Manal AlDowayan chosen to represent Saudi Arabia at Venice Biennale 2024

Manal AlDowayan, a prominent figure in Saudi Arabia's contemporary art scene, has been selected to represent the country at the 60th Biennale di Venezia in 2024. Through participatory practice, photography, sound, and sculpture, she interrogates and explores traditions, collective memories, and the status and representation of women.

Her work includes participatory installations such as Suspended Together (2011) and Esmi-My Name (2012), reflecting on social customs relating to the position of women in Saudi Arabia; the black-and-white portrait series If I Forget You Don’t Forget Me (2012), capturing Saudi oil workers; and And I, Will I Forget? (2016), showcasing intergenerational narratives of Saudi culture through photography. In May 2023, AlDowayan presented the participatory performance From Shattered Ruins New Life Shall Bloom at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. 


Manal AlDowayan in Venice, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia.


Al-Dowayan stated, “My approach to art over the last two decades has given me the chance to be part of a transformation that is taking place in my country. The Biennale Arte 2024 presents a rare opportunity to represent where I stand in my practice, positioned in the context of my community, my country, and the world as a whole.” 


Her work will be presented at the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia, commissioned by the Visual Arts Commission, a sector-specific commission under the Ministry of Culture in Saudi Arabia. Dina Amin, CEO of the Visual Arts Commission, says: “At the Visual Arts Commission, our goal is to bring to the forefront the talent that resides within our country and to look for ways to nurture, amplify and celebrate it on local, regional and international stages. We are proud to be showcasing Manal AlDowayan’s work at the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, an important international platform for exchange.”


Manal AlDowayan, Suspended Together, 201. Installation view at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar. Courtesy of the artist.


AlDowayan participation marks Saudi Arabia’s fourth appearance at the International Art Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia and the third featuring women artists. Previous artists included Maha Mulla (2017), Zahrah Al Ghamdi (2019), and Muhannad Shono (2022).


The Biennale Arte 2024, curated by Adriano Pedrosa, will take place from 20 April to 24 November 2024 under the theme Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere. The 2024 edition aims to bring together artists to reflect on the disparities influenced by factors such as identity, nationality, race, and gender.


While details of Al-Dowayan’s installation are yet to be revealed, the artist has indicated that the Saudi Pavilion will align with the thematic focus of the Biennale Arte 2024.


Manal AlDowayan is represented by Sabrina Amrani Gallery and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde.


Cover image: Esmi - My Name, 2012, Manal AlDowayan. Courtesy of the artist. Exhibition views at The Edge of Arabia show We Need to Talk, Jeddah, 2012.