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Saudi artwork on show in ‘Edge of Arabia'
By Shahid Ali Khan
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 04 - 02 - 2010

The exclusive selection of Saudi artists to participate in the Edge of Arabia World Tour starting from March 2010 will help promote better understanding of Saudi art and culture in the international arena. The tour was launched at the Saudi Contemporary Art Exhibition organized at the Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) 2010 in Riyadh last week.
What started off as a grass roots group of artists coming together in the mountains of southern Saudi Arabia, has developed into a project of international significance, remarked Stephen Stapelton, the Director of Edge of Arabia. Edge of Arabia is a platform for the Saudi artists participating in the World Tour to portray their art to the international audience, he added.
“By launching the World Tour in the capital of Saudi Arabia, we aim to amplify the moderate voices of a new generation of artists, and send a powerful and positive message to audiences around the world,” said Stapelton.
Following the GCF event, 2010 will see Edge of Arabia travel to Dubai in March to attend Art Dubai 2010 and in June to Berlin to coincide with the Berlin Biennale, and to Istanbul in November, as a part of Istanbul Capital of Culture, he added. In the first year of the tour some 17 Saudi artists will participate. However, the number of Saudis will reach somewhere around 30 at different stages of the four-year World Tour.
Stapleton described the event as Edge of Arabia's groundbreaking cultural initiative, promoting and empowering contemporary artists from Saudi Arabia to portray their artwork which include a mixed media such as video, photography, painting, printing and various other disciplines.
Discussion panels at the GCF Forum included sessions on design, architecture and art and panelists were Michael Govan of Los Angles County Museum of Contemporary Art, and Glen Lowry, of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
This significant moment opens a fresh chapter in the history of Saudi art, allowing a new generation of creative voices to deepen understanding of the Kingdom's cultural achievements, while celebrating artistic practice at the center of the Islamic world, remarked Stapleton, adding that this will mark the start of an Edge of Arabia World Tour that will run up to 2014 and take in many of the world's cultural centers.
The participating Saudi artists - who include women - said they are eager to take part in some of the world renowned art exhibitions that would expose the Saudi artists to display their art to international audience.
Manal Dowayan, a Saudi photographer and artist from Dhahran said she is excited to participate in the World Tour. “I am very enthusiastic to take the collection of my artwork to the international audience in a number of countries,” she said, adding that her aim was not just to produce a work of art but also to educate people.
Dowayan said she has a message to convey to the international audience on contemporary art. “My collection of artwork, which include black and white tries to discuss on issues focus working women in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
She said she is presently working on a project called “Landscape of the Mind” that attempts to represent medium of thought exchange between the mind and nature, the self and other medium. Dowayan has also exhibited regionally and internationally, in Spain, Italy, Belgium, Bahrain, the UK, USA, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
She won an international call for artists for the Imagining Ourselves anthology in 2003, which was managed by the International Museum of Women in San Francisco. Abdul Nasser Gharem, a Saudi artist from Abha said the tour would offer him an opportunity to present the contemporary art to international audience. “People in the world have read about us in international media. Participating in the international events through the tour will help us to communicate through our art and explain to the international audience at the same time,” he said.
Sponsored by Abdul Latif Jameel Co. Ltd, the tour will include an art exhibition, press conference and book signings with curators and artists. Edge of Arabia will also deliver a series of dedicated art workshops with local schoolchildren.
The list of Saudi artists participating in the World Tour include Shadia and Raja Alem, Abdulaziz Ashour, Ayman Yossri Dowayan and Noha Al-Sharief from Jeddah, Mohammed Farea Ali, Maha Malluh, Ali Al-Ruzaiza (Riyadh), Manal Al-Dowayan (Dhahran), Ahmed Mater Aseeri (Abha), Abdulnasser Gharem (Khamis Mushait), Yosef Jaha and Mahdi Al-Jeraibi (Makkah) and Faisal Samra, a Saudi artist living in Bahrain.
Fady Jameel, owner of Abdul Latif Jameel Company Ltd described Edge of Arabia World Tour by Saudi artists as an important project that will create better understanding between civilizations.
Edge of Arabia background
Edge of Arabia launched in October 2008 at London's SOAS Brunei gallery showcasing the work of 17 Saudi Artists from Jeddah, Makkah, Riyadh, Dharan, Abha and Khamis Mushait. In June 2009 Edge of Arabia traveled to the 53rd Venice Biennale. Its presence there created a powerful platform for showcasing Saudi art around the world. As a direct result of Edge of Arabia, participating artists have been invited to exhibit internationally and, for the first time, significant numbers of works by Saudi artists are being included in prestigious museum collections, publications and high profile auctions.
Edge of Arabia track record
u Edge of Arabia in Venice was seen by over 2,000 of the art world's most prestigious museum curators, journalists, gallerists and artists.
u Over 200 schools in the UK and Italy are using Edge of Arabia educational resources in the classroom.
u The Edge of Arabia book is one of the first on Saudi contemporary art.
u Edge of Arabia in London is described as “the best cultural event we've had for 15 years” by the Director of the University of London.
u In Venice, William Lawrie, Head of Sales for Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, Christies, exclaimed: “Edge of Arabia was the best display of the Middle East at the 53rd Venice Biennale.”
u The project generated significant media coverage and unanimously positive reviews from the international press including BBC World, Der Spiegel, La Republica, Canvas Magazine, Metro, Sharq Al

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