Zamakan: Saudi-based artists ponder universal questions through art

1 / 4
Visitors to the exhibition take keen interest in the artworks on display. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
2 / 4
3 / 4
4 / 4
Updated 31 March 2019

Zamakan: Saudi-based artists ponder universal questions through art

  • The season featured 83 events across nine cities, attracting 730,000 visitors to events as diverse as a French Montana concert and an air contest

DHAHRAN: The organizers of an art exhibition in the Eastern Province want to become a platform for contemporary art in the Kingdom.
Zamakan, which runs in Dhahran until Sept. 23 at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), showcases the work of 11 Saudi and Saudi-based artists.
“This exhibition features the work of only Saudi and Saudi-based artists,” Laila Al-Faddagh, head of museums at Ithra, told Arab News. “Through these exhibitions and art prizes that we do, we really do try to make ourselves a platform for contemporary arts in Saudi Arabia.”
A tweet on the official @IthraWorld account shows a video tour of the exhibition space. Visitors are seen engaging with colorful and diverse pieces on display and discussing them.
Artist Sara Abdu said her work, “Communing with the self, as I commune with Him,” was inspired by a prayer mat which she inherited from an uncle.
“I’ve always been thinking about the relationship between humans and objects and the psychology behind the sentimental value,” she told Arab News. “Then I started thinking about the function of that prayer mat. It is a space where we get disconnected from everything that we reject, to reconnect with our true self, with God, and be true at that moment. I wanted to achieve that state through art, through the act of repetition.”
The artist, who is of Yemeni origin and was born in Jeddah, completed a residency program in Paris in 2017 and first exhibited at the Saudi Art Center in 2014.
“I used ink to produce the piece and the more I spent time working on this piece, the more order I found within me. You will find that there is more order and consistency — it is kind of documentation or a timeline that documents my state at that moment and the fact that I am using ink allows making mistakes and showing them peacefully. It is like taking that inward journey outwardly, making the private public in a way.”
Zamakan is a fusion of the Arabic words for time (zaman) and space or place (makan).
Each piece of art in Zamakan explores questions around space and time, the future and how space and time influence someone’s outlook.
The artists share a location, but they interpret time and space in their own way. Some through nature, some through numbers, some through sound waves.
Ashraf Fagih, division head of communications and partnerships at Ithra, said Zamakan was one of four galleries at the Ithra museum.
“This one is dedicated to contemporary art and the mission of this place, as is the mission of Ithra, is to nurture and to support Saudi talent and Saudi national content as well,” he told Arab News.
“That is exactly what is happening ... 11 Saudi and Saudi-based artists are representing their concepts of time and space. Zamakan is a word that represents these two physical dimensions.
“We are allowing the public to get in touch here in the Eastern Province with the artists themselves and with the work, the way time and space are being represented differently represents how Saudis view the world from different perspectives.
“They speak different mental languages as art is a mental state that is being represented physically and manifested physically eventually.”
Fagih said he was proud of Ithra’s dedication to spreading knowledge. The art on display rewarded the heart and mind, he added.
“It is part of Ithra’s mission to disseminate knowledge, to ignite inspiration and to create a bridge between world cultures. There are a lot of expat and international visitors, international media. We believe this revealed another colorful dimension of Saudi identity through the works of Saudi artists.”
Zamakan is part of the Sharqiah Season, which aligns with the goals of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan to enrich the lives of people in the Kingdom through cultural, educational, sports, and entertainment events and programs.
The season featured 83 events across nine cities, attracting 730,000 visitors to events as diverse as a French Montana concert and an air contest.

First charity art auction in Saudi Arabia hits SR4.8 million in sales

Updated 40 min 17 sec ago

First charity art auction in Saudi Arabia hits SR4.8 million in sales

  • The event, which featured 43 works by Saudi and Arab artists, was held at historic Nassif House in Al-Balad, Jeddah
  • Tawaf around the Kaaba 2,” a painting by Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Shalty, fetched SR 650,000, the highest price paid for any single work in the auction

JEDDAH: Art for Al Balad, the first charity auction of contemporary art in the Kingdom, achieved sales of SR 4.8 million ($1.3 million) on Wednesday.

The event, which featured 43 works by Saudi and Arab artists, all of which sold, was held at historic Nassif House in Al-Balad, Jeddah, on Wednesday. It was organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with auction house Christie’s.

“It was much above our expectations; we are very happy,” said Michael Jeha, chairman of Christie's Middle East.

About 200 Saudi art collectors joined artists and other members of the Saudi and international cultural communities at the event. Bidding was highly competitive, with “Tawaf around the Kaaba 2,” a painting by Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Shalty, fetching SR 650,000, the highest price paid for any single work in the auction.


• Nassif House was built in 1872. Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, was received at this house upon his entry to the city in 1925.

• The Saudi government is keen to restore and preserve buildings with historic and cultural significance, and carries out regular renovation work.

• Al-Balad, or Jeddah historic district, is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kingdom. It contains about 600 buildings that date back to the 19th century.


“Where to” by Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen was the second-most expensive work, selling for SR 500,000, while “Witness in the Desert” by Abdullah Al-Sahikh attracted a winning bid of SR 380,000.

“It was extremely pleasing, very encouraging,” said Jeha. “The energy in the room was fantastic. The enthusiasm was very strong. I think for the very first auction, we can all be extremely pleased.”

Jeha described the growth of the art scene and culture in general in Saudi Arabia as very impressive, and said that the Ministry of Culture has developed a strong platform and program for the coming years, which will help to establish art and culture in the hearts and minds of people in the Kingdom.

The profits from the auction will help to establish a new heritage museum in Jeddah’s historic district and support The Help Center, a non-profit organization that provides customized support to children in the city with special educational needs.

The auction received donations and funding from galleries, cultural foundations, private collectors, and artists across the Arab World, the assistance of which was acknowledged by the Ministry of Culture.

“This would not be possible without the generous support of both the donors and the talented artists,” said Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, deputy minister of culture, in his opening speech.

The ministry aspires to create and develop a cultural environment in which artists and other creatives can access a platform that celebrates a shared identity and builds understanding between people.

Speaking of the Ministry’s three main objectives in its cultural vision for 2019, Fayez said that it aims to support the nation’s cultural transformation by promoting culture as a way of life, enable the sector to contribute to the economy, and encourage international cultural exchanges.

Before the auction, the works on sale were on display to the public in an exhibition on June 23 and 24.