Saudi gallery celebrates 10th anniversary with new art exhibition

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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Ali Khamg)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Ali Khamg)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Ali Khamg)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Ali Khamg)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Ali Khamg)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo)
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Athr Gallery’s ‘Out of Place’ expo runs through March 23 in Jeddah. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
Updated 09 February 2019
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Saudi gallery celebrates 10th anniversary with new art exhibition

  • Athr Gallery attracts both local and international visitors and exhibitors

JEDDAH: A popular Saudi art gallery is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the launch of a major new exhibition.
Athr Gallery, in Jeddah, on Thursday opened its latest showcase of creative talent titled “Out of Place.”
Founded in 2009 by Hamza Serafi and Mohammed Hafiz, Athr is an art project space that for the past decade has played a key role in building the contemporary art scene in the Kingdom. In doing so, it has provided a creative platform to display the works of emerging and established regional and international artists.
Speaking to Arab News at the opening of the new exhibition, Serafi said it felt like only yesterday when the gallery first opened its doors to the public, but he and Hafiz had always believed the venture would be a success.
“If you believe in something with a passion, if you really put your heart into it, believing not only in yourself but also the artists, it can heal a society and be of tremendous value to the community,” Serafi said.
Athr’s “Out of Place” display focuses on creative content inspired and developed when artists work in unfamiliar environments, and the exhibition also aims to promote the value of residencies for the development and well-being of artists.
In its publicity for “Out of Place,” which runs until March 23, Athr said: “The works presented are the outcome of each artist’s distinct and singular explorations during their time spent in different cities and environments. For some, it enables existing ideas to take unexpected form. For others, it can trigger a whole new set of concepts and processes.”

‘Unsent letters’
The six-week expo features the works of more than a dozen artists who participated in residency programs around the world, including: Bethanien, in Berlin; Al Mansouria Atelier at Cité Internationale des Arts, in Paris; Deveron Projects, in Huntly, Scotland; and Artists-in-Labs, in Zurich.
“We teach the value of not only the beauty in art, but also the importance of the idea,” said Serafi. “In the contemporary world of art, it is about the idea, and with that you learn to listen to the opinion of others while also developing your own.”
Athr attracts both local and international visitors and exhibitors.
Saudi artist Sarah Taibah has 70 illustrations on display at the city gallery in a collective piece titled “Mirsal: Unsent letters.”
Two years ago, while doing her art residency in Berlin, Taibah was inspired to collect unsent letters from broken-hearted individuals and turn them into drawings and illustrations.
“It’s international. Along with Saudi Arabia, there are letters from San Francisco, Barcelona, Berlin, all around the world,” she said. “It’s fascinating to me that heartbreak is so universal. It’s the same everywhere: I read a letter from Peru and it felt like I wrote it.
“My artwork is either a reflection of the text or from a particular object that the author said was significant in their relationship. I just found this project very refreshing,” Taibah added.
Through “Mirsal: Unsent letters,” Taibah has fused contemporary art with art therapy in the hope of offering to individuals the comfort of knowing they are not alone in their suffering.
As well as vast exhibition halls, Athr houses a visual arts bookshop, an outdoor rooftop terrace, plus food and coffee shops.
Serafi said Athr was also involved in mentoring up-and-coming artists. “I am very proud of our ‘Young Saudi Artists Program.’ It is an annual event that we hold showcasing the latest Saudi talent in the field of art. It is a semi-residential program where we develop their craft and work with them for six months prior to the exhibition.
“In 10 years, we have placed Saudi art in renowned international museums, as well as found a home in some very important private collections around the world. For that we are very happy,” Serafi added.


China's ambassador: Saudi Arabia a 'strategic partner and powerful ally'

Updated 7 min 15 sec ago
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China's ambassador: Saudi Arabia a 'strategic partner and powerful ally'

  • The two friendly countries enjoy a complete strategic partnership, Li said.
  • The China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee will meet during the crown prince's visit

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to China heralds a new era in the relationship between the two countries, according to Li Huaxin, the Chinese ambassador to the Kingdom.

“This is an important visit with a series of political exchanges at the highest level,” Li said.

“They are embracing this opportunity to hold a joint, bilateral, high-level committee meeting to guide and coordinate cooperation in all fields,” he said, referring to the China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee established in January 2016. 

The committee met for the first time in August that year in Beijing and again, 12 months later, in Jeddah. 

Li’s comments came as the Saudi crown prince began a visit to China, the Kingdom’s biggest trading partner. The visit is the last leg of an Asia tour seeking to build economic ties, and strengthen social and cultural links.

“The two friendly countries enjoy a complete strategic partnership,” said Li. “Both parties are excited to move forward.”

China has responded enthusiastically to the visit, a recognition of the powerful position the Kingdom holds in the region and globally.

 “Saudi Arabia is a very important country that has a big impact, whether in the region or world,” said Li. “We consider the Kingdom to be a powerful ally in building (China’s Belt and Road initiative) and linking it with the Saudi Vision 2030, while preserving the stability and development of the region and the world.”

Since the crown prince’s launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, many in the Kingdom, including the ambassador, have witnessed the immense change it has brought to the country.

“I have seen, personally, the major developments taking place in Saudi Arabia,” said Li. “While there are changes in its cities and economy, the most important change is in the Saudi people. They are showing their enthusiasm and their abilities, which have grown on a large scale. They are playing a big role in building their country.

“I see a bright future for Saudi Arabia.”

Li highlighted the importance of the evolving strategic partnership between the two countries and their respective strengths, saying: “China is a large country in terms of its economy, and Saudi Arabia in its importance, whether in the Gulf, Arab and Muslim countries or the world. Therefore, direct meetings between the two leaderships are of vital importance.

“Both leaderships are on the same page and their stances on many issues are similar. I have attended many meetings where the two parties confirmed the similarity and conformity of their positions.”

On issues of particular importance to the Arab world, Li noted that China’s stance on Palestine has not changed in decades.

“We have called for a solution for the two sides and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty, as well as Israel’s withdrawal from occupied lands, in keeping with UN Security Council resolutions, and the return of Palestinian refugees to their lands.”

Li said that both China and the Kingdom believe in the importance of sovereignty.

“Every country calls for sovereignty free from interference in its internal issues,” he said, adding that each nation has its own rules and social system, which must be respected.

“We both seek to find peaceful solutions to regional and world issues; in that respect we are similar,” he said.

The ambassador said that cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia is based on global principles and international law, and with the five principles of coexistence: Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and cooperation for mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.

These principles were first set out in a treaty between China and India in 1954.

Responding to the suggestion that some nations might be skeptical or critical of China, the envoy said: “When we discuss these relations with our brothers, we do not care what others think as long as it is good, normal cooperation between two brotherly nations and is based on global principles and law.

“Our cooperation is not aimed at any country, whether in the region or world. Some countries might be annoyed by it, but the forest is vast and the birds are many, and they may chirp as they please.”