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.