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Jeddah Art Week kicks off
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 02 - 2013

From left to right: Deputy Chairman of Sotheby Europe Lord Poltimore, Sotheby's International Contemporary Art Specialist and Founder of the Jeddah Art Week Lina Lazaar Jameel, Chairman of Sotheby for Middle East and India Edward Gibbs and Sotheby Director and Specialist for Contemporary Art James Sevier.
Roberta Fedele
Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — The “Jeddah Art Week” is a pioneering week of art events and cultural activities in the Kingdom that is leaving art lovers spoiled for choices. The initiative was officially inaugurated on Feb. 25 at Al Furusia Marina & Yacht Club Park Hyatt and will close today with the grand opening of Ayyam Gallery's new premises in Saudi Arabia.
Established by International Auction House Sotheby in collaboration with Athr Gallery, Ayyam Gallery, Al Madad Foundation, Dar Al Hekma College and Edge of Arabia, the Jeddah Art Week offered until now an intense calendar of exhibitions, lectures, public artists' interviews and educational activities.
The week was inaugurated at Al Furusia Marina & Yacht Club Park Hyatt by Sotheby's first ever exhibition in the Kingdom featuring artworks from some of the most talented contemporary Arab and Iranian artists. This exhibit will be on display until today along with a group exhibition curated by Ashraf Fayad in collaboration with Athr Gallery that will last until Mar 26.
“This is the first time that a major auction house like Sotheby exhibits in the Kingdom. The displayed iconic artworks are selected from Sotheby's collections of contemporary oeuvres that will be on sale in Doha from April 22,” explained Sotheby's International Contemporary Art Expert Lina Lazaar Jameel who is also among the Jeddah Art Week's main creators.
“Three months ago I shared the idea of giving birth to this umbrella initiative with leading Saudi art galleries. Their response was incredibly positive due to a heartfelt need for a yearly appointment capable of uniting all the country's creative forces. The reason we opted for Jeddah is related to its geographical position in the heart of the Makkah region. This city is at the crossroads of many cultures and its cultural variety represents a natural incentive for creativity,” said Jameel.
Sotheby's exhibit showcases, among others, an astounding 78-panel installation by Egyptian Artist Chant Avedissan, known as the “Icons of the Nile.” This installation, occupying an entire hall, represents a mosaic of the Egyptian culture and celebrates some of the most famous Egyptian icons.
Athr Gallery was undoubtedly protagonist of the major events that took place on Feb 26. The gallery hosted a public talk with Saudi Filmmaker Ahd Kamel about her recent participation with “Sanctity” at the Berlin International Film Festival and the opening of the “Pen to Paper” group exhibition co-curated with Al Madad Foundation.
These events were accompanied by a charity auction held by Deputy Chairman of Sotheby Europe Lord Poltimore to fund Al Madad Foundation's education programs for disadvantaged children and Palestinian and Syrian young refugees in Lebanon.
“The idea of launching a week dedicated to the promotion of the local art scene came at an ideal moment for Athr Gallery that was already planning most of the events presented here. It is the first year that this initiative takes place and I truly hope we will be able to repeat it on a yearly basis. Coming together is in my opinion the only way of encouraging a more vibrant and engaging artistic life in this country,” said Athr Gallery Director Maya El Khalil.
The Jeddah Art Week also stands out for the ample space given to mentorship and educational programs including one-to-one mentoring sessions for young Saudi artists in Architect's Sami Angawi's landmark Jeddah residence and a Symposium at Dar Hekma College.
“Dar Al Hekma is the academic partner of the Jeddah Art Week. The college contributed to this initiative inviting to its annual symposium Abeer Mishkhas, Manal Al Dowayan, Sharifa Al Sudairi, and Maha Malluh, five renowned women in the Saudi art community who will hold a session entitled: ‘Finding Your Place, Realizing Your Passion: A conversation with 5 women in the Saudi art community',” said Director of the Architecture Program at Dar Al Hekma Mona Helmy.
The Dar Al Hekma symposium is closing today the Jeddah Art Week calendar together with the grand opening of Ayyam Gallery at Bougainvillea center. Already present in Damascus Beirut and Dubai, Ayyam Gallery decided to open in Saudi Arabia in light of the Saudi art scene's revival and flourishing international interest for Saudi artists. The gallery's opening event will feature Saudi Artist Mohannad Orabi's solo exhibition “Profile Portraits.”
Commenting on the Jeddah Art Week Initiative, owner of Ayyam Gallery Khaled Samawi said: “There are a lot of artistic underground events in the Kingdom that are now coming above ground. I personally see this Jeddah Art Week as a kind of ‘coming out event' for the Jeddah Art scene and I decided to delay the opening of my gallery to make it coincide with it.
“Saudi Arabia is an important incubator of talents for the Middle Eastern art and my gallery is eager to enter the market. I believe that in the next few years there will be a number of other international galleries willing to open here.”

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