement, regardless of location. The 2020 commission also provides an opportunity for mentoring by technical experts from MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL).

Art Jameel Commissions is an annual programme that invites artists to submit their work for a chance at winning a prize of USD7,500, in addition to a dedicated production budget for their project, which will be hosted and promoted on or via Jameel Arts Centre website.


The digital focus of this year’s commissioning programme also addresses the global public and current heightened realities of physical isolation.

Artists are invited to propose engaging projects and artworks that create interactive experiences for online audiences. The commission focuses on the theme of ‘Time’ – thinking through how our usual concept of time has been challenged by technology and circumstance, and even at times appeared to be cancelled, lost or frozen.

The commission also presents an opportunity to rethink and reboot our understanding of “digital art” and the ways in which it can question, investigate and form meaningful connections and experiences.

This commission is primarily interested in ideas and experiences, rather than technological hard or software: submissions for Art Jameel Commissions: Digital should address a specific aspect of time today, and inventively translate this into a digital interface that helps us re-examine what time has been, is — or could be.

Artists are invited to submit proposals through an online Open Call by the deadline of June 10, 2020 (midnight GST); the winning work will be selected by a jury through the summer, with the work to be launched and exhibited online for at least six months through 2020-21.

The 2020-2021 Art Jameel Commissions jury includes: Nadim Samman, Curator for the Digital Sphere at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Finnish word, living media and sound artist Jenna Sutela; Ben Vickers, publisher and Chief Technology Officer at the Serpentine Galleries, London; and members of Art Jameel’s curatorial team.

While the Jameel Arts Centre is temporarily closed, in support of the UAE’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the institution has launched a rapid-response programme that aims to support independent practitioners in the Middle East and provide global at-home audiences with innovative digital resources providing learning materials, insights into artists’ practices and creative experiences.

Opportunities for artists include a new Research and Practice Platform, intended primarily for those who work on a per-project basis and whose practices have been affected by programme cancellations and project changes, locally or globally.

Digital offerings include The Breakup, a ten-part radio series by Michael Rakowitz live streaming from the Jameel’s Gallery 9, as part of the renowned Iraqi-American’s current show; access to the Jameel Library online catalogue; digital guided mediations and curator-led slow-viewing sessions; and the first bilingual (Arabic/English) free guide for children addressing current challenges presented by the COVID-19 virus.