Diriyah Biennale Foundation announces artists for the first Saudi art biennale - GulfToday

Diriyah Biennale Foundation announces artists for the first Saudi art biennale

diriyah 3

Saudi artist Lulwah Al-Homoud's artwork, left, Moroccan artist Mohamed Melehi's artwork.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Diriyah Biennale Foundation (DBF), host of Saudi Arabia’s first contemporary art biennale and a platform for global dialogue and exchange to be held in the JAX district of Diriyah just outside of Riyadh, has announced the names of participating artists for the Biennale’s inaugural edition (Dec. 11 — Mar. 11).

Developed by a team of international curators led by Philip Tinari (Director and Chief Executive of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, China), the Biennale will unfold in six sections, with works from national and international artists examining the theme “Feeling the Stones” and engaging visitors in a dialogue around contemporary art.

Commenting on the selection of artists, Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, said: “As the Foundation prepares to open the first contemporary art biennale organised, conceived and hosted in Saudi Arabia, the selection of artists is emblematic of our commitment to showcase Saudi artists in dialogue with leading artists from around the world.


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“We see the development of cultural exchange and international dialogue in contemporary art as a crucial element in enhancing the cultural infrastructure in this country and look forward to welcoming artists and audiences alike to Diriyah.” Tinari added: “The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale presents an unprecedented opportunity for the wide audiences in Saudi Arabia to experience global contemporary art.

“Inspired by the notion of ‘Crossing the river by feeling the stones,’ the exhibition explores how social transformation happens in a way that is iterative yet directional, experimental yet pragmatic.

“We have chosen to focus on major projects by Saudi and international artists, including more than thirty site-specific commissions.

diriyah 2 Sarah Abu Abdallah’s work titled Saudi Automobile. 

“We hope that viewers will come away with a heightened sense of enquiry and exploration, having made new connections between the dynamic art scene now emerging in Saudi Arabia and positions from around the world.” Tinari’s work in China has brought international figures to that country, including Robert Rauschenberg, Elmgreen & Dragset, Haegue Yang, William Kentridge, Taryn Simon and Tino Sehgal.

He has tracked China’s evolving art scene through retrospectives and surveys of artists, including Zhao Bandi, Zeng Fanzhi, Liu Wei, Xu Zhen, Wang Keping, Wang Xingwei, Kan Xuan and Gu Dexin.

Established in 2020 with the support of the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale will be the Kingdom’s first international contemporary art biennale, providing a platform for discovery, connection and dialogue.

Inspired by the changes taking place in Saudi Arabia and the heritage site of Diriyah, the Diriyah Biennale Foundation assumes a critical role in nurturing creative expression and instilling an appreciation for culture, the arts and their transformative potential.

The Foundation aspires to be a catalyst for lifelong learning and serves Saudi Arabia’s communities by offering opportunities to engage with the burgeoning local art scene.

At a historic moment of evolution and growth in Saudi Arabia, the Biennale will showcase some of the world’s leading artists, drive cultural exchange between the Kingdom and international communities, promote dialogue and understanding, and further establish Saudi Arabia as an important cultural centre.

A second biennale to be hosted in 2022, will be focused on Islamic arts. The Contemporary Art Biennale will be one of Saudi Arabia’s largest and most significant international displays of contemporary art to date, providing a platform for discovery and connection to the country’s burgeoning cultural scene and creative communities.

Diriyah 1  Maha Malluh's composition Food for Thought 'WORLD MAP,' 2021.

The Ministry of Culture is leading a cultural transformation to develop a rich ecosystem that nurtures creativity, unlocks the economic potential of the sector and unleashes new and inspiring forms of expression.

As part of the efforts, it is seeking to bolster the presence of Saudi heritage and culture at events across the Kingdom and abroad, enabling participants to engage with the Kingdom’s rich and diverse history and preserve Saudi heritage for generations to come.

UCCA Center for Contemporary Art is China’s leading contemporary art institution. It is committed to the belief that art can deepen lives and transcend boundaries, and presents a wide range of exhibitions, public programmes, and research initiatives, to a public of more than one million visitors each year.

UCCA Beijing sits at the heart of the 798 Art District, occupying 10,000 square meters of factory chambers built in 1957 and regenerated in 2019 by OMA. UCCA Dune, designed by Open Architecture, lies beneath the sand in the seaside enclave of Aranya in Beidaihe.

UCCA Edge, designed by architecture firm SO — IL, opened in Shanghai in May 2021. Formally accredited as a museum by the Beijing Cultural Bureau in 2018, UCCA also operates non-profit foundations, licensed by the Beijing Bureau of Civil Affairs and the Hong Kong government.

UCCA’s commercial ventures include the retail platform UCCA Store, the children’s education initiative UCCA Kids, and collaborations and projects under the rubric UCCA Lab.

Opened in 2007 and revived by a committed group of Chinese and international patrons in 2017, UCCA works to bring China into global dialogue through contemporary art.

JAX is a refurbished estate comprising of over 100 warehouses in the area of Diriyah, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia has initiated the regeneration of JAX for it to become the new reference arts and culture district for the country, with lineups of exhibition spaces, artist studios, art galleries, facilities and platforms.

JAX hosts local and international institutions, businesses, programmes and galleries that can promote cultural exchanges and help artists produce works that can be showcased in its spaces.