The prize is awarded annually to five artists from the Middle East and North Africa on the basis of proposals for new artworks. Those artworks then become permanent additions to the Abraaj Group Art Collection following their unveiling at the subsequent edition of Art Dubai. (This coming year, Art Dubai takes place March 19 to 22.)
Born in Tehran in 1977, Akhavan moved to Canada with his family in the late 1980s. In 2004, he earned his BFA at Concordia University and in 2006 he received an MFA from the University of British Columbia.
In the past few years, Akhavan has become known for works that address violence, family lineage, and spaces near the home. For instance, his Makeshift Objects series consists of objects from his home made into replicas of shivs. His work Islands consisted of a map of Dubai created in gold leaf on a wall at the Third Line gallery in Dubai.
Besides Akhavan, the other 2014 winners include Anup Mathew Thomas, Basim Magdy, Bouchra Khalili and Kamrooz Aram. Recent winners of the prize include Wael Shawky, Iman Issa and Rayyanne Tabet.
According to a release, the winning artists will now start working closely with the selected guest curator for 2014, Nada Raza, on their new pieces for Art Dubai.
The selection committee for the prize this year included Antonia Carver, director, Art Dubai; Dana Farouki, patron; Salwa Mikdadi, art historian and curator; Jessica Morgan, curator, international art, Tate; Glenn Lowry, director, the Museum of Modern Art; and Murtaza Vali, guest curator of the 2013 prize.