If Facebook is the ultimate test of popularity then the most famous art gallery on the planet is not located in New York, Paris or London, reported CNN on Thursday.
With over one million likes, the honor instead goes to a small gallery in Amsterdam dedicated solely to Saudi contemporary art.
The Greenbox Museum, which measures a meager 750 square feet, has notched up more social media attention, in the form of Facebook approval, than the likes of the Tate, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Louvre.
Paris’ the Louvre has notched up 923, 186 likes, as of Thursday, London’s the Tate has 561, 370, while the Greenbox Museum has a staggering 1, 082, 484 likes.
“A lot of the fans are basically young Muslims that perceive Saudi as a country relevant to their culture, because of the historical and ritual position of Mecca,” said the museum’s founder Aarnout Helb, in an interview with CNN.
Helb started collecting Saudi art in 2008, he worries about the effects of commercialization on the local art industry.
“You have censorship [of Saudi art] in London. Not a little, but a lot.
“Galleries want to make things glossier for the art market, so it sells and fits in your house and is interesting, and Saudi artists lose the spontaneity of their voices. They turn artists into race horses,” he said.
A rising art scene
Saudi art is gaining global popularity, according to CNN.
Michael Jeha, the managing director of Christie’s Middle East, says that much of the demand is coming from Europe and America.
Saudi’s art scene is picking up, says Soraya Darwish, co-founder of the country’s first art guide (appropriately titled “Saudi Art Guide”).
“In Jeddah and Riyadh, there are more galleries opening - maybe one or two a year. It’s kind of a trend, where someone sees the market potential and opens up a gallery.”