Saudi art expo highlighting ‘humanity’ opens in New York

Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, center, with the exhibition’s volunteers and guests on the opening day. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 10 October 2019

Saudi art expo highlighting ‘humanity’ opens in New York

  • The event is being sponsored by Arab News along with Saudi Signatures, a nonprofit association

NEW YORK: A Saudi art exhibition putting “humanity” under the spotlight has been launched in New York to coincide with UN talks.

While humanitarian discussions take place at the UN headquarters in the city, a quaint gallery in Manhattan’s Chinatown will be showcasing Arab-made art pieces that focus on the important issue.

The event is being sponsored by Arab News along with Saudi Signatures, a nonprofit association that seeks to share the Kingdom’s culture and promote Saudi artworks.

Saudi students from New York City universities have volunteered their time to guide visitors around the expo.

The top floor of the venue will be dedicated to paintings created by female Saudi artists, while the ground floor will display photographs of Saudi residents taken in the Kingdom. A large screen will show a video created by Arab News.

Saudi Signatures founder, Dr. Mariam Al-Eissa, holds a Ph.D. in molecular genetics of complex disorders and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She launched Saudi Signatures during her studies in the UK and expanded it to the US after moving to America.

“We are a group of artists who organize events trying to promote Saudi and Arab artists. ‘Humanity’ is a very sensitive topic but usually nobody draws a lot about humanity unless you ask for it.

“What we present is a different visual language where it’s self-explanatory. Because art is the language that everyone speaks, I think this is the best way to deliver the message that we need to stimulate the humanitarian part of every person by this event,” Al-Eissa told Arab News.

Perhaps the most unique part of the exhibition is an interactive art piece titled “You,” which involves visitors being invited to playfully dip their hands in white paint and imprint their fingers on a dark wall canvas.

Accomplished international artist Mohamad Hafez, who lived in Saudi Arabia for 15 years before settling in the US for studies and work, visited the space on the opening night to offer his support.

“Art is a very powerful tool. It was very heartwarming to see the beauty and complexity of the rich Arab culture displayed here,” he said.

“As a Syrian artist, I empathize with everything. The role of the artist is not to justify politics, but we should just highlight the humanity and the global message that surpasses the biases.

“Politicians want to build walls, but it is the artists’ responsibility to destroy these walls. Art is to build bridges. When cultures realize how much we all have in common, it is hard to then paint us with one wide brushstroke.

“In this exhibition, we are humanizing the population and we are giving a taste of Saudi. If you don’t believe us, see for yourself,” Hafez added.

The exhibition runs until Oct. 11 at Novo gallery at 263 Bowery, New York, NY 10002.


Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

Updated 14 October 2019

Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

  • “It (Saudi Movies) will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi,” Shahrukh Khan 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia took another step toward establishing its place on the global entertainment map with a major industry event in Riyadh on Sunday.

The Joy Forum19 brought together entertainment promoters and pioneers from around the world, along with global stars such as Indian actor and film producer Shah Rukh Khan; Hong Kong martial artist, actor, film director Jackie Chan and Belgian actor and martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The event was organized by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), which signed several important agreements on the day, including a financing guarantee program for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Participants are ushered in on the first day of the Joy Forum19 event in Riyadh. (AN photo by Noor Nugali)

“Our message is for both, locally and internationally. Me and my generation suffered a lot, we had lots of time on our hands,” GEA chairman Turki Al-Sheikh said at the event.

“Today you are witnessing things we have never had in Saudi Arabia. We have 300,000 visitors to our events, and our sales have hit 80 percent.

“Saudi Arabia has never seen anything like Riyadh Season, we have over 400 sponsors, which is unprecedented.”

Al-Sheikh announced that the authority had named a stadium after singer Mohammed Abdo, the “Artist of Arabs,” and another after Abu Baker Salim, the father of Khaleeji music. 


READ MORE: Three MoUs signed at opening day of Joy Forum19 in Riyadh



Drunken master

The actors expressed what it meant to be movie stars and how wide-reaching their influence could be.

Jackie Chan recalled that when he was a new actor, he often acted like a drunken fighter until he realized that he has a responsibility towards younger fans. 

Jackie Chan: no longer a "drunken master". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“All over the world I keep drinking and fighting (in films).  I realized that I made drunken master cool — so I stopped,” he said. One of Chan's most popular movies was the 1978 action comedy martial arts film "Drunken Master".

“When you’re 20 you don’t have this inner thought — anything that makes the audience laugh you do, but later on especially (when I went) to Africa so many years ago — they started doing the drunken style — the children look up to me. So, I realized we have a responsibility to the children so all those years I corrected those actions: no dirty comedy words or action,” he said.

He attributed his awareness in being responsible for the content he produces to the fans. “I’m really thankful to the fans in making me a good actor.”

Chan spoke about his experience in acting martial arts in both the United States and Asia. “I realized we have two different markets one for America another for Asia. They are totally two different things.”

The safety measures the US takes for stunts is very impeccable making sure of the wellbeing of the actor comes first. However, in Asia it’s a different story, “In Asia when I want to do a stunt, I roll, jump (and then go to the) hospital, he said laughingly.

“It’s so difficult sometimes in the USA so many rules- Jackie Chan movies: NO RULES!” he said and received applause from the audience.

 

Good start

Jean Claude Van Damme gave a shout out and a big thank you to all his “brother and sisters from Saudi Arabia,” He said he got a royal treatment fit for “Kings and Queens”. He went on to reveal that his hotel room at the Ritz Carlton Riyadh was so big he could easily “roller-skate” in it.

Jean Claude Van Damme: "Let's do a movie together". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“I’m honored to be invited here. I know it’s your first time to do this event, but I know it will have a very bright future and I hope next year you will invite more people,” he said.

He said he may not be a “good talker” but expressed his joy at being in Saudi Arabia saying. “I’m happy to be here and I hope to have more connection later with the audience.”

Van Damme remarked how that in every country in the world you have treasure actors and movies with different cultures, “In the Middle East I don’t know what the taste will be, but I know they love American, Asian and Indian movies. They have a broad taste. (Saudi Arabia) should do a movie with all of us together!”

 

Crossing barriers

Sharukh Khan emphasized the importance of every country telling their story through movies; “As long as we are telling the story in whatever language it doesn’t matter. Cinema crosses all barriers.”
 

Shahrukh Khan: "I'd audition for a Saudi movie". (AN photo by Noor Nugali)

With the opening of Saudi Arabia to the world and Cinemas, he said, “I can’t wait to talk about the Saudi films...It will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi.”

“The stories that you tell should talk about goodness and people should be engaged with the content and it should bring them together. People want to laugh and sadly have to cry, to be entertained and to feel.”

Sharukh noted that Saudi Arabia has started to make movies and he’s watched the King Faisal movie, "Born a King". 

“You’ll always find gems in all movie industries and I think there’s are gems in Saudi and as a matter of fact one of the things I’d like to do is audition for a Saudi movie … Please give me an opportunity!” he said, eliciting a thunderous applause from the audience.


Red carpet

Abdulaziz AlMuzaini, co-founder and CEO of the Saudi Arabian Myrkott Animation Studio; gave a heartfelt thanks full of gratitude to King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying: “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have dreamed of this moment or this panel.”

Some of the celebrities invited to the event walk the red carpet. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Lebanese actor Wahid Jalal, who was the voice of Long John Silver in Treasure Island, came onstage for the opening of the event. “Children love heroes and they try to imitate them,” he said. 

He also delighted the crowd by performing Silver’s famous laugh.

Some of the celebrities who walked down the red carpet were American actor Jason Momoa, star of Aquaman; Amr Adeeb, Balqis Fathi, Yusra, Boosy Shalabi, Lojien and Aseel Omran, Mohammed Hamaki, Nawal AlZoghbi, Talal Salama, Ahlam Al-Shamsi, Hussain AlJismi, Suad Abdulla, Ibrahem Alharbi, Tariq Alali and Abdulnaser Darweesh.

The gala dinner hosted 500 guests and was a private event, but the red carpet captured the essence of where Saudi is moving to culturally.