Misk Art 2018 Marks Largest Ever Exhibition of Contemporary Saudi Art

Misk Art 2018, the first major exhibition of contemporary Saudi art kicked off its five-day run this week at the upscale Riyadh suburb of Darrat Arriyadh, with an unprecedented display of painting, sculpture, multimedia and performance in a country eager to embrace its cultural heritage while immersing itself in the creative energy of an artistic renaissance. The last day of the exhibition is Saturday, November 3.

“The future of Saudi art will reflect the diversity and complexity of the local community in a global context,” said Dr. Ahmed Mater, CEO of Misk Art Institute, which organized the wide-ranging exhibition. “As cultural producers from the Arab World, our role is to preserve the forgotten narratives of the past, while continuing to innovate, challenge, and reimagine our belief of what art could be.”

Photos by the Center for International Communication (CIC), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia]

Staged in a purpose-built facility that combines outdoor space in the pleasantly autumnal weather of Riyadh, with large and small indoor spaces, Misk Art 2018 constitutes a multi-faceted platform for exploring, pondering and celebrating the artistic energy of emerging and established Saudi artists.

Not just a venue for passively viewing works of art, Misk Art 2018 offers a full schedule of panel discussions, art-making demonstrations, performance art, musical performances and opportunities to interact and exchange ideas with the artists. Formal panel discussions cover the entire spectrum of the art world, from the intellectual and creative aspects to the business of art, art education and the always highly contentious subject of what constitutes design and what constitutes art. Panels will also discuss art forms such as Arabic calligraphy as well as the impact of film and digital art on modern life.

In the lead-up to the event, Misk Art put out a call to artists. From 600 respondents, the Misk panel of artists, critics and other art professionals selected 200 artists to participate in the event. This included Exhibit 23 exhibition, an overview of the artists who paved the way for the creation of modern art in the Kingdom, and the “Misk International Sculpture Symposium”, curated by Saudi sculpture pioneer, Ali Al Tokhais, who invited 21 international sculptors to Riyadh to spend three weeks creating work from locally sourced blocks of marble.

The Saudi Gallery, referencing the recent proliferation of art galleries in the Kingdom, comprises eight tent-like structures exhibiting work from eight of the country’s leading galleries. Another show-within-the-show displays the calligraphy work of more than two dozen Arabic calligraphists, while “Every Possible Angle” presents works in various media that examine and communicate the deeply buried corners of our personal lives.

Finally, attendees have the opportunity to take a stroll down The Art Street, where individuals and cultural institutions showcase and market their work as part of the initiation of a generational dialogue with collectors and established artists.

This inaugural Misk Art 2018, a uniquely multi-disciplinary art festival for Saudi Arabia, represents one of the most dynamic, all-encompassing and exciting of the artistic initiatives the Kingdom has undertaken to date, reflecting the broader efforts to drive meaningful cultural and social change in an effort to create a vibrant society sustained by the knowledge and efforts of its own population.


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