Daniele Perra_ Artribune / July 14, 2019

Reportage dall’Arabia Saudita: il regno che verrà (Report from Saudi Arabia: the kingdom to come)

It is in Riyadh that the artist  Sultan bin Fahad  (Riyad, 1971) - a member of the royal family and one of the most active and enthusiastic promoters and initiators of the change - installed a monumental exhibition divided into seven chapters, curated by Reem Fadda, in the evocative spaces and  délabré  of the Red Palace. Center of power and magnificence, the Palace, completed in 1944 - the first building in the capital to be built with concrete and iron-steel - was the residence of the then Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz, later the office of the Saudi Ministers Council and until 1987 the Palace of complaints. It has been closed and abandoned for twenty years and after the exhibition it will be converted into a hotel.
The artist has long been fascinated by the palace and his exhibition, through installations, videos and photographs, talks about the events that took place there - from the power meetings behind the scenes to the work of the many attendants who worked there - over the years and the history of the country. Family history.  "On the evening of the opening to the public,  " he says, "  I met a lady in her nineties who told me that she lived in the Palace. Walking with his grandchildren he recognized the various rooms. He began to cry, seized by nostalgia and the many memories of his days spent in the Palace ”

Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / June 19, 2019

WEHE Collective Design Exhibition Launches At Jeddah-based Athr Gallery Until July

A reflection on heritage, the WEHE Collective Design exhibition in Jeddah’s Athr Gallery highlights the duality of the past and present

Curated by Montreal-born architect Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte in collaboration with Fonderia Artistica Battaglia and Carwan Gallery, the  WEHE Collective Design  exhibition launched in  Athr Gallery , Jeddah on 18 May 2019, has brought together various renowned architects, designers and artists specialising in Middle Eastern design, including Omar Chakil, Karen Chekerdijian, Ghaith&Jad, Rasha Nawam, Mary-Lynn Massoud, Carlo Massoud and Anastasia Nysten. Aptly named, the word Wehe stems from the ancient  Egyptian  word meaning ‘dwelling place’.
Inspired by sociological and anthropological observations of the urban oasis of Siwa in Egypt, the exhibition explores the relationship between primordiality and the geographical context of the Middle Eastern  desert . “I am always fascinated by how local Berber populations managed to adapt tradition with modern lifestyle,” says curator Bellavance-Lecompte. The inspiration behind the exhibition was, as Bellavance-Lecompte says,  “to redefine an identity in relation with the region and somehow with materials and techniques that are indigenous. At the same time, I wanted to push the boundaries of their use so we’re able to revisit our perception of these objects.”

Rawaa Talass_ Arab News / May 22, 2019

Zahrah Al-Ghamdi finds the beauty in sadness

This month saw perhaps the most significant accomplishment of Al-Ghamdi’s career to date. The artist was chosen to inaugurate Saudi Arabia’s pavilion at the 2019 edition of the Venice Biennale —the art world’s largest public event and oldest contemporary art show — through an immersive solo exhibition entitled “After Illusion.”
Al-Ghamdi was jointly selected to represent the Kingdom by the recently developed Saudi Ministry of Culture and the Misk Art Institute, a homegrown arts foundation that aims to strengthen artistic activity within the Kingdom.  “To be honest, when I used to read about the Venice Biennale and its unique concept, I felt so far away from that world — it was like a dream,” Al Ghamdi tells Arab News. “In recent years, I’ve worked really hard and always hoped to achieve more through each work I would present. So when I received the call from the Misk Art Institute to participate at the biennale, it was like a dream I never thought I’d dream. I was elated but simultaneously felt a great deal of responsibility, as I am not representing (just) myself, but my country and all its artists.”  
Through her debut participation at the biennale, which is open to the public until November 24, Al-Ghamdi joins a canon of female artists putting on solo exhibitions and taking the lead in representing their countries to the world, including Larissa Sansour for Denmark, Laure Prouvost for France, Cathy Wilkes for Great Britain, Nujoom Al-Ghanem for the UAE and Naiza Khan for Pakistan.

Mark Westall / March 19, 2019

SHUBBAK: A window on contemporary Arab culture

Visual arts For 2019 Shubbak has commissioned a number of mobile installations for different locations across London. Aicha El Beloui is a Casablanca-based illustrator, graphic designer, and creative director who regularly works with communities to discover a neighbourhood and to filter her observations into maps and illustrations. The history and psychogeography of Moroccan immigration in London will be the focus of her work for Shubbak; drawing from the material gathered in North Kensington and the British Library’s archives, El Beloui will create one of her distinctive maps, which will be available in paper formats, digitally and as an installation, travelling to different sites across the city. In partnership with the Bagri Foundation.
Bricklab, the designers of the first Saudi pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale create a new pop-up sculpture especially for Shubbak. 22 brightly coloured units equalling in number the 22 states of the Arab League are arranged in different constellations to offer new viewpoints of geographies, nations and the power to imagine other realities. No unit can stand on its own, but has to be grafted onto others. Geographical Child’s Play conjures up poignant and surprising alignments and dependencies. Established in Jeddah in 2015 Bricklab quickly established itself as one of the most dynamic current design practices in Saudi Arabia.
Shubbak  is the UK’s premier festival of contemporary Arab culture, presenting outstanding Arab artists to audiences in London and across England. Shubbak’s programme includes UK premieres and new commissions from over 150 artists based in the Arab region, in Europe and in the UK, with both cutting-edge and celebrated names, through a mix of visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature and debates. Led by Eckhard Thiemann, artistic director, and Daniel Gorman, executive director, Shubbak 2019 is the 5th edition of this biennial festival. Shubbak 2019 principal partners are Arts Council England, A. M. Qattan Foundation, Bagri Foundation and British Council. Shubbak is a registered charity number 1150374.

Melissa Gronlund / May 18, 2018

Meet the Saudi architects making their debut at the Venice architecture biennale

Saudi Arabia is participating in the Venice architecture biennale for the first time, in a pavilion commissioned by the Misk Art Institute, the foundation set up by Crown Prince Moham­med bin Salman and run by Ahmed Mater.
The pavilion is made up of six spaces designed by the young Jeddah-based architects Abdulrahman and Turki Gazzaz, brothers who collaborate as the studio Bricklab. They present “an introduction to the major urban centres in Saudi Arabia and how the oil boom has affected their growth”, says Abdulrahman Gazzaz, the elder of the two. “Jeddah, as the port city, with its long history as the gateway to the holy cities; Makkah, as the religious capital; Riyadh, as the government capital; and Damman, as the centre of the oil industry.”
Right now, he continues, “a lot of changes are happening. We have this space in between what it was and what it is and what is becoming. It’s a fascinating point in the history of Saudi Arabia.”
'In Saudi, there is a stronger sense of community'
The title for the pavilion,  Spaces in Between , looks not only at changes to the kingdom, but also at the fact that Saudi cities are a patchwork of spaces. Because urbanisation in Saudi Arabia was spurred on by the oil boom, its cities are characterised by sprawl, built with cars in mind rather than the slow pace of foot traffic.
“The combination of sand and resin reflects two primordial conditions of Saudi Arabia as a nation: its oil economy and its desert landscape,” Turki explains. “Even though there’s a lot of diversity around the kingdom in terms of natural environments and climates, the desert comes to the foreground when one recalls the Gulf or Saudi Arabia in particular.”

Jyoti Kalsi / September 13, 2017

Cultural connection: An exhibition examines the parallels between spiritual and urban cultures in Saudi Arabia and Utah

The exhibition, curated by Jared Steffensen of UMOCA, features works by established and emerging Saudi artists such as Abdullah AlOthman, Abdulnasser Gharem, Ahmed Mater, Arwa Alneami, Nugamshi, Dana Awartani, Ghada Al Rabea, Khalid Bin Afif, Khalid Zahid, Lina Gazzaz, Moath Alofi, Musaed Al Hulis, Nasser Al Salem, Nouf Alhimiary, Qamar Abdulmalik, Rashed Al Shashai, Telfaz11, Yusef Alahmad and Balqis AlRashed, who is the first international artist to do a residency at UMOCA.
“This exhibition examines the parallels between spiritual and urban cultures in Saudi Arabia and Utah, especially the symbolism of creativity that connects cities of pilgrimage in both places. Since the 7th Century, the holy cities of Makkah and Medina have drawn millions of Muslim pilgrims every year to worship at the holiest sites in Islam. Salt Lake City was established nearly a thousand years later by Mormon pioneers in search of a safe haven for their newly established religion. Members of the Church of Latter Day Saints also make a twice-annual pilgrimage of the faithful to the General Conference at Temple Square — the spiritual centre of the Mormon faith,” Steffensen says.

“The artists featured in this show are engaged in looking at the struggles and transformations of their society and delving into complex issues that link Utah and Saudi Arabia, such as oil, pilgrimage and tension surrounding commercial development around important cultural and religious heritage sites.