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The Saudi art movement deserves more attention
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 26 - 01 - 2013

Samar Fatany

Saudi artists are gaining recognition in the regional and global contemporary art scene. They continue to hold regular exhibitions and participate in international art fairs projecting a more positive image of Saudi Arabia in the international arena. Saudi media has covered many success stories of prominent Saudi contemporary artists who have exhibited their work in local and international museums and galleries.
Last week the beautiful work of Saudi artist Manal Al-Dowayan, one of the most prominent of the new wave of artists, was featured at Jeddah's Al Athr Gallery. Al-Dowayan who exhibits her work and communicates with the public through talks and interactive projects has announced her next contribution on the concept of “free-zones” at the Art Dubai Global Forum, a platform which allows writers, artists and researchers to engage in dialogues on the most interesting and crucial topics. Earlier Princess Reem Al-Faisal a prominent Saudi photographer exhibited her artwork at the French Consulate in Jeddah and eloquently defined herself to reporters as a Muslim artist, sprung from native Saudi culture and history. She said: “In my art I am seeking to show signs of the Divine in nature and in Man. For me, light is one of the many manifestations of God, which He casts in our path through life to remind us of His constant presence in ourselves and in every place. Every photograph is a pattern of light and shade. For me, my photography is a way to praise God's glory in the universe.” Both women have truly encapsulated the concepts of art, culture and class - ideal images we should develop within our society.
We need to instill the love of art and beauty in our children and teach them to appreciate color and design and build their artistic talent. More should be done to promote the culture of art on a national scale. It should be included in the school curriculum. The public must learn to recognize works of art.
We must acquaint our young ones with the artistic contributions of the pioneers of the art movement, from the early 1970s to the present day.
Foremost among them is Safeya Binzagr who studied fine arts and graphics at St. Martin's College of Arts in London and has won many national and international awards. She should be recognized for her dedication to record the history of the Saudi Hijazi cultural heritage and its customs and traditions. In 1979, she published her first book “Saudi Arabia: An Artist's Point of View of the Past”. It was translated into English and French. Safeya continued to hold exhibitions in the Kingdom and abroad.
In 1997 she founded her own museum the “Darat Safeya Binzagar” which includes a library of art and literary works and a studio to provide courses in drawing and painting. Ms. Binzagar launched an Internet website to feature her work globally. She holds yearly artistic public events to promote the culture of art in Saudi society and holds a monthly cultural and educational gathering in her own residence to inspire intellectual dialogue and create social awareness among Saudi women.
Princess Jawahir Bint Majid, a genuine patron of art, heads the Al-Mansouria nonprofit art foundation to support and encourage Saudi artists and promote the culture of art among Saudi citizens. She has been instrumental in nurturing Saudi and Middle Eastern artists and in making the world aware of the art and culture of Saudi Arabia. She was nominated as one of the 50 most influential cultural players in the world for her contribution to the region's art scene.
The foundation has supported many Saudis who wish to use the universal language of art to reach out to other cultures and share common ground within the global contemporary movement. Among them is Dia Aziz Dia a prominent Saudi artist who projects his daily environment in his art. Dia, who trained as a sculptor in Italy, is the designer and creator of many of the Kingdom's public monuments in materials ranging from marble to concrete to bronze. He has been awarded numerous international awards and has gained recognition exhibiting his work in many art exhibitions around the world.
Mona Khazindar is recognized as a global figure and a professional curator of contemporary art and photography. She became the first Saudi woman to be appointed Director General of the Institute du Monde Arabe (IMA) in 2012. She is a prominent Saudi woman who has made an impact in the international art scene. For many years Mona was responsible for the IMA's permanent collection, which has exercised great influence on international cultural. The Forum of Arab Women also elected her as the woman of the year. Mona believes that women play a central role in the evolution of society.
King Abdullah's reforms, which include promoting art and culture, continue in spite of the confrontation between tradition and modernity. Saudi artists have shown great determination to pursue the reform path that King Abdullah has initiated. In the course of eight years, the reform movement has been geared toward keeping our society competitive in a very competitive world. Reformers are striving to neutralize obstructionists and replace pointless, deviant misguidance with wonderful opportunities for the young men and women in this country. There should be concerted efforts to promote the culture of art and revive the beauty of Islamic art in order to help Saudi Arabia modernize. Corporations abroad support and encourage budding young artists who cannot afford the expense of exhibiting their work. What have our corporations done to support the art scene in our country? They should invest more in supporting our talented young people and in promoting the culture of art. The success of the Saudi art movement will create a better world for the younger generation.
— Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at [email protected]

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