Photo Courtesy of NYUAD Art Gallery

Christo Award Winner Unveiled at NYU Abu Dhabi

Haweia, a sculptural installation inspired by notions of identity, conceived and built by three Architecture students from the American University of Sharjah was revealed at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Drawing the attention of passersby and sparking conversation in online student forums, the Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award 2020 winner was revealed at NYU Abu Dhabi. The installation is located outside the NYUAD Institute A6 Building.
Haweia, “a sculptural installation inspired by notions of identity”, was conceived and built by three Architecture students from the American University of Sharjah. The installation was unveiled virtually through the NYUAD Art Gallery’s website with a timelapse video and 360 degree virtual views.
NYUAD collaborated with the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan for the eighth iteration of the Christo Award.
The Christo & Jeanne-Claude award was first introduced in 2012, to show Christo’s commitment to the arts scene in the United Arab Emirates. The award gives the winners $10,000 and access to the professional arts team at the NYUAD Art Gallery to produce their work. At the end of the exhibition, the artist is given $5,000 to continue their artistic endeavours.
This year’s award had special significance to all partners, as the pandemic has stifled art production around the world. The award partners and the winning artists collaborated throughout the year in new virtual ways.
“This 8th Christo Award will go down in history as the cliffhanger series par excellence. And yet, as we all had to in the pandemic, our winners found a way, and we along with them. The process reflects the core of our mission: to make possible learning by doing, and that includes us learning, by doing this in a new time signature, in a new virtual way of working and in a completely different kind of context for unveiling a work,” shared Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery and NYUAD Chief Curator, Maya Allison in the award brochure.
This sentiment was also shared by the Director of The Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award, Emily Doherty. “To their great credit, these unusual circumstances have not deterred them. They have shown their mettle by leaning into the challenges and continuing to work remotely, intensively and with the support of their chosen mentor, Jason Carlow.”
Haweia was created by Laura AlDhahi from Kuwait, Sara Mohamed from Egypt and Sahil Rattha Singh from India. All of them are current or graduated Architecture students at AUS. The installation is named after the Arabic word for identity and has “overlapping and consecutive curves that converge at an oculus, which accentuates a focused moment in time and space and is oriented to frame different perspectives of the sky.”
The three artists worked with their project team mentor, Jason Carlow, an Associate Professor at AUS. They established home studios and collaborated virtually through meetings with the NYUAD Art Gallery team.
“Being part of this team from the concept design to the final fabrication of the artwork has been a very rewarding experience for me. The team of artists proved their determination to the project in working remotely, across three different countries during the final development of the artwork. The award has given them a remarkable experience and has yielded a wonderful and thought provoking sculpture,” shared Carlow.
The team at the Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award were also personally touched this year by the loss of Christo, after whom the award was named. The loss of the revered artist shone a light on the principles of the award and the need to continue supporting the arts scene in the UAE.
“Christo sought to encourage a new generation of artists to find inspiration in creativity and bring joy to others, although it might be said that his true legacy was one of tenacity: in the pursuit of his vision, he never gave up — often over the the course of many years and in the face of profound opposition — and in the context of the past year, this will chime with many,” explained Emily Doherty.
Mari Velasquez-Soler is Senior News Editor. Email her at
gazelle logo