Middle East and North Africa Art Prize

The Sovereign Middle East and North Africa Art Prize (MENA Prize) aims to benefit mid-career artists by increasing their international profile and by providing income for short-listed finalists, while also raising funds for START; a non-profit organisation running art therapy-based workshops for refugees and children with special needs across the MENA region.

In the inaugural art prize of its kind in Dubai, the MENA Prize is inviting mid-career contemporary artists to submit up to three entries for the chance to become a Top 30 Finalist. The 2016 Finalists Exhibition in 2016 will then be held at one of the newest and boldest event venues in downtown Dubai - The Annex, Burj Khalifa. The 2016 MENA Prize will culminate in a grand gala dinner in Dubai, where finalists’ works will be showcased and auctioned off to a large audience of art patrons, collectors and charity supporters. The artists will receive 40% of funds raised with the remaining 60% going to charity. The first prize winner becomes the recipient of US$30,000.


Artists are nominated for entry into the prize by world-class art professionals, curators and critics, as opposed to an open entry, with the highest scored artists becoming our top 30 finalists. Each artist can enter up to three images, though only one piece can be chosen to represent the artist in the finals. Judges view the pieces, both online and in person at the Finalists Exhibition before scoring. The piece with the highest score is declared the winner and the remaining 29 pieces are auctioned for charity with 60% of the money raised going to START,  and the rest to The Sovereign Art Foundation for its charitable projects.

To read the terms and conditions of the prize please click here  

Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal

Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, developer of Alserkal Avenue and patron of the arts

Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal was born and raised in Dubai. After graduating from university in the United States, he began his career in real estate and development in the UAE. A patron of the arts. He is the driving force behind Alserkal Avenue, which today houses some of the region’s most prominent contemporary art spaces. Looking to extend the reach and cultural impact of Alserkal Avenue, Abdelmonem initiated the Alserkal Avenue expansion, which was launched in early 2015. In addition to more gallery space, the expansion is home to salient features such as a black box theatre, independent cinema and outdoor performance venue, affirming Alserkal Avenue’s presence as an arts and culture hub of international standing. Abdelmonem and the Alserkal family have long been supporters of the arts and have been awarded the Patron of the Arts award twice, in 2012 and 2013, by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Abdelmonem is also a member of the Tate MENAAC Committee.

Tim Marlow

Tim Marlow, Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Arts

Tim Marlow joined the Royal Academy of Arts in 2014 as Artistic Director. His remit includes the RA’s exhibition programme and Collection, as well Learning, Architecture and Publishing. Prior to this Marlow was Director of Exhibitions at White Cube (2003-2014). He has worked with many of the most important and influential artists of our time including, Antony Gormley RA, Damien Hirst, Ai Weiwei Hon RA, Gary Hume RA, Anselm Kiefer Hon RA, Chuck Close, Tracey Emin RA, Gilbert & George, Julie Mehretu and Doris Salcedo. Marlow is an award-winning radio and television broadcaster who has presented over 100 documentaries on British television. He was the founder editor of Tate magazine and is the author of numerous books and catalogues. He has lectured, chaired and participated in panel discussions on art and culture in more than forty countries.

Fatima Maleki

Fatima Maleki, Iranian-born art collector

London-based Persian collector Fatima Maleki, as an ambassador's daughter, has lived and studied in many different countries. Her passion for collecting was inherited from her grandparents, who collected Persian manuscripts, and her parents who had a significant collection of old masters and antiques.Fatima began collecting contemporary art alongside her husband, an interest ignited by their cousin Kamran Diba, who not only built the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, but was responsible for the acquisition of a large number of its treasures.
Having studied art at the Royal Academy in 1994, Fatima completed an Arts course at Christies in 1995, which was followed by a Masters in Post War and Contemporary Art at Sothebys, 1996. The Maleki collection was established twenty five years ago. It is an extended yet focused collection of international contemporary art comprising of a substantial number of works by leading international artists. In the course of its timeframe, the Malekis have amassed a significant number of Arte Povera works, and have been early champions of post-conceptual art with a particular emphasis on sculpture and painting. In her own words, Fatima " sees a collection as a whole story, or rather as a sum total of stories, made up of discoveries, encounters, personal caprices, pleasures shared or yet to be shared..."
Fatima is an ardent supporter of over thirty art institutions and has fostered and promoted contemporary art globally.


David Elliot – Writer And Curator, Chairman Of Triangle Network || United Kingdom

David Elliott is a curator, writer, broadcaster and museum director primarily concerned with modern and contemporary art. Elliott was Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, England from 1976-96, Director of Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden from 1996-2001, the founding Director of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan from 2001-06 and in 2007, the first Director of Istanbul Modern, Turkey. From 1998-2004, he was President of ClMAM (the International Committee of ICOM for Museums and Collections of Modern Art) and in 2008, he was the Rudolf Arnheim Guest Professor of Art History at Humboldt University, Berlin. Since 2010 he has been Chairman of the Board of the Triangle Network at Gasworks in London


Simon Njami – Writer, Independent Curator, Lecturer, Art Critic & Essayist.

Simon Njami (born in 1962 in Lausanne) published his first novel “Cercueil et Cie” in 1985, followed by “Les Enfants de la Cité” in 1987, “Les Clandestins” and “African Gigolo” in 1989, notably. He wrote two biographies, about James Baldwin and Léopold Sédar Senghor. Njami is the co-founder of Revue Noire, a journal of contemporary African and extra-occidental art, and he was Visiting Professor at UCSD (University of San Diego California). After conceiving the Ethnicolor Festival in Paris in 1987, he curated many international exhibitions being among the first ones to show African contemporary artists work on international stages. He has served as Artistic Director of Bamako Encounters, the African Photography Biennale, from 2001 to 2007. Njami is the curator of “Africa Remix”, showed in Düsseldorf (Museum Kunst Palast), London (Hayward Gallery), Paris (Centre Pompidou), Tokyo (Mori Museum), Stockholm (Moderna Museet) and Johannesburg (Johannesburg Art Gallery), from 2004 to 2007. He co-curated the first African Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale. He curated the first African Art Fair, held in Johannesburg in 2008, and was the Artistic Director of Luanda Tri ennale (2010), Picha (Lumumbashi Biennale – 2010), SUD (Douala Triennale – 2010), among others exhibitions and international art events. The exhibition “The Divine Comedy – Heaven, Hell, Purgatory by Contemporary African Artists” was shown at MMK, The SCAD Museum of Art and at Smithsonian Institution/ African Art Museum, Washington, from 2014 to 2015.

He recently curated the Walther Collection at Maison Rouge (Paris), end of 2015, beginning of 2016 and Monograph of the South African Photographer Santu Mofokeng at Fondazione Fotografia, Modena, Italy. He is the Artistic Director of the 12th Dakar Biennale (May 2016).

On the page, you will find a list of the art professionals from the Middle East and North Africa region who are kindly supporting the art prize by nominating artists whom they believe deserve to represent their respective countries. Please note that this list will be updated on a daily basis so in the case where a nominator from your country or region is not listed, please revisit the site and check for updates at a later date.

Name Country
H.E Omar Ghobash United Arab Emirates
Mary Rozell Regional
Giuseppe Moscatello United Arab Emirates
Jack Persekian Israel
Ramin Salsali United Arab Emirates
Maayan Sheleff Israel
Sheikha Lulu al-Sabah Kuwait
Christine Tohme Lebanon
Nora Razian Lebanon
Alia Al-Senussi United Arab Emirates
Dr. Hasan Bulent Kahraman Turkey
Dr. Dalia Said Mostafa Egypt
Georgia Griffiths Regional
Dyala Nusseibeh Turkey
Professor Salah Hassan  Regional
Dr. Shiva Balaghi  Regional
Salwa Mikdadi United Arab Emirates
Laura Egerton United Arab Emirates
Saleh Barakat  Regional
Leila Maleki  Regional
Stephen McCoubrey Regional
Shouq Al-Alawi Kingdom of Bahrain
Myrna Ayad United Arab Emirates
Henriette Gunkel Regional
N'Gone Fall Regional

Deadline for entries: June 16, 2016 Exhibition dates: From October 9, 2016 Gala Dinner: October 19, 2016

Thank you to our 2016 Sovereign Middle East and North Africa Art Prize sponsors!