The winners of the 2015 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award took inspiration for their winning artwork from the abaya.
The design – by Salwa Al Khudairi and Nada Al Mulla, architecture students at the American University of Sharjah – is a wall that curves in many directions. Titled Keswa, an old Arabic word meaning cloth or covering, the steel wall represents a shelter in a public place.
Entrants were asked to take inspiration from the work of the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, best known for wrapping up and covering prominent buildings and structures such as the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris.
"We didn't want to mimic the abaya, we wanted to emulate it,” says Al Mulla.
"From the outside it is plain and smooth and from the inside you can see the structure or the ribs – you can see the characteristics,” says Al Khudairi.
Standing six-metres tall at its highest point and three metres in length, the wall will be made of mild steel and people will be able to walk underneath and sit and lean on it.
The piece will be built and displayed at the New York University Abu Dhabi campus in March and Christo will be there to present the award to the winners.
Al Mulla and Al Khudairi, who are from Saudi Arabia, say they hope to make a cultural point as well as an architectural statement with Keswa.
"When people see women who wear the abaya from the outside, they see a vague picture,” says Al Khudairi. "They think we are all the same and don't have our own minds. We just wanted to show that on the inside we are complex, with our own personalities and characteristics, just like this installation.”
The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, organised in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation and New York University Abu Dhabi, aims to give young artists a platform to launch a career in the arts, and the experience of working on a live project with the support of industry professionals.
• The winning work will be unveiled at NYAD in March during the Abu Dhabi Festival, and then tour the country.
Source: The National