Saudi Arabia to get first foundation run for artists, by artist
Riyadh-based conceptual artist Abdulnasser Gharem plans to open an arts foundation supporting emerging artists in the Saudi capital. The Amen Art Foundation, which does not yet have an official opening date, will be the first of its kind in the Kingdom.
We have so many good artists here. The galleries and, unfortunately, auction houses are starting to move in but there are no institutions or foundations here to help the younger artists.
According to a press release for the exhibition “Towards the Amen Art Foundation“, held at Side by Side Gallery, Berlin, Gharem’s venture is “inspired by an extraordinary new generation of Saudi artists, film-makers, musicians and comedians”. An advocate of art education, Gharem suggests that while there might be an increase in Saudi Arabian art featured at international art biennales, museum shows and a growing number of galleries in Saudi Arabia, more effort is needed to nurture the younger generation of artists.
Art, government, gallery
Gharem tells The Art Newspaper that the biggest challenge doesn’t lie in raising funds for the organisation, but rather in securing support from the government,
This country is full of people who have the [necessary] money. But the problem will be getting the government’s permission to launch the foundation. Such art foundations are not part of our culture.
The Foundation will rely on the support of individuals and private institutions such as Side by Side Gallery, which is working with Gharem to develop the project. Akim Monet, CEO of the gallery, invited Gharem to mount a show of Saudi Arabian art as an introduction to the Amen Art Foundation project.
World turns to Saudi art scene
Saudi art has been gaining ground internationally, according to art watchers such as Peter Aspden. Saudi Arabia had its own pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale, while individual artists have exhibited in the Sharjah Biennial and Berlin Biennale.
Increasing attention has also come from museums worldwide. The exhibition “Arab Express: The latest art from the Arab world” ran from June to October 2012 at the Tokyo Mori Art Museum, while from November 2012 to April 2013 the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, presented “Light from the Middle East: New Photography” featuring Saudi photographers among others. International art fairs have also seen the participation of Saudi galleries, such as Ayyam Gallery at Art Dubai.
2013 also saw the inaugural Jeddah Art Week, a cross-city event exhibiting art by young Saudi artists. Hamza Serafi, co-founder of Athr Gallery in Jeddah, told the BBC that the event was the culmination of years of commitment from Saudi arts practitioners, as well as a turning point for artists.
About Abdulnasser Gharem
A serving colonel in the Saudi military, Gharem is one of the founders of Edge of Arabia, an independent arts initiative that critics such as David Batty in The Guardian have credited with pushing the boundaries of Saudi contemporary art. In 2012 Gharem became the highest grossing Saudi artist when a work symbolizing the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem sold for USD842,500 at an auction for Arab, Iranian and Turkish artists at Christie’s, Dubai.
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