Design, art and education come together at AlAan Artspace

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Updated 21 November 2012
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Design, art and education come together at AlAan Artspace

A new contemporary art gallery ushered the growing number of art aficionados last month in Riyadh with its first exhibition “SoftPower”, which runs until Dec. 10.
Works by Saudi artists Manal Al-Dowayan, Sarah Abu Abdallah and Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali explored daily interactions in contemporary life and raised questions about the identity of women in Saudi Arabia. They approached the subject delicately through humor, ambiguity and irony, giving it a relevance that resonates not just locally but traverses regionally and beyond.
Al-Dowayan’s work “Esmi” — an imposing and socially challenging installation of rosary beads that was first exhibited at Edge of Arabia earlier this year — was loaned to the exhibition. Created through a series of workshops that invited women to boldly etch their names onto the beads, the project was a remarkable feat not just artistically but largely in having challenged baseless traditions and absurd mores of shrouding women in anonymity.
While Al-Abdali’s “Four Wives” is a responsive social critique to the practice of polygamous marriages, Abu Abdallah’s video footage titled “Saudi Automobile” is an ironical unresolved narrative from a female’s perspective. The video shows an attempt at salvaging a sabotaged car from a junkyard by beautifying its exterior with pink paint.
“The Saudi Arabian art scene is fast evolving and SoftPower captures both the diversity and depth of the talent inside the Kingdom. Through this exhibition we were looking at diverse perspectives in art and society embedded within the works of these three artists,” explained Alaan Artspace’s founding director Neama Al-Sudairy.
The gallery’s prime focus is to foment relationships between artists, curators, collectors and cultural practitioners from within and outside Saudi Arabia by extending their mission mandate to include educational art programs, workshops and panel discussions that will allow the simmering art scene in the Kingdom to progress and grow. It is committed to building a visually strong cultural dialogue that speaks to national and international audiences.
The multi-functional gallery will also be dedicating programs aimed at nurturing emerging and established contemporary artists and designers, one of which includes the Project Wall — a not-for-profit space that will provide artists with a platform to exhibit new works on a rotational basis.
While the idea of the comprehensive gallery space was conceived in view of the lack of art institutions in the Kingdom that spoke directly to the art populace, the founders were inspired by international art galleries and institutions with integrated educational programs such as the internationally inclusive art scene in Dubai, and The Townhouse in Cairo.
“Although the art scene in the Kingdom is relatively small, the underdeveloped scene is actually liberating”, says Al-Sudairy.
While there is a strong indication for the growth of art in Saudi Arabia with an overall focus and interest internationally on art emerging from the Middle East, it is all the more important for homegrown institutions like Alaan Artspace to develop and really invest in nurturing emerging and mid-career artists, she added.
For more infomation, please visit: www.alaanart.com

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Like a Berber: Madonna celebrates 60th birthday in Marrakech

Updated 33 min 44 sec ago
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Like a Berber: Madonna celebrates 60th birthday in Marrakech

  • The Queen of Pop donned the attire of a “Berber Queen” in Marrakech on her birthday
  • On Sunday, the American star posted pictures and videos on her Instagram of a fun photo shoot with British-Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj

JEDDAH: Madonna’s 60th birthday celebrations are creating quite a buzz, especially delighting her Arab fans that she chose to mark the milestone in Morocco.
The Queen of Pop donned the attire of a “Berber Queen” in Marrakech on her birthday, wearing a fuchsia chiffon long-sleeved gown by Gucci with Berber jewelry and a headpiece by Marianna Harutunian.
On Sunday, the American star posted pictures and videos on her Instagram of a fun photo shoot with British-Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj, known as the “Andy Warhol of Marrakech.” Madonna, who posed for pictures with her family, is seen dressed in a traditional red attire, accessorized with colorful jewelry and a Louis Vuitton headscarf.
“Life can be sweet and sour and sometimes a surprise can happen that you never would think of and this was one of (those) moments; want to thank Madonna and her lovely family and being patient for the shoot at my riad,” Hajjaj wrote on Instagram.
Hashtagged #birthday #magic #Marakesh, Madonna’s pictures have gone viral on social media since she first posted a portrait of herself bedecked in Berber jewelry and brandishing a sign that reads “The Queen.” She wrote: “Finally and at last it’s my birthday! I have survived! Life is beautiful!”
On the eve of the big day, she toured the former imperial city of Morocco under the close watch of the paparazzi and wrote: “Walking through the Labyrinth of the Medina during the Call to Prayer.” She posted a video shot at night, wandering in the alleys of the city’s ancient market.
“Mystical walk through the desert,” she captioned a photo featuring her in the desert, with six horsemen holding candles in the background.
Another portrait shows Madonna wearing a fez decorated with Berber jewelry, along with a caption reading: “Today I am wearing CAKE on my head!“
Known for repeatedly reinventing herself during her 35-year pop career, Madonna has been staying at the luxury palace-turned-hotel El Fenn, owned by the sister of British billionaire Richard Branson, Vanessa. The property has been redecorated and staff have had their smart phones confiscated to protect the privacy of Madonna and her guests. The birthday guest list has also been kept secret, and Moroccan police were keeping journalists and photographers at bay.
Guests reportedly dressed in traditional Bedouin garb for the Arabian-themed party featuring Berber music. According to the Mirror, Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee designed kaftans and Berber costumes for them.
Agence France-Presse reported a local photographer as saying that he had spotted Madonna wearing a veil covering the hair and face but for the eyes. She reportedly visited the five-star Kasbah Agafay spa, went shopping at a souk and enjoyed a camel trek in the desert.
Local media reported that she and around 15 friends had dined out at a restaurant in western Morocco, escorted by bodyguards and under police surveillance.
Taking to social media under the hashtag #MadonnaAt60, fans from across the world sent birthday wishes to the pop diva. Since her first, eponymous album came out in 1983, Madonna has sold more than 300 million records, with albums such as “True Blue,” “Like a Prayer” and “Ray of Light” topping music charts around the world.