New art exhibition opens in Saudi Arabia

The theme of the exhibition was “Fast Forward”, which aimed to take visitors on a historical journey

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The second “21,39” arts exhibition was inaugurated in Jeddah by the city’s governor, Prince Mishal Bin Majed, at the Gold Moor Mall in the Shatie District.

The theme of the exhibition was “Fast Forward”, which aimed to take visitors on a historical journey showcasing the Saudi art scene’s progression since the 1960s.


21,39 encompasses a three-month unique program that brings together patrons of the arts, budding young art talents and Saudi artists.

Launched by the Saudi Art Council, 21,39 is a non-profit initiative that aims to foster cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through art by providing an open platform for artists to express themselves and offering national and international accessibility to the Saudi art and cultural scene.

In his statement during the event, Prince Mishal said he was “proud” to find all this art gathered in one exhibition that was shining the spotlight on the innovation of Saudi contemporary artists.

This exhibition provides added value through workshops, providing a positive impact for art professionals and those interested in the field, he said.

Prince Mishal also thanked those who worked on and sponsored the exhibition.

In an interview with Saudi Gazette, Mohammed Hafiz, vice-chairman of the Saudi Art Council that organized the event, said: “The exhibition is the second edition of 21,39, and the theme of the exhibition is to revisit the most important effective historical points in Saudi contemporary art history.

“When you go through the exhibition, you see the focus on these incidents and timelines and how they shaped the Saudi art scene to what it is today. “Our target this year is to show the visitors how and where Saudi contemporary art started.”

Zeinab Abu Alsamh, director of the Saudi Art Council, said following a successful early 2014 launch, 21,39 is dedicated to preserving and presenting arts in Saudi Arabia.

She said: “The second edition showcased a curated program of culture, talks and exhibitions that we aim to share with the global audience, creating an accessible experience for decision makers, cultural enthusiasts, media and the art world and highlighting the realities and talent of art in the Kingdom.”

This year’s main exhibition is curated by Bashar Al-Shroogi and is regarded as the first exhibition of its kind in Saudi art.

The event attempts to compile a historical record of the development of the visual arts ecosystem in Saudi Arabia and will present initial non?exhaustive research findings into the development of artists, art professionals, collections, foundations, public art and other factors that contributed to building the art movement and extending its reach.

A main feature of the 21,39 program is a symposium being held Saturday that will include talks and panels discussions covering the theme “Saudi Art: Local vs. Regional”.

The symposium will feature key cultural figures, including Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s minister of culture; Nada Shabout, professor of art history and director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute; Salwa Mikdadi, associate professor of art history, New York University Abu Dhabi; and Saudi artists Mohammed Al-Rusayes, Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, Abdelaziz Ashour and Ibrahim Abu Musmar.

21,39 takes the dialogue of the arts to avant-garde proportions with the exhibition “Inner Voices”, taking place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Jeddah’s Al-Ammariya District on Saturday.

Set in the semi outdoor space of an abandoned hangar in the historic district of Balad, the show features real examples of Saudi street art.

Organized by Aya Alireza, Raneem Farsi and Basma Felemban along with exhibition adviser Hamza Seraifi, this exhibition gives a close-up glimpse of the uninhibited outpourings of a generation that can only find expression on the streets.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Jan 23, 2014.

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