Saudi Arabia’s Art World Has Long Been an Outlier. With Its First-Ever Homegrown Biennial, It’s Looking to Usher in a New Chapter

December 15, 2021

The exhibition, curated by Philip Tinari, is hoping to build a bridge between the Kingdom and the wider art world.

A sense of urgent transformation can be felt in the Middle Eastern nation, which was culturally insulated from the world until Prince Mohammed Bin Salman laid out Vision 2030’s social and economic reforms five years ago. Through its cultural endeavors, the newly formed ministry of culture has been articulating a position focused on enriching local cultural contexts while participating in the global art discourse.


Saudi Arabia's cultural scene is in a moment of decisive shift

December 14, 2021 - THE ART NEWSPAPER by Melissa Gronlund

“The best thing about the biennial is for the local artists to get a better understanding and sense of international artists who are working at a high standard,” says the Jeddah artist Dana Awartani, whose re-creation of the destroyed floor of the Great Mosque of Aleppo was a standout of the biennial. “A lot of artists here are used to producing and selling at galleries or art fairs. We’ve not had a not-for-profit space, besides the Saudi Art Council. For me, the biennial is mostly educational—we need the whole infrastructure of education, from schools to universities, to spaces like Hayy that will give you stimulating workshops and talks and programming.”


BIENALSUR, A Far-Reaching Platform For Art And Culture, Lands in Jeddah For The First Time

December 12, 2021 - Roula Allam for About Her

A historic site and stunning works by Saudi artists like Muhannad Shono, as well as international ones, makes the event that erases distances and borders and upholds uniqueness in diversity a must-visit. 

Following its success in Riyadh, the Jeddah edition of BIENALSUR 2021, the International Biennial of Contemporary Art of the South, is underway at the historic site of Qasr Khuzam (Khuzam Palace). And as the travelling art biennale is being held in the port city for the first time, the must-see highlights naturally include the works by Saudi artists, including a new piece by Muhannad Shono. In all 20 artists from 11 countries are participating in the event titled “Echoes: A World between the analogue and the virtual,” which will run until December 30.


Saudi Arabia's Desert X AlUla announces details for 2022 event themed 'Sarab'

December 8, 2021 - Alexandra Chaves

According to Sumantro Ghose, artistic programming director for the Royal Commission for AlUla, the site will also welcome a new contemporary art gallery named Perspective, which will showcase works by artists from the kingdom.

Taking place alongside Desert X AlUla will also be an exhibition curated by Lulwah Al Homoud, What Lies Within: Works from the Basma Al Sulaiman Collection. The show will be the first in a series of presentations that focus on collections and patrons from the kingdom.

In the case of What Lies Within, the collection of Saudi art patron Basma Al Sulaiman includes works by Saudi Arabia's most established artists from the past two decades, including AlDowayan, Shadia Alem, Ahmed Mater, Maha Malluh, Mohammed Al Ghamdi, Abdulnasser Gharem, Dana Awartani and Adel Al Quraishi, among others.



Dana Awartani On Preserving Cultural Identity, Tradition and Championing Female Empowerment Through Art

December 8, 2021 - BY Ayesha S. Shehmir for Harper's BAZAAR Arabia

A multicultural woman of the world, the Arab artist is resuscitating the teachings of her ancestry while tirelessly fighting to keep ancient crafts alive – leading a wave of female pioneers who will make history in Saudi Arabia

“Saudi is thriving,” beams artist Dana Awartani, who, whilst born and raised in Jeddah, has found a home in many places. With Islamic, Indian, Palestinian, Jordanian and even Andalusian influences in her art, Dana’s identity is graced by several cultures. Her geometric work is rooted in her Arab heritage, taking form through parquetry, manuscript illumination, ceramics and embroidery. “I see a lot of artists who are from the Middle East and they go and study abroad,” she says. “Their work is very Eurocentric, it’s very focused on an American or European aesthetic – but I’m trying to find my own language.”


Young Saudi Artists exhibition presents contemporary calligraphy works

December 3, 2021 - Ameera Abid for Arab News

The seventh edition of Athr Gallery’s Young Saudi Artists exhibition includes masterpieces by young artists and calligraphers showcasing the wonders of the written form.

The current edition is called “Contemporary Calligraphy” and was curated by Dr. Rawaa Bakhsh. The exhibition falls during the Saudi Ministry of Culture’s Year of Arabic Calligraphy. “We thought it would be appropriate to join the celebration,” Bakhsh told Arab News.


At Jeddah’s Qasr Khuzam, Argentina art event BIENALSUR enthralls with sight, sound and shadow

December 3, 2021 - Arab News by Saleh Fareed

BIENALSUR 2021, the second edition of the cultural event of contemporary art from Argentina to the world, arrived in Jeddah, and residents are in for a breathtaking cultural experience.

The exhibition “recovering stories, recovering fantasies” occupied most parts of the restored Jeddah Regional Museum architecture building — considered one of the best museums in Jeddah — with works by Saudi artists Ahaad Al-Amoudi, Lina Gazzaz, Felwa Nazer, Muhannad Shono, and Daniah Alsaleh.


Sabeel Fountains: a creative collection of drinking spouts at Expo 2020 Dubai

November 5, 2021 - Farah Andrews for The National News

“Through these beautiful and innovatively designed drinking fountains, we invite visitors to take a moment to pause as they quench their thirst and consider their own connection to this most precious resource,” says Marjan Faraidooni, chief experience officer at Expo 2020 Dubai.

A collaboration between Expo 2020 and Art Jameel, the initiative began in September 2019, with the Sabeel 2020 open call. The design contest received more than 100 proposals and was overseen by an internationally renowned jury, who selected and awarded two design collaboratives – UAE creative studio Architecture + Other Things and design team Faissal El-Malak and Alia Bin Omair. The designers created Water in the Green and Nahel, respectively, collectively known as Signature Fountains.



History is made in Giza: Contemporary art in dialogue with Egyptian pyramids

October 30, 2021 - Rebecca Anne Proctor for Arab News

Giza’s pyramids were given new life earlier this week when the multidisciplinary arts entity Art D’Egypte opened “Forever is Now” on Oct. 21. The title of the exhibition, which will run until Nov. 7, is apt considering the pyramids’ history and, now, their new role in the first-ever contemporary art exhibition staged amidst their stately presence in 4,500 years. The exhibition, curated by independent arts advisor Simon Watson, features works by 10 contemporary artists, including Sultan bin Fahad, Alexander Ponomarev, Gisela Colon, Joao Trevisan, Lorenzo Quinn, JR, Moataz Nasr, Sherin Guirguis, Shuster + Moseley and Stephen Cox.

In Saudi artist Fahad’s “R III” (2021), a maze of stacked white cubes presents hieroglyphic inscriptions belonging to King Ramses III. The inscriptions were discovered by Saudi archaeologists in the northern part of the Kingdom. Fahad’s cubes, framed by the powerful forms of the nearby pyramids, shimmer when seen under the moonlight. The work investigates the historic roots between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.


Diriyah Biennale Announces Artists for First Saudi Art Biennial

October 14, 2021 - Sam Gaskin for Ocula

Curated by UCCA's Philip Tinari, the biennial features a strong contingent of Chinese artists including Xu Bing, Zhang Peili, and Nabuqi.

 Simon Denny, Sarah Morris, and Lawrence Lek are among the international artists who will show at the biennale from 11 December 2021 till 11 March 2022. It will take place in Diriyah's JAX district, which comprises over 100 refurbished warehouses not far from Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh.

Of the event's 63 artists, 26 come from Saudi Arabia, including Maha Malluh, Manal AlDowayan, Ahmed Mater, and Sarah Abu Abdallah.