Sun, Dec 12, 2021

Art & Auctions
First Saudi biennale opens in Diriyah

Saudi Arabia’s first contemporary art biennale, Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, opened to the public yesterday (December 11) in the JAX district of Diriyah.

Featuring more than 60 acclaimed artists from Saudi Arabia and around the world, the Biennale showcases work in a wide variety of mediums, from site-specific commissions to celebrated pieces by leading contemporary artists.

Serving as a platform for global dialogue and exchange, the Biennale, presented by Diriyah Biennale Foundation (DBF), cultivates an interactive art experience by bringing together Saudi and international artists in a celebration of contemporary culture, and an accessible and engaging platform for all.

The inaugural edition of the Biennale is curated under the leadership of Philip Tinari, Director and Chief Executive of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, China, and supported by a team of international curators; Wejdan Reda, founder of Sahaba Art Consultancy in Jeddah; Shixuan Luan, Curator at UCCA; and Neil Zhang, Assistant Curator at UCCA.

The Biennale takes its title from the concept of “Crossing the River by Feeling the Stones,” a slogan that emerged during the 1980s as a metaphor for action at a time of social and economic transformation.

The Biennale unfolds in six sections: Crossing the River, Experimental Preservation, Peripheral Thinking, Going Public, Brave New Worlds, and Concerning the Spiritual. At every turn, the exhibition creates dialogues between the rapidly evolving artistic context of Saudi Arabia and the wider world, putting work by the 27 participating Saudi artists into conversation with their international counterparts.

Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, said: “We are thrilled to finally bring the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale to life and to welcome all audiences eager to explore visual culture from Saudi Arabia and beyond. Our hope is that this Biennale will generate international dialogue and provide opportunities for discovery and connection to Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning cultural scene and creative communities. Twenty-seven featured artists from Saudi Arabia represent over 40 percent of work on display, presented alongside works by leading artists from different parts of the world with works ranging across media, from painting to installation to performance. We are delighted to present a Saudi biennale that is rooted in its context.”

Curator Philip Tinari, Director and Chief Executive of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, China, added: “The Biennale’s aims are twofold: to bring Saudi contemporary art into the global conversation, and to bring Saudi audiences into the world of contemporary art. We are grateful to have been in extended dialogue with the participating artists, and are excited to support and show 29 newly commissioned works. We look forward to welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors to discover the Biennale for themselves, and hope that it will catalyze an even deeper engagement with global contemporary art in Saudi Arabia.”

The Biennale occupies nearly 12,000 sq m across six interconnected warehouse buildings.

Featured artists are: Geof Oppenheimer, William Kentridge, Mohamed Melehi, Ahmed Mater, Ayman Yossri Daydban, Maha Malluh, Ibrahim El Dessouki, Superstudio, Bricklab and Mamafotogramma, Mohammed Al Salem, Shadia Alem, Huang Rui, Wang Luyan, Zhang Peili, Zheng Yuan, Richard Long, Abdullah Hammas, Fahad Al Hejailan, Faisal Samra, Jowhara AlSaud, Mahdi Al Jeraibi and Munira Mosli.

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