art NYU Abu Dhabi The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award 2023
The winning submission, Shaheeq, is inspired by the UAE’s mangrove trees and their ability to inspire hope and practical solutions to the climate crisis.

Under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), in partnership with Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF), has announced the winners of the eleventh edition of The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award 2023.

The winning artists are NYUAD graduate Vivi Zhu, a Chinese-born award-winning documentary filmmaker, artist, and social entrepreneur whose interest lies in discovering and telling microcosmic stories that reflect bigger social-political pictures; University of Sharjah graduate Hala El Abora, a Palestinian Jordanian artist living and working in Dubai, whose practice is driven by her obsession with the concept of non-ephemerality, permanence, and the desperate need to preserve; and Majd Alloush, a Syrian artist who holds a BFA from the University of Sharjah, and whose work spans multiple disciplines including printmaking, sculpture, photography, moving image, installation, and performance.

Their submission, titled Shaheeq, borrows wisdom from the mangrove trees sprouting around the UAE landscape and hopes to inspire the viewer to acknowledge and maintain the solutions already activated in our environment, and to illuminate a positive philosophy towards ‘metaphysical grief’ caused by the climate crisis.

H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, said: “We are pleased to partner with NYU Abu Dhabi on the 11th edition of our Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, to empower the next generation of young visionary artists in the UAE realise their dreams and ambitions. In line with ADMAF’s mission to nurture creativity and innovation among the nation’s youth, the award provides a platform for rising talents to exhibit their work for the public to reflect upon and enjoy in the spirit of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s inspiring legacy. This year’s winning submission ‘Shaheeq’ by NYUAD graduate Vivi Zhu, University of Sharjah graduate Hala El Abora and current NYUAD graduate student Majd Alloush pays tribute to the UAE’s mangrove ecosystems while encouraging an appreciation for the natural solutions they offer in the face of growing climate concerns. As the UAE prepares to host COP28 later this year, the special project highlights ADMAF’s efforts to raise environmental awareness by addressing climate change through creative artistic expression.”

New York City, 2005. Christo and Jeanne-Claude at The Gates
Photo: Wolfgang Volz
© 2005 Christo

Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery and the University’s Chief Curator Maya Allison added: “Once again, I am humbled by the talent on display by young artists in the UAE, and in particular with the winning creation, Shaheeq. The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award was established to support the next generation of creative practitioners in the UAE, whose voices must be heard, and their stories told. And there is no story bigger for this generation than climate change and the need to imagine a more sustainable future. The winning artists’ use of the mangrove trees, and the forest ecosystem that supports them, brilliantly connects a symbol of natural harmony and renewal with the potential for sustainable living.

The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award Director Emily Doherty added: “The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award is eleven years old in 2023, making it one of the longest running art awards in the country and certainly unique in its championing of emerging artists in the region. Our winners this year – Majd, Vivi and Hala – now embark on an eight month production period, supported by both The NYUAD Gallery team and the artists’ mentor, Dale Hudson to realise their work. Shaheeq is a particularly exciting proposition for us, embodying the evolution of The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award towards the production of increasingly considered and mature work by participants dedicated to careers as professional artists. Our sincere congratulations to them.”

The winning team behind Shaheeq have already enjoyed recognition and exposure for their burgeoning creative careers. Zhu has exhibited at the Shanghai Biennale and in Dubai. El Abora’s work has been shown at exhibitions in the US, Canada, and Sharjah. Meanwhile, Alloush is currently pursuing his MFA in Art and Media at NYUAD.

The winners of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award 2023 have been awarded USD 10,000 to complete their installation with the guidance of experts including the Award’s Director Emily Doherty, The NYUAD Art Gallery team, NYUAD’s faculty, and the award team at ADMAF. 

Vivi, Hala, and Majd demonstrate how students and artists are leading discussions on how local and place-based knowledge are urgently needed as alternatives to disinformation that has circulated globally for decades. Everyday usage of « climate change», a term engineered by Frank Luntz to discredit global warming, indicates the severity of the crisis. Luntz may want to retract the term today, but the damage has already been done. Art like the winning proposal for the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award can communicate how sustainability policies are insufficient as a response when the consequences of human activity have long been recognized as irreversible and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, so we have a special responsibility at NYUAD and in UAE. There are other ways of thinking and being, and Shaheeq will help orient humans to as much.

NYUAD Associate Teaching Professor of Film and New Media and the students’ mentor, Dale Hudson

Allison added: “As an institution, we are proud to present sustainability-related work through art, such as this installation and The Art Gallery’s ongoing exhibition, the only constant, which explores the future of landscape in art. This reflects our passion for speaking about the environment and is in line with NYUAD’s MoU with COP28 to cultivate cooperation on youth engagement and public awareness for climate action. Against this backdrop, Shaheeq speaks to the concerns of young people for our planet, rooted in the soil and imagination of this region and its people.” Produced annually since 2013, in collaboration with The NYUAD Art Gallery, The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award serves as a launch pad for artists across the Emirates, encouraging new artwork and offering winners insight into professional life as an artist, from commission to exhibition. The program is open to UAE-based students and recent graduates.

About The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Established in 2014, The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery is the Gulf’s first and only university gallery with a program of scholarly and experimental museum exhibitions. The program seeks to map new territories and ideas through presenting exhibitions by internationally established artists, curators, and scholars at its main space. Its auxiliary venue, the Project Space, is an exhibition laboratory for the university community, and for emerging artists and curators. Situated within NYU Abu Dhabi, the community of which hails from over 115 countries, The Art Gallery organizes free public programs and guided tours in conjunction with its groundbreaking exhibitions. It also produces scholarly publications, which are a core part of its curatorial frame and reflect its academic mission. Collectively, with the Gallery’s Reading Room, these welcoming, intimate spaces open up artistic opportunities and initiate regional and international dialogue.

For more information please visit

About NYU Abu Dhabi 

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective program with majors in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, arts, and humanities with a world center for advanced research. Its campus enables students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world, and to advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from some 125 countries and speak over 100 languages. Together, NYU’s campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents. 

About Christo and Jeanne-Claude

For half a century, internationally acclaimed artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude created highly celebrated works of art around the world. Together, they changed the concept of “public art” by creating temporary works that were truly transitory by design. Jeanne-Claude passed away in November 2009, and Christo sadly died on May 31, 2020.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude never accepted any subsidies, royalties, grants, or sponsorships. They funded all of their temporary public works, and the artists’ income was derived from the sale of original works of art by Christo to museums, galleries, and private collectors. For more information, visit

Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation

Founded in 1996, ADMAF is one of the oldest, not-for-profit cultural organisations in the Arabian Gulf. Pioneering new artistic practices, it seeks to deepen global cross-cultural dialogue and inspire a renewed interest in the creativity of the UAE and Arab world. Often in partnership with leading national and international institutions, it delivers multidisciplinary initiatives for people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities through the Abu Dhabi Festival, year-round youth platforms and community programmes.

For more information, please visit