Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Artistic evolution is among the elements of a change that is not just technological and financial. In this challenging context, Imago Mundi asked 144 artists from various parts of the Kingdom to express themselves using the usual, small, 10x12 cm format.

Mohammed Farea - Untitled (2014)

“Saudi Arabia - reflects Luciano Benetton, the creator of Imago Mundi - is looking to the future. The country is always near the top of the World Bank’s index for the ease of doing business (26th of 189 countries) and is ranked 18th of 144 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Sovereign funds managed by SAMA, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, invest hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign securities every year, strongly influencing the global financial market. But the oil-rich kingdom (with a population of 30 million, including 9.7 million immigrants) is beginning to think about alternative prospects to those deposits of crude oil that, thanks to geopolitics, can no longer be considered stable wealth. Hence diversification becomes a good idea, opening up to the world, growing the financial system. Since 2015, for example, foreign investors have been allowed direct entry to the Riyadh stock market, the largest financial market in the Arab world.”

Lulwah Al Homoud - Light (2014)

Maha Bajammal - Untitled (2014)

Saddek Wasil - Untitled (2014)

“When Imago Mundi - notes the curator Maryam Beydoun - made its stop in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it was received with much appreciation. The impact that this project has transmitted to emerging Saudi artists has been invaluable. The entire journey was captured under the title Nostalgia, an evocation of true thoughts to flow onto canvases. In recent years, many of the Saudi artists’ works have been collected and owned by institutions, museums and notable local and international art collectors. Being part of the Benetton project will further promote the true talent that flows from East to West of the vast Kingdom.”

Ahaad Al Amoudi - Untitled (2014)

Adnan Safiallah - Untitled (2014)

Abdulaziz Al Rashidi - Touch of a letter (2014)

“From widely pioneer artists, to emerging aspiring artists – explains Beydoun - the Saudi collection includes painters, calligraphers, conceptual artists, and graffiti artists. Each artist individually and collectively has profoundly contributed to this eclectic collection. The main themes were seen across the one hundred pieces, due to the high values that Saudi artists come with, stemming from tradition and cultural preservations. The works are as different as the artists themselves, with Abdullah Hamas capturing the natural scenery of the beautiful region of Abha; to a more conceptual expression by Ayman Yossri, including a young black and white photograph portrait of himself.”

Ibrahim Bougas - Untitled (2014)

Ahmad Jedawi - Untitled (2014)

Fatima Rajab - Depth (2014)

Naif Arab - Noos 13 (2014)

Ayman Yossri - Untitled (2014)

Abdullah Hamas - Abstraction (2014)

“However – observes Mohammed Hafiz, co-founder of the Athr Gallery - Saudi Arabia’s art scene is relatively young. The growth of the industry did not happen overnight. There have been many challenges and obstacles along the way, gratefully with the support of regional and international initiatives, such as Imago Mundi, the Saudi art scene today has managed to obtain global recognition.”

Zuhair Milbary - Untitled (2014)

Foziya Nour - Black Tent (2014)

Abdullah Attar - Untitled (2014)

“From this point onwards – adds Hafiz - one can safely say that there exists vast potential amongst local artists. Yet, more initiatives are needed. Artists require encouragement, support and mentoring. Art education is the vital foundation that is needed to build on. This can be greatly complemented by including art in the educational system, in school’s curriculums and universities. At present, with a handful of regional contemporary galleries open across the Kingdom, an inaugural group pavilion at the Venice Biennale, as well as the participation of Saudi artists in international art fairs and museums, the profile of Saudi Contemporary Art is on the rise.”

Dania Al Saleh - United (2014)

Saeed Al Alawi - Untitled (2014)

Musaed Al Hulais - Untitled (2014)

Rashed Al Shashai - Untitled (2014)

All this accompanies the winds of change that are blowing through Saudi society. “These changes – sums up Benetton - are also reflected in the on-going development of Saudi society, where women, in particular, are starting to become increasingly involved in civil society. In Riyadh, for example, the first female law firm has opened, where four female lawyers represent people regardless of gender. And Saudi viewers had to check they were tuned to the right channel to be convinced that they were really looking at state television when, for the first time on a public channel, a female journalist read the news without wearing the hijab, normally required by Wahhabi religious dictate.
These new social and cultural experiences, small and large, symbolic and concrete, are being courageously seized and amplified by Saudi visual art, which is creating for itself an increasingly significant space in the contemporary art world.

Mai Al Turki - Untitled (2014)

Abeer Al Fatni - Portrait (2014)

Hanan Sindi - Pisces Woman (2014)

Credits: Story

Project management
Maryam Beydoun

Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Luciano Benetton
Maryam Beydoun
Mohammed Hafiz

Editing and translation
Emma Cole
Sara Favilla
Pietro Valdatta

Art direction
Namyoung An

Marco Zanin

Marco Pavan

Special Thanks to
Saudi Art Guide Ceem Haidar Nazir Yavus
Nasser Al Salem

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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