A story of art, passion and culture

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Author: WALAA HAWARI | ARAB NEWS

Tuesday 15 May 2012

RIYADH: Art exhibitions send a very important message in the dialogue between different nations, said Princess Adela bint Abdullah, chairman of the Consulting Committee for the National Museum.

At an exhibition on Sunday by the late artist Wahbi Al-Hariri Al-Refaei, entitled "From Washington to Riyadh," the princess held a joint press conference with US Cultural Attaché Catharine Schwitzer. Princess Adela said that the national museum developed various activities to enhance the cultural and artistic awareness of society.
"The purpose of having this exhibition at the National Museum is to focus on Al-Refaei's artwork which reflects the deep-rooted culture of the Kingdom," said Princess Adela, stressing the initiatives aimed at focusing on Saudi culture internationally. She also said that paying attention to Islamic art and supporting Saudi artists, through international exhibitions, is essential to shed light on Saudi culture.
The US cultural attaché said that in 1965, as a response to late King Faisal's invitation, Al-Refaei visited the Kingdom for the first time, which resulted in a growing interest in the following years in the culture and art of the Arabian Peninsula.
The artist's work during that period, the attaché pointed out, attracted international recognition, which climaxed in 1984 in an individual exhibition held at the Smithsonian museum in Washington. The Saudi culture was well presented in Al-Refaei's work, which was exhibited in other American cities in cooperation with the Saudi embassy and other Saudis.
The exhibition, which opens on Wednesday and lasts for two weeks, displays 50 artworks, representing two photo collections. One, Al-Refaei had accomplished between the 60s and the 90s during his frequent visits to the Kingdom, while the other depicts fine art at historical locations in the American capital.
Al-Refaei has been categorized as 'the last classic artist'. He started his art march at a very early age. In 1937, he graduated from the Fine Art Academy in Rome, to join in 1948 the School of Fine Art in Paris. The artist acquired a state degree in architecture with honors. As a result he received the bronze medallion for fine arts.
In 1965, he responded to an invitation by late King Faisal to explore the Kingdom's rich heritage. He dedicated his efforts, driven by his passion, expertise and architectural talents to document those antiquities in a book entitled "The Antiquity Architecture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," published in 1981.
As a token of appreciation for his dedicated artistic efforts, the French government awarded him in 1991 with the knighthood decoration in arts and literature.
At at age of 70, Al-Refaei, with the support and encouragement of Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, decided to do one last work of art. He documented in 40 pieces of art, from Washington to Spain, China, Asia and Africa, and finally to Riyadh, the most important mosques in the world and called it the collection of "The Houses of God."

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