Palm is one in a series of drawings that Abbas Akhavan made in 2010 for an exhibition in Dubai, UAE. The framed drawings were hung across a thousand-square-foot wall that had a map of Dubai applied to it in faux gold leaf. During the exhibition, each day part of the gallery wall with the gold map was cut and sold according to sales. The framed drawings, however, which depicted a combination of nomadic and agricultural pre-oil economies such as sheep herding, pearl diving, and date farming, were kept in the gallery and taken down at end of the exhibition—a kind of reversal of migration patterns, a return of nomads and the departure of land, real-estate, and constructed islands that came about after the oil boom.
Abbas Akhavan’s practice ranges from site-specific ephemeral installations to drawing, video, sculpture, and performance. His research has been influenced by the specificity of the sites where he works: the architectures that house them, the economies that surround them, and the people that frequent them. The domestic sphere, divided between hospitality and hostility, has been an ongoing area of research. Recently, he has shifted focus to spaces and species just outside the home —the garden, backyard, and other domesticated landscapes.
He is recipient of the Kunstpreis Berlin (2012), the Abraaj Group Art Prize (2014), and the Sobey Art Award (2015). Recent residencies include the Foundation Marcelino Botin with Mona Hatoum (Spain), Le Printemps de Septembre (France), Trinity Square Video, Western Front, and Fogo Islands (Canada); the Watermill Center (USA), the Delfina Foundation (UAE and UK), and FLORA ars+natura (Colombia). Recent solo exhibitions include: the Darling Foundry (Montreal, 2012); the Delfina Foundation (London, UK, 2012), and Mercer Union (Toronto, 2015). His work has also been shown in group exhibitions at the Gwangju Biennale (South Korea, 2014), Beirut Art Centre (Lebanon, 2015), Villa Stuck (Munich, 2015), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, 2016).