Kingdom of art dazzles at Athr Gallery

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Updated 08 May 2013
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Kingdom of art dazzles at Athr Gallery

The Young Saudi Artists (YSA) exhibition was initiated by Athr Gallery three years ago to serve as an incubation program for new artistic talents across the country to showcase emerging social attitudes in art. And in the same vein, each YSA term has no doubt progressed in bringing for the fresh names to the artist’s roster. But the important question remains whether the platform has been used in its full potential for those with a voice and an idea to share, if not sell.
A few artists must be credited for attempting to clearly delineate their social, national and cultural deliberations.
In a three-piece series titled “Tagged and Undocumented,” Huda Beydoun who had previously exhibited in YSA I, continued her signature feature-ridden “Mickey Mouse” bonce trend, represented in a series of three digital photographic prints, lending her subjects yet again, a sense of mystery, anonymity and generality.
Although the faceless caricature reminds me lightly of “Deadmau5’s” (progressive house musician) trademark insignia, the works have served as a seriously-intended tribute to the countless migrant “guest-workers” who have incessantly performed mundane grunt work, cleaned up the slough off the streets cared for children while busy mothers were away, or waited endlessly to sell a doll or two at the local toy store.
A reality far from its comic irony, Beydoun has addressed a social issue of relativity that speaks intimately to the generations of “foreign” citizens who have been in the Kingdom for decades, and whose merit although may have gone unrecognized has certainly not been dismissed.
“Borrowed Walls” by Noorah Kareem was a welcome gesture in addressing the rather notorious culture of unauthorized and indiscriminate graffiti spraying across walls around the city. Harsh and far from inspiring unless performed in an organized manner becoming of “artists with a cause,” such acts have long been an eye-sore in addition to serving as acts of vandalism of public spaces that most certainly must secure the concerned attention of city municipal authorities.
“Wasted Dreams” by Omama Al Sadiq resounded as a social lament much amusingly with a real stink on the culture of mere academic achievements which remain just so. Represented with a kitchen sink clogged by a wet and trashed mound of certificates, the installation raises two-fold questions. One of laundered certificates obtained through illegal means, a practice that has thankfully experienced a serious crack-down from the government lately.
The second point, to me, serves as an allegory to the current systems of education that issue mass titles and degrees without any relevance to true learning, questioning, understanding and hence a “real education.” The second part of the installation is an open refrigerator stocked with all manners of learning paraphernalia. A mocking analogy to the frozen educational tools of learning today, left open to thaw and rot, if not applied in the proper manner of instruction.
I can hear echoes of, “We don’t need no education.” Pink Floyd, anyone?
Ghada Al Rabea’s “Habeebaty” is a series of amorous illustrations created using waste candy and chocolate wrappers. Although the effort heavily appealed to me with its environmentally-friendly message of recycling waste into beautiful art, can someone also figure the twin references raised in whispering sweet nothings? Go figure.
A series of book pages enclosed in glass frames by Batool Al-Shamran are endearing pass over views for the lit-indulgent souls.
It was also a reminder of the dying print phenomenon, in reference to the declining reading culture and the dwindling print production, triumphed by the permeation of digital media. “Studies in Strange Souls,” allowed me to meditate on the installations a few seconds longer.
Rami Al-Qthami’s ready-made rotary telephone installation that keeps ringing at a pleasant interval was also a reminder that the old brings something new. When the time is right, you will hear your calling. And then, you just pick up the call. You got to go.
The exhibition Young Saudi Artists III is currently running at Athr Gallery.

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UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

Updated 18 June 2019
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UAE gift helps French palace reopen ‘forgotten theater’

  • Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi
  • The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017

FONTAINEBLEAU: An exquisite 19th-century French theater outside Paris that fell into disuse for one and half centuries has been restored with the help of a €10 million donation from oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
The Napoleon III theater at Fontainebleau Palace south of Paris was built between 1853 and 1856 under the reign of the nephew of emperor Napoleon I.
It opened in 1857 but was used only a dozen times, which has helped preserve its gilded adornments, before being abandoned in 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III.
But during a state visit to France in 2007, Sheikh Khalifa, ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, was reportedly entranced by the abandoned theater and offered €10 million ($11.2 million) on the spot for its restoration.
After a project that has lasted 12 years the theater is now being reopened.
An official inauguration is expected soon, hosted by French Culture Minister Franck Riester and attended by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Now called the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Theatre, it is the latest example of the close relations between Paris and Abu Dhabi.
The UAE capital already hosts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the first foreign institution to carry the name of the great Paris museum.
For all its ornate beauty, the theater has hardly ever been used for its orginal purpose, hosting only a dozen performances between 1857 and 1868, each attended by around 400 people.
“While it had been forgotten, the theater was in an almost perfect state,” said the head of the Fontainebleau Palace, Jean-Francois Hebert.
“Let us not waste this jewel, and show this extraordinary place of decorative arts,” he added.
According to the palace, the theater is “probably the last in Europe to have kept almost all its original machinery, lighting and decor.”
Having such a theater was the desire of Napoleon III’s wife Eugenie. But after the defeat, his capture in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and the declaration of France’s Third Republic, the theater fell into virtual oblivion.
Following the renovation, the theater will mainly be a place to visit and admire, rather than for regularly holding concerts.
“The aim is not to give the theater back to its first vocation” given its “very fragile structure,” said Hebert.
Short shows and recitals may be performed in exceptional cases, under the tightest security measures and fire regulations. But regular guided tours will allow visitors to discover the site, including the stage sets.
The restoration aimed to use as little new material as possible, with 80 percent of the original material preserved.
The opulent central chandelier — three meters high and 2.5 meters wide — has been restored to its original form.