In Saudi Arabia, culture is the driving force behind a new society
After its participation in the “Biennale de Lyon”, the young Saudi gallery Hafez, is currently showing at YIA Art Fair in Paris, running parallel to the FIAC. The gallery, based in Jeddah, was chosen by the fair for the diversity of its program and the quality of its artistic offerings, reflecting the societal changes taking place in Saudi Arabia.
Little known in France, the country’s artistic scene is young and in full bloom. Despite being centered around Jeddah — Saudi Arabia’s economic capital — for years, the country’s artistic scene is now much more decentralized, with galleries opening all across the country and artists coming together to work on collective projects.
Two driving forces are behind the acceleration of a process that has been long in the making; on the one hand, Saudi Arabia’s population is younger, with the majority of the country’s citizens aged between 20 and 40.
On the other hand, the launch of the program Vision 2030 in 2016 — a socio-economic development plan which also involves the creation of ambitious cultural policies — aims to establish Saudi Arabia as the center of the Islamic world, both economically and culturally.
Sara Al Abdali, Kol Yughani Ala Laylah, 2017 — Hafez Gallery
Saudi Arabia’s incredibly diverse emerging artistic scene reflects both the country’s pluri-millennial traditions, history and its hypermodernity, where 35% of Saudi Arabians have a social media account and where 90 million YouTube videos are streamed every day. Its recent development attests to the shifts taking place within Saudi society.
The majority of the country’s artists are not afraid to experiment with a number of media; to cite only one, Sarah Al-Abdali, whose practice is largely inspired by street art, works with media as diverse as painting, wood, ceramics and miniatures.
For Saudi Arabia’s art history, the present is a moment as crucial as Impressionism was for Europe at the end of the 19th century. Taking inspiration from France, the country is extremely invested in the growth of its artists, and is making a great effort to democratize art and culture, making it accessible for anyone. In many ways, the development of this emerging artistic scene marks a decisive step in the creation of a new, truly civil society.
Ahaad Al Amoudi,My Palm, Your Palm, Our Palm, 2017 — Hafez Gallery
By Ahmed Mater, Saudi artist and director of Misk Art, a festival dedicated to visual arts, having launched its first international edition in Paris from October 9 through 13, 2017.