1st contemporary art museum inaugurated in Riyadh with Argentinian Bienalsur show
RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Culture on Tuesday inaugurated the Museum of Contemporary Art (SAMoCA), in Riyadh’s JAX district.
The museum in JAX, displaying a permanent art collection, is integrated with another in Diriyah which will present three temporary exhibitions every year along with cultural and artistic events.
Featured Saudi artist, Saeed Gebaan, told Arab News: “This is a great and essential step that we needed to take.
“We have older contemporary works by older generations of artists and this space serves the idea that there are concrete roots and forms of innovation here that visitors can experience from all over the world.”
The first collection on display is part of the traveling Bienalsur, the International Contemporary Art Biennial of South America, under the theme “Imagine: Dreams, Utopias, Fantasies,” which launched in July 2022, in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.
We have older contemporary works by older generations of artists and this space serves the idea that there are concrete roots and forms of innovation here that visitors can experience from all over the world.
Saeed Gebaan, Saudi artist
It includes creative works by more than 400 artists from 27 countries, including 10 from Saudi Arabia.
Gebaan said: “When they told me the work was selected to showcase in Riyadh, I was ecstatic because we want to present works here in the country to get people excited to come and see the creativity in the region.”
In Gebaan’s kinetic installation “Soul,” audiences can see a slate of sand slowly bubbling up and almost freezing until it animates once again. Combining science and human nature, the work questions visual contradictions and dimensions of existence.
When experiencing the piece, Gebaan hoped audiences would “question the work and witness an element change completely and then come back to its original form. It’s an odd thing to witness.”
We’re experiencing a field that’s growing so proficiently and with a high level of expertise, it feels that all the elements of this show, how it started and what it came to be, reflects the full picture of the art scene in such an optimistic and positive way.
Hatem Al-Ahmad, Saudi-Syrian artist
Saudi-Syrian artist Hatem Al-Ahmad channeled his multidisciplinary practice into, “To Speak in Synergy.” The video installation shows a filmed performance of 11 volunteer community members in Abha — where the artist lives — painting juniper trees with copper sulphate calcium, used for plant preservation and disease prevention.
The performance was an act of collective action to proactively acknowledge and address the ongoing destruction of the world’s ecosystems.
Al-Ahmad said: “It’s a hope for healing. We’re experiencing a field that’s growing so proficiently and with a high level of expertise, it feels that all the elements of this show, how it started and what it came to be, reflects the full picture of the art scene in such an optimistic and positive way.”
Shahd Youssef’s artwork “Great Smog” poses a possible solution to air pollution inspired by London’s weather conditions that left the English capital in a blanket of lethal fog, killing 12,000 people in 1952. It ultimately led the British government to pass the Clean Air Act in 1956.
Pieces of processed charcoal-like material coated with biochar are plastered on a section of the white walls of the exhibition space. The material actively reduces CO2 in the atmosphere.
With a psychology background, Youssef derived the ideas behind her work from human suffering, global issues, and the effects of human activity on the environment.
She said: “I also focus on the concept of finding solutions within the cause itself; here, the same material was hazardous, but it can also be used in alternative ways to combat that.”
The work is displayed for the first time in Riyadh. “I’m so grateful and happy for it to be here,” she added.
In a move to promote contemporary art and empower artists in the Kingdom, the SAMoCA will become a platform for promoting best contemporary artistic practices and works by local and international artists.
The exhibition will run until Dec. 31 in JAX and is part of the country’s ongoing initiatives to enhance quality of life and promote international cultural exchange. Tickets are available via the ministry’s Discover Culture page at https://dc.moc.gov.sa/home/event-tickets/51/bienalsur/