Mehdi Moutashar and Marina Tabassum announced as first ever joint winners of Jameel Prize 5

28 Jun 2018

Awarded every two years, the Jameel Prize, founded in partnership with Art Jameel, is a £25,000 international art prize for contemporary artists and designers inspired by Islamic tradition.

The artist Mehdi Moutashar (b.1943, Hilla, Iraq) and the architect Marina Tabassum (b. 1969 in Dhaka, Bangladesh) have been announced as joint winners of the Jameel Prize 5. This is the first time the prize has been awarded to two finalists. Fady Jameel, President of Art Jameel, presented Mehdi and Marina with the prize at an evening ceremony at the V&A on Wednesday 27 June.

Moutashar received the award for his bold work of minimalist abstraction rooted in Islamic geometry, and Tabassum for her visionary Bait ur Rouf mosque built in 2012 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Both winners’ achievement has been to produce work of outstanding quality and contemporary relevance while demonstrating a profound understanding of the cultures from which they come. The juries felt that although working in very different fields, the joint winners had both shown the same combination of lucidity and sophistication in drawing on Islamic tradition.

Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A and chair of judging panel, said: “This edition, selecting one winner proved extremely difficult, due to the very high standard of work in the exhibition. The joint Jameel Prize 5 winners are both in dialogue with contemporary global discourses on art and have produced exemplary work in two very different disciplines. They show an awareness of modernist practices of the 20th century, which have in turn drawn on traditions from around the world. At the same time, though, they are passionately rooted in and deeply learned about their own cultural legacies.”

Moutashar left Iraq in the late 1960s and settled in Paris, where he encountered forms of minimalism, including geometric abstraction. He has developed these ideas, integrating them with the Islamic traditions of his native land to create a powerful personal language that has depth, wit and urgency. The juries agreed that he should be considered among the greatest living exponents of a constructivist aesthetic.

Tabassum is an architect based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Bait ur Rouf mosque draws on medieval Islamic architecture and celebrates the building traditions of Bengal. The mosque is a wonder in its play with geometry, abstraction, light, air and water, making it both an animated and contemplative space. Its functions answer the needs of the local community, and it is a composition of local materials and contemporary techniques, responsive to both its environment and to history. The building positions Marina as a contemporary architect of great insight and imagination.

An exhibition of work by the winner and six other short-listed artists and designers runs until 25 November 2018 at the V&A. They are Kamrooz Aram, Hayv Kahraman, Hala Kaiksow, naqsh collective, Younes Rahmoun and Wardha Shabbir. In April 2019, the exhibition will tour to the forthcoming Jameel Arts Centre, located in Jaddaf, Dubai (opening November 11, 2018).

Awarded every two years, the Jameel Prize, founded in partnership with Art Jameel, is a £25,000 international art prize for contemporary artists and designers inspired by Islamic tradition.

The winner was decided by a panel of juries chaired by Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A. The juries are Salah Hassan, Professor and Director, Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University, New York; design historian Tanya Harrod; November Paynter who is Director of Programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Toronto; and the artist Ghulam Mohammad, who was winner of Jameel Prize 4.

The Jameel Prize was conceived after the renovation of the V&A’s Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, which opened in July 2006 to present the rich artistic heritage of the Islamic world. The prize aims to raise awareness of the thriving interaction between contemporary practice and this great historical heritage and to broaden understanding of Islamic culture and its place in the world.

The Jameel Prize 5 exhibition is curated by Tim Stanley, senior curator of the V&A’s great historical collection from the Islamic Middle East, with Salma Tuqan, the V&A’s Jameel curator.