Thursday, 6 June 2013

25 Years of Arab Creativity.

So, yesterday I went to Naila Art Gallery on Takhasussi St to view the exhibition '25 Years of Arab Creativity' celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Institut du Monde Arabe, which basically translates as Museum of the Arab World.

It had some nice pieces that stimulated a bit of discussion among my friends.
The question that generated the most debate though was 'How come the sudden turn around with art in Saudi?'  We never settled on a answer.

When I arrived three and half years ago there were no art shops to be found in Riyadh. I was told that 'Only God creates, therefore no-one else can'.  Ok.  If that's what the ruling body thought, I wasn't gonna argue.  Though I found it strange that a Saudi woman I was teaching English too at the time had studied art at university and, when I asked, was more than happy to show me a few of her pieces she had stacked in her spare bedroom.  I wondered how you could teach art in university and yet ban it at the same time?  Then I wondered how many closet artists there were in Saudi Arabia!  Apparently, there were quite a few.

This 2012 article from The Guardian, "Contemporary Saudi Artists Break Down Old 'Safety' Barriers", gives an idea of what Saudi artists have been up against in the recent past.

Then slowly but surely, with the usual lack of announcement by the hierarchy to a change of heart, art started to make a public appearance through some very controlled art exhibitions.   Now there are numerous art shops in Riyadh (admittedly, most of the shops sell imported art, but I'm not gonna quibble about that) and a few art galleries with fairly regular art exhibitions.

It's really nice to see how art is gaining ground in Saudi and that the government, in the form of the Minister of Culture and Information, is actively supporting moves to bring Saudi art and artists out of the back bedroom.  Just yesterday the Arab News had an article 'Saudi Galleries Unite For Progress Of Art' where, it seems, galleries are going to join forces aiding artists and their work.

The other day I came across Saudi Art Guide, a website that is a great place for keeping up to date with exhibitions around the country.  With the current push behind Saudi art and artists one thing is for certain, in another 25 years the Arab Creativity exhibition is going to need a bigger space.

Ka Kite,

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