There is evidence everywhere of a contemporary art renaissance in the Middle East, and fresh art spaces are spearheading the movement.
Riyadh’s first curated contemporary art space, Alāan Artspace, recently opened with its inaugural exhibition “SoftPower” which examines the position of women in Saudi Arabian society. The show of work by three women artists will run from 3 October to 10 December 2012.
“SoftPower” features artwork by three young female artists: mixed media artists Sarah Abu Abdallah and Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali and a loaned installation piece from Manal Al Dowayan. According to the exhibition’s website, the artists adopt “a nuanced and at times humorous approach towards exploring the position of women within contemporary society,” eschewing traditional feminist tactics for “solidarity, ambiguity and irony”.
As UAE newspaper The National further explains,
With grace, subtlety, and an indefatigable drive, young women are creating new boundaries for a contemporary art scene that barely existed just a few years ago. Their work is feminist in nature and asks questions about society without offering any clear-cut response.
Women are considered dependants in Saudi Arabia, and the many ways they have adapted this role are on display at the gallery. The females depicted in the women’s art are givers, consumers, objects, souls, power-brokers, and caretakers – sometimes all at once.
‘We wanted to create a feminist show, but not a militant feminist show,’ said [Alāan Curator Sara] Raza. ‘No sensation, no shock tactics.’
Alāan Artspace opens at a time when many other Middle Eastern contemporary art galleries are also expanding their operations. In September 2012, Art Radar reported on how London’s premiere Middle Eastern contemporary art space Rose Issa Projects is moving to a larger location and taking on more artists. Meanwhile Ayyam Gallery will be opening two new locations in London and Jeddah, citing Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning contemporary art scene as the main reason for the new space.
Alāan’s curator Sara Raza also comments on this contemporary renaissance in The National article:
The Saudi art scene, many have described it as a sleeping giant. Saudi contemporary art will probably be among the strongest in the region in the next ten years.
Do you think that Saudi Arabian contemporary art is on the rise? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.
- Shirin Neshat’s inspiration from home – TED video – December 2011 – an Iranian feminist artist in exile discusses her practice
- Review round up – Saatchi Middle East art show Unveiled – which artists are critic favourites? – February 2009 – a round up of opinions on the impact of this show of feminist art from the region
- 28 Iranian women artists in 3 decade survey Masques of Shahrazad in London – February 2009 – an exhibition featuring work by 28 Iranian women artists of three generations at Candlestar Gallery in London
- Female Middle Eastern artists trendy thanks to Shirin Neshat – Time Out – December 2008 – international art community supports plight of feminism in the Middle East
- First UK survey of Iranian women film, photography artists in London to January 2009 – November 2008 – a survey show of photography and film by Iranian female artists in London
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