Saudi artists depict change through art

Some of the most admired artists in the Kingdom have showcased their work during the ongoing visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the US.
Updated 27 March 2018
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Saudi artists depict change through art

NEW YORK: The compelling story of how Saudi Arabia is changing is the theme of an exhibition of contemporary Saudi art, which opened on Monday in New York at the newly established Misk Art Institute.
The four-day exhibition marks the official visit to the US of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and showcases works by some of the most admired artists in the Kingdom, with 27 major artworks. The art institute is part of the Misk Foundation, the non-profit body the crown prince set up to promote and encourage creativity among the Kingdom’s youth.

DANA AWARTANI
Born in Jeddah in 1987, Awartani has a degree in fine art from the prestigious Central St. Martin’s College in London and a master’s degree in traditional arts from the Princes School in London.
She specializes in illumination, tile work and parquetry and her work typically features geometric patterns. She has exhibited her work in Salt Lake City, San Francisco and the Venice Biennale. Several of her works are included in the Farjam Collection, one of the world’s largest collections of Islamic art.

RASHED AL-SHASHAI
One of the most active figures on the Saudi contemporary art scene, Al-Shashai, 40, was born in Al-Baha and raised in Makkah. He is a founder member of the Saudi Arabia Fine Arts Society, the Art Education Society and founder-director of Tasami Centre for Visual Art, which supports cutting-edge art in the Kingdom. He has exhibited widely both in the Gulf region, in North Africa and the US and is considered an important influence on the new generation of Saudi artists. He also lectures and organizes exhibitions and forums.

AHMAD ANGAWI
He studied industrial design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and then did a master’s degree in traditional art at the Prince’s School in London. He says his work is inspired by Islamic principles and firmly believes that industrial designers are the craftsmen of today. Angawi is a cofounder of Al-Hangar, an independent artist initiative, which organizes cultural exchanges through exhibitions and educational programs. He has exhibited throughout the Gulf as well as Venice and the US.

AJLAN GHAREM
Born in 1985 in the southern city of Khamis Mushait, Gharem is now based in Riyadh, where he teaches mathematics and applies mathematical discipline to making his art. He founded the Gharem Studio with his artist brother, Abdulnasser Gharem. He has been exhibited in the US and London and in 2011 was chosen to work with artists and curators at the British Museum, Tate Modern and Penguin Books.
SAEED SALEM
Born in 1984 in Jeddah, Salem is of Yemeni descent and was educated in Malaysia. He graduated from Curtin University, Perth, Australia in 2007 with a degree in advertising, which included a photography module. He had no intention of becoming a photographer but after working in several design and photography studios, he set up his own shop, 181 degrees, in 2009.
His first major stint in the contemporary art world was through Edge of Arabia’s We Need to Talk exhibition in Jeddah in 2012, where Salem began project Neonland, a series of iconic photographs capturing the essence of Jeddah.

FATIMAH HASSAN
The women of Asir, southwest Saudi Arabia are famous for the colorful murals and frescoes they paint to decorate their homes. Hassan, herself an Asiri, is a proud exponent and promoter of the traditional art form, having showcased examples at the UN in New York, among other places. With her son Ahmed, daughter Jamila and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, she has lobbied to have traditional murals in Asir placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The Al-Qatt Al-Asiri murals by women artists from southern Saudi Arabia have been specially commissioned for the Misk Art Institute exhibition.

AMR ALNAGMAH
The conceptual artist has created pieces featuring the Ka’aba. His piece, “Digital Spirituality” has the black cube located in the center of a circuit board. He has exhibited his work at the Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, the only national institution in the US dedicated to the Arab-American experience.


Saudi Crown prince’s India visit will help expand ties beyond energy

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India will boost robust interactions that New Delhi has established with Saudi Arabia over the last few years. (Supplied)
Updated 20 February 2019
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Saudi Crown prince’s India visit will help expand ties beyond energy

  • New Delhi’s participation in Kingdom’s mega projects a major aspect of renewed ties: Talmiz Ahmad

NEW DELHI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s first visit to India is a landmark development in bilateral ties between India and Saudi Arabia, according to Talmiz Ahmad, a former ambassador to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia is India’s largest supplier of crude oil, but since taking office in 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to use India’s growing economy to attract more investment from Saudi Arabia beyond energy, and foster cooperation on trade, infrastructure and defense.

Ahmad, author of several books on the Arab world and twice India’s Ambassador to Riyadh, said that while the backbone of New Delhi’s relationship with the Kingdom is energy, the two sides had been discussing “how to give greater substance and longevity to the relationship on the basis of concrete projects.”

Reuters reported this week that India is expecting Prince Salman to announce an initial investment in its National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, a quasi-sovereign wealth fund, to help accelerate the building of ports and highways. Saudi Arabia has also suggested investing in India’s farming industry, with an eye on food imports to the Kingdom. 

Ahmad said Saudi Arabia’s NEOM project, a $500 billion smart city in Tabuk province on the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, would also provide great opportunities for Indian companies. 

He added that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the crown prince’s blueprint to fundamentally transform Kingdom’s economy, presents another opportunity for Indian businesses to prosper from the relationship.

“India is extremely well placed,” said Ahmad. “We are world leaders in small and medium enterprises and in the services sector. Saudi Arabia also has proposals to develop its tourism and leisure sectors, and I believe India is also well placed in those areas too.”

He also discussed how the strategic partnership had been initiated by former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who visited Riyadh in 2010, but that Modi, who visited in 2016, had added “considerable substance” to the relationship.

He stressed, though, that Riyadh’s ties with India are independent of its relationship with Pakistan. He added India and Saudi Arabia were also working together to improve the security situation in Afghanistan, to resolve the 17-year conflict between government forces and the Afghan Taliban, as well as in the wider West Asia region. 

“India has excellent relations with all the countries in West Asia, and New Delhi is well placed to address some of the concerns that all the countries have with each other,” he said.