Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale hosts array of activities - GulfToday

Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale hosts array of activities


JAX District venues.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Diriyah Biennale Foundation (DBF), has announced its ongoing activities as part of the public programme for the inaugural Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale (DCAB, Dec. 11 — Mar. 11, 2022). Open for the public, the fest is being held in the JAX district of Diriyah, Riyadh. An array of activities from talks and panels featuring artists and international experts, to fun experiences for families and children, ensures that the Biennale is a hub of arts-related engagement and learning. DCAB’s programme is designed to inspire creative dialogue across cultures, while benefiting the local ecosystem and laying the foundation for long-lasting audience engagement.

It draws inspiration from art and culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and beyond, facilitating educational explorations, the sharing of knowledge and best practices with access to leading voices in the field. Commenting on the way the Biennale programme was designed, Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of DBF, said: “We are excited to welcome all audiences to the Biennale and to invite them to explore visual culture from Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Aya-Al-Bakree Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of Diriyah Biennale Foundation.

“Our programmes are a crucial part of that invitation and have been designed to provide an inclusive and empowering experience for everyone. “We hope that the activities and conversations will provide both local and international visitors with exceptional opportunities to make discoveries, excite their curiosity, and stimulate their creativity.” Raneem Farsi, Designer of the Programs for the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, said: “Our aim is to lower the barrier of entry and engagement to the art sector, and support knowledge transfer and exchange, by building an engaging programme based on education, exposure and experience.

“Public programmes usually act as the farthest-reaching arm of initiatives to encourage inclusivity and spread awareness to create relevant impact on the community. “By driving cultural and creative rhetoric in society, we develop and enhance the dialogue between the contemporary art world and everyone else.” In partnership with the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), the public programme features school visits that aim to promote greater integration of art and culture in the daily life and learning of local students. With specially developed educational kits, the visits, it is hoped, will play a vital role in enhancing the next generation’s understanding and interest in art.

Participants Participants at one of the workshops of the Biennale.

Teachers’ kits and training programmes are also being launched as part of the goal to empower educators and tour guides interacting with students, and to ensure the continuity of knowledge transfer beyond the Biennale walls. Commenting on the partnership with the DBF, Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO, DGDA, said: “We are enormously excited to be partnering with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation and welcoming artists and visitors for this historic event. “This presents the perfect opportunity for us to once again establish Diriyah as the centre of culture and heritage in the Middle East.

Diriyah has a proud history as a hub of artistic talent in the region, where music, dance and the visual arts flourished. “We are committed to establishing Diriyah’s position in the Kingdom by cultivating an exceptional, thriving arts scene. The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is just the beginning.” As part of the ongoing programme, DCAB features an arts camp for children between the ages of 7 and 14. The camp is set to be launched in January, 2022, and is designed by Funtasia, an educational platform rooted in interactive and socio-emotional learning that was established by Elisa Sednaoui.

It offers workshops that approach learning as a hands-on experiential event to supplement children’s formal education. Sednaoui is a model, actress, philanthropist and film director of Italian, Egyptian and French descent. In 2013, she created the Elisa Sednaoui Foundation, dedicated to promoting creative learning and after-school initiatives for youngsters.The Biennale will also offer DB Art 101s, a series of introductory talks that answer questions on foundational concepts in art and culture such as, “What is contemporary art? What is the role of a curator? What is art law? What is a Biennale?” They will be led by a variety of experts, including Brian Butterfield, Dr Eiman Elgibreen, Dr Effat Fadag, Dr Amy Mechowski, Dr Thomas Schneider and Yayoi Shionoiri.

Designed for participants of all ages and levels of experience, the workshops on offer as part of the public programme, provides many opportunities to develop visitors’ skills and broaden their art practices. They range from 1-hour to 3-day sessions exploring a variety of topics including glass making, block printing, mud brick architecture, reformulating ‘sadu’ and scenography. Misk Art Institute will also lend their expertise to the Biennale’s programmes with multiple skill-building workshops designed for adults and youth. For dedicated art enthusiasts, a series of masterclasses are being delivered by the Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Urban Arts Projects (UAP). They are 3-day specialised courses designed to help artists and art professionals propel their growth within the arts and culture sector.

The classes cultivate both theoretical and practical skills that are vital to the Kingdom’s art scene such as Art Law, Public Art Production, Arts Management, and Presenting Yourself in the Art World. The Biennale’s diverse programme offerings also features many opportunities for families and visitors to engage in playful and entertaining experiences including treasure hunts, open mic nights, quiz nights, art murals and more. An immersive wall — developed by Midwam - features a changing art puzzle that challenges children’s general art knowledge.

Based in Jeddah, Midwam is a virtual reality company that specialises in VR, augumented reality, experience design and robotics. Established in 2020 by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, DBF is the organiser of DCAB, which is Saudi Arabia’s first-ever art biennale. A second biennale in 2022 will focus on Islamic arts. JAX is a refurbished estate comprising of over 100 warehouses in the area of Diriyah. 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.


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