Edge of Arabia

I hear that London is full of Saudis these days. A friend recently told me that Leicester Square now looks like Tahlia St., with Saudi boys occupying all the tables at all restaurants and cafes. The only difference, probably, is the presence of uncovered women, a breed that is too rare in our Tahlia back here in Riyadh. Those boys show a usual face of Saudi Arabia, one that I’m not particularly proud of.

But comes October, London will be the venue for another face of this country, and it is certainly one that we are all proud of and glad to show to the whole world.

Edge of Arabia, is a pioneering exhibition that is set to shed new light on the largely unknown contemporary art culture of Saudi Arabia. A new generation of artists will be in London this october to take part in the first ever comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Saudi art staged in the UK. It will feature the work of 17 Saudi contemporary artists, male and female, whose work explores the complex and diverse identities of 21st century life in the Middle East.

The exhibition is organized by the award-winning Offscreen Education Programme and will run from 16th October – 13th December 2008 at the SOAS Brunei Gallery, University of London. For more info, check out the press release (PDF).

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23 thoughts on “Edge of Arabia

  1. Lots of Saudis holidaying in Malaysia too I hear from my friend who is there at the moment!

    The exhibition in London sounds very interesting – too bad I probably won’t be going to the UK this winter.

  2. Very interesting! There should be more of these. The youth here really needs vents to take out their energy. They should be engaged in more constructive activities. Maybe it’ll help bring down the fleets of guys ‘cruising’ around tahlia in search for eye candy!

  3. Its not the saudi tourists that are flocking the place, but the students studying there. Its good to hear about such events happening around the world that includes saudi culture and youth.

    inshallah i hope to be in UK then. Will try to make it to london.

  4. How exciting that Saudis will have an art exhibit in London! I hope it comes to the American Mid-West, so I can see it.

    When I lived in the Kingdom during the 90′s, I always noticed the abundance of art supplies for sales in the “maktabas” and I knew that artists were hanging out at home, deep into their art.

    Sounds like these artists have matured, and been joined by others. I hope you’ll post a link to the exhibit, for those of us who cannot “pop over to London soon.” :)

  5. I am the British curator of the exhibition (working alongside Saudi artists/co-curators Ahmed Mater al Ziad Aseeri and Lulwah al Homoud) and I wanted to thank you for writing about the exhibition. The project is largely based on my frienship with a group of artists who I met while travelling to Aseer in 2003. We had a dream back then to showcase the creativity and ideas of Saudi artists (much of it happening in private houses and studios and not visible at a passing glance … as Marahm rightly points out) and now it looks like it will all happen (thanks to an incredible team we are lucky to have brought together). Keep the faith all artists and creatives and spread the word. SAS

  6. Reem, I’m glad to see you and other Saudi artists get a chance to showcase your talents in the international arena, and hope to see you soon do something similar in different cities inside the country.

  7. Inside the country we do but we don’t get much response. The sad thing is we are not recognized by our own until the outside recognize us and even then it an up hill climb. Also there isn’t a true thought out analysis of art in the Arab world we either follow the West or get stuck in copying the old we have not yet developed a unique Islamic art that is contemporary and based on Islamic philosophy in art. I try to explain that to Muslims as well as Westerners.
    R

  8. That is very true on what you said that the country doesnt recognize its own talents.

    good job Reem, for what you all are doing, though i havent visited the exhibition yet. inshallah next month.

  9. First of all I’d like to say what a wonderful blog this is and congratulate you Ahmed for your articulate and intelligent writing. IMO it displays a subtlety and maturity I find remarkable for a university student!

    I’m writing to say I’m very excited about Edge of Arabia and also very proud. I’m currently collaborating with the reknowned Norwegian architectural firm Snohetta in designing a major cultural center being built by Saudi Aramco as a gift to the community in celebration of its 75th birthday this year.

    The project includes a 1000 sea Auditorium, a 345 seat cinema, an art museum and exhibition hall (designed to the most stringent international standards for museums allowing rare and valuable artwork to be borrowed from around the world), a children’s learning center and last, but not least. a library.

    The reason Edge of Arabia is so pertinent for me is recently myself and the Snohetta team were discussing the key importance of engging talented and sophisticated Saudi artists to contribute arttistically to the overall “look and feel” of the project but were at a loss in finding the right artists ….. and then we found Edge of Arabia! :-)

    I’ve already seen the Brunei Gallery’s brochure for the exhibition illustrating snippets of work of the highlighted artists (including Reem Al Faisal above … hello Reem!) … it was one of those rare moments I’vebeen truly proud to be Saudi.

    I strongly recommend everybody (especially Saudi artists and intellectuals) check out the web page for the project I’m working on as I’m sure you’ll find it as fresh a breath of air as I have. The link is www dot culturerocks dot com

  10. Hisham, I’m excited about the Culture Rocks project, and I have registered on their website as a volunteer few months ago. I’m glad to see Snohetta paying attention to Saudi talents. It will be good to see our artists involved in such a promising project. All the best!

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