RIYADH: The lives and work of pioneering Saudi artists are being celebrated at a new exhibition highlighting five decades of contemporary art in the Kingdom.
The “Decades” exhibition at Mono Gallery includes 35 artworks dating back to the 1970s when first-generation Saudi artists first brought modern art to the Kingdom.
Among the 20 Saudi artists featured is Mohammed Al-Saleem, a trailblazer who quit his job as a school teacher to study art in Italy and later founded his own art group, Saudi Art Dar-House.
“The group provided a haven for all Saudi artists who felt lost and had nowhere to go,” Al-Saleem’s daughter, Najla, told Arab News.
“He supplied artists with colors from Italy and supplies from abroad, because they weren’t available in Saudi at that time. He even opened an international hall to exhibit artwork from around the world. It was the first gallery to exhibit artwork in the entire Gulf, in Riyadh.”
Momen Al-Muslimani, a businessman who organized the Decades exhibition, said: “I wanted to add a new element to my life that wasn’t business or gatherings.
“We opened this exhibition to send a message of culture and history. Every artist is a person who translates their feeling through artwork. God has gifted each and every person a gift of translating their feeling through various methods, some through poetry, writing, music, even charity work.
“The artist is gifted by God to interpret his work through color and to express his or her feelings from within.”
Talal Al-Zeid, curator of the gallery, said: “We called it ‘Decades’ because if you look at the artwork displayed, it is all from Saudi pioneer artists, first-generation artists from across the country.”
Artists featured include Mohammed Al-Saleem, Abdul Haleem Al-Ridawi, Abdul Jabbar Al-Yahya, Safeya Binzagr, Mounirah Mosly, Ali Al-Ruzaiza, Mohammed Resayes, Taha Al-Sabban, Baker Shaikoun, Ali Al-Saffar, Abdullah Hammas, Abdurahman Al-Soliman, Abdullah Al-Shelti, Mohammed Syam, Yousef Jaha, Naiel Mulla, Abdulaziz Al Najem, Khalid Al-Owais, Abdullah Al-Marzook and Fahd Al-Hujailan.
The Riyadh-based writer Yousef Al-Mohaimeed praised the exhibition. “Here is where Mono Gallery’s secret lies — starting from the past and walking confidently toward the future,” he said.