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Saudi artists making social statements at art expo
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 15 - 12 - 2010

Abdul Aziz Khoja, Minister of Culture and Information, tours the 21st Annual Saudi Contemporary Art Exhibition at King Fahd Cultural Center (KFCC) in Riyadh, Monday. (Courtesy photos by K.N. Wasif)RIYADH: Artists in Saudi Arabia are increasingly producing work making social statements, rather than more formal and traditional pieces, according to Dr. Saleh Al-Zayer, Associate Professor of Art at King Saud University in Riyadh. He said this was an important approach, especially in a world marred by acts of terrorism and extremism.
Al-Zayer was speaking to Saudi Gazette at the 21st Annual Saudi Contemporary Art Exhibition inaugurated at King Fahd Cultural Center (KFCC) in Riyadh, Monday by Abdul Aziz Khoja, Minister of Culture and Information.
About 170 paintings and other works of art by 59 Saudi artists, including eight women, are on display in the sprawling KFCC lobby. The art exhibition includes nine pieces of sculpture.
The 10-day event will be open for the public daily between 5 P.M. and 10 P.M.
Al-Zayer said Saudi artists are upholding cultural values by exercising caution not to import ideas which are alien to Saudi society. Male and female Saudi artists have become more careful in assessing what message they would like to convey to the masses, said the professor in reference to a sculpture of a veiled woman at the exhibition.
“Saudi artists are portraying their feelings in an intelligent, subtle manner, while others have shown eloquence through their artwork,” he said.
He said the artist who produced the veiled women sculpture wants to express that women are very much part of Saudi society, and any social restrictions imposed on them would be detrimental to overall cultural values.
“Subjects that were considered taboo a few years ago are now discussed through different art forms in Saudi Arabia. It was not possible for women artists to be present to explain their work at previous art exhibitions,” he said.
He said paintings, among other artwork, are becoming more popular in Saudi Arabia.
Other popular art forms in Saudi Arabia include plastic art, drawing, sculpture, prints, photography, applied art, ceramic art and woodwork, he said.
“We have introduced photography as a four-year degree course at Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman University for Women. We have a long way to go to achieve active people's participation by creating art galleries and promoting individual collections of Saudi artwork,” he said.
Abdullah Al-Jassir, Deputy Minister of Culture, said there was a bright future ahead for Saudi Arabian artists. The ministry, along with a number of training institutes and the education ministry, has arranged training programs to develop Saudi talent.
“We are encouraging young and budding artists by organizing exhibitions throughout the year.”
In the past the ministry has bought artwork, but recently it has taken Saudi creative work to a number of countries in Europe and Asia, said Al

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