How Saudi women are planning to take charge of the local arts scene

A new program has been launched by the British Council to help develop contemporary art curators in Saudi Arabia

Nabila Pathan
Nabila Pathan - Special to Al Arabiya English
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A new program has been launched by the British Council to help develop contemporary art curators in Saudi Arabia, with six Saudi female participants set to take part in the six-month Contemporary Collective program starting this month.

They will acquire curatorial and practical management skills, such as planning events and reaching diverse audiences.

They will visit key art spaces in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to build useful networks and further the friendly exchange of knowledge and ideas between regional art scenes.


The UK leg of the program this month included visits to high-profile collections and galleries, and meeting curators and directors at Tate Britain, Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool.

The group has also visited the South London Gallery, Serpentine Gallery, and Damien Hirst’s new Newport Street Gallery.

Renowned art practitioners and experienced academics will support the students throughout the course, providing first-hand insights and practical advice to inspire and guide them.

They include Matilda Pye, programme manager at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Karen McKinnon, director of the Artes Mundi International Visual Arts Exhibition, and Ann Gallagher, director of British art collections at the Tate.


“We’re trying to absorb and process the knowledge gained with an extraordinary experience, seeing wonderful places and meeting amazing people who have made a difference,” Dalia Fatani, one of the six Saudi participants, told Al Arabiya English.

Fatani - who studied space design, product design and fine-art techniques at Canada’s Emily Carr University of Art & Design, and has since returned to Saudi Arabia - has been practicing as an artist-designer and independent arts manager in various contexts.

The program is helping her feel empowered “to develop a promising cultural future for the Saudi creative scene,” she said.

“We’ve sat down with different groups and met with internationally recognized artists, as well as emerging artists, gamers, musicians, writers and educators.

“We’ve been on a very special tour to the British parliament, which left us in awe of how significant and important the arts are to building a nation’s history.”

(Photo courtesy: British Council)
(Photo courtesy: British Council)

A key part of the tour will be to establish roles and responsibilities for an exhibition tour that the participants will curate in Riyadh and Jeddah in 2017.

They will have the British Council’s historic collection of more than 8,500 artworks at their disposal.

The program’s objective is “to establish Contemporary Collective as a professional group,” Rehana Mughal, Gulf arts partnership manager at the British Council, told Al Arabiya English.

“It’s also to develop research on different models of curatorial practice through engagement and discussion at visual art and culture institutions across London and Liverpool, and initiate discussion about the themes for the exhibitions in Riyadh and Jeddah in 2017.

“We’re very committed to supporting arts ecology in Saudi Arabia through capacity-building, and we’d like to run a similar program again.”

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