DUBAI: US singer and actress Jennifer Lopez was among a number of celebrities who took to the stage at the Citizen VAX LIVE: The Concert To Reunite The World show on Sunday, — and she pulled out all the stops with three wardrobe changes, which included a shimmering jumpsuit from Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad.
Performing some of her biggest hits at Los Angeles’s SoFi Stadium, the 51-year-old singer cycled through a vibrant bodysuit, an off-the-shoulder, lion-encrusted mini dress and a jumpsuit for the first concert in LA since the pandemic hit.
Lopez first took to the SoFi stage to sing the iconic Neil Diamond song “Sweet Caroline,” joined by her mother Guadalupe, wearing a gold, fringed and feathered Zuhair Murad pantsuit. The dazzling creation featured sequins, cape sleeves and a plunging neckline and was plucked from the Ras Baalbek-born designer’s Spring 2021 couture collection.
Murad is one of Lopez’s go-to designers for special red carpet events and performances.
The “Hustlers” actress previously opened up about her affinity for Murad’s designs, describing the couturier as “probably her favorite designer” in a past interview with Venture Lifestyle.
“I discovered him years ago when I was doing a show, and I was so jet-lagged and I was up in the middle of the night watching Fashion TV, which they had in this country I was in,” explained the hitmaker. “He had this beautiful show and I was like, ‘who is this guy?’”
Lopez went on to explain the hurdles she faced when trying to get in touch with Murad, who doesn’t seem to have been a household name at the time.
“I came back (to the US) and I said, ‘Do you guys know Zuhair Murad?’ and nobody knew who he was, none of the stylists, nobody in the United States knew who he was. I was like, ‘You have to get me this dress for the Met Ball,” she said, referring to the Met Gala, an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York and one of the fashion world’s most eagerly anticipated events.
“I wore his dress to the Met Ball and after that, I just started using him for everything — he designed my last tour — we just have a great relationship. He’s a beautiful man, a beautiful designer,” Lopez added.
Murad wasn’t the only Lebanese designer that Lopez championed during the charity concert aimed at boosting confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and raising funds for vaccination efforts worldwide. The singer and actress turned heads in a plunging Elie Saab jumpsuit on the purple carpet before hitting the stage.
London ballet school looks to expand to Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia
Byers, who has a life-long passion for ballet, founded the academy after “falling in love with Islam” and converting
She is passionate about making ballet accessible to girls from impoverished backgrounds
Updated 23 June 2021
LONDON: A Muslim ballet school in London that uses poetry to accompany dance has set its sights on expanding to countries with large Muslim populations, with “Saudi Arabia definitely on the list.” Grace & Poise Academy aims to offer ballet to the Muslim community in an artistic way that allows girls to “train professionally within the boundaries of Islam.”
Poetry accompanies ballet movements instead of music and classes are female-only at the school which was established in 2019.
“We are hoping to expand to Muslim-majority countries to make ballet more accessible to the Muslim community, and Saudi Arabia is definitely on the list because of the population there. We’ve also had inquiries from countries such as Malaysia and we want to expand as much as we can,” said founder Maisie Alexandra Byers.
“When I originally looked at opening the school, I couldn’t find anything that had been done in this way before and that’s why I want to expand internationally,” she added.
Byers, 26, who has a life-long passion for the artistic dance and a degree in ballet education from the Royal Academy of Dance, founded the academy after “falling in love with Islam” and converting to the religion three years ago.
She set up the school so that she could continue her career in ballet teaching while practicing her newfound faith. Byers also wanted to make the dance “accessible to Muslims and accommodating of their values.”
“It was an interesting change because I had lived a lifestyle working within ballet that might have been difficult for me to continue. Setting up this company has allowed me to have my professional development as well as pave the way for others to do the same if they are passionate about ballet,” Byers explained.
“I started exploring poetry and working with poetry — we have a ballet poetry syllabus and don’t work with music. For those Muslims who don’t listen to music, that’s fine as we don’t use it and for those who do listen to it then it’s still a unique and beneficial way of working as an artistic approach in its own right,” she said.
Byers said that while a normal syllabus would couple ballet movement with music, using “poetry complements the understanding of that movement development.”
The director writes the poetry herself and “it is written to actually work with the choreography specifically. We play a recording of the poetry, recited by myself, and the girls do the exercises to the poetry. It’s tailored to the movements.
“There are a lot of benefits of ballet in terms of the cognitive engagement with the poetry, also the physical development; you’re gaining posture, alignment, control, stability, coordination. With the poetry, we also have the emotional wellbeing of the child, the expression of telling the story, and the facial element, too. These are fundamental skills.”
Byers is passionate about making ballet accessible to girls from impoverished backgrounds and giving them transferable skills that will help them change their financial circumstances.
“There are a lot of children who can massively benefit holistically from physical, cognitive, emotional and social development through something like ballet but are not given that opportunity mainly because parents are not in a position to fund extracurricular activities outside of school,” she said.
“The big challenge is how to make activities that are beneficial to the Muslim community more accessible in terms of financing and things like that.”
Another challenge that she faces is the lack of value that some people place on the performing arts as opposed to academic subjects such as science and maths.
“Many people haven’t been exposed to ballet for various reasons and may not initially be able to see what the benefits are. Unless you work in education, some of the benefits of ballet may not be obvious, and sometimes there is a big emphasis on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) rather than creative subjects,” said Byers.
That hasn’t stopped Byers’ academy from flourishing and it operates from four sites across London.
She also works with Islamic schools that offer ballet classes as part of physical education.
“A lot of Islamic schools particularly like what we do because they understand the educational value of ballet. They see the depth of the learning and how it is cross-connected in various ways, and so they really value that on a deeper level, which is what I think we are slowly doing — educating many people about the deeper value,” Byers said.
Cairo International Book Fair to run from June 30 to July 15
There will be 675 pavilions and 1,218 publishers, as well as foreign publishing agencies representing 25 countries
The fair will launch the “Your Book, Your Culture” initiative, which aims to encourage citizens to buy books and urge them to read
Updated 23 June 2021
Mohammed Abu Zaid
CAIRO: Despite the challenges of the coronavirus disease pandemic, the 52nd Cairo International Book Fair will run from June 30 to July 15, it was announced on Tuesday.
The Egyptian Ministry of Culture said the exhibition, under the slogan “Reading is Life,” will be held at the Egypt International Exhibition Center, covering an area of 40,000 square meters.
There will be 675 pavilions and 1,218 publishers, as well as foreign publishing agencies representing 25 countries.
The fair will launch the “Your Book, Your Culture” initiative, which aims to encourage citizens to buy books and urge them to read. The prices of books will range from one Egyptian pound ($0.064) to 20 pounds.
Enas Abdel Dayem, minister of culture, said that holding the fair this year was a challenge, describing this year’s event as “an exceptional one” and a clear indication of the Egyptian leadership’s keenness to encourage reading and publishing.
“We are entering a new era of digitization transformation and development. This year’s exhibition is the largest gathering of publishers in the world,” she claimed.
Abdel Dayem said entry will be free this year, and that prices will remain fixed, adding that the idea to increase the number of days for the fair would support the publishing industry.
“The maximum number of entries will be 100,000 visitors per day, and no one will be allowed to enter once we hit that number,” said Haitham Al-Haj Ali, head of the General Book Authority.
He said facilities have been made to accommodate people with special needs, which can be requested and booked electronically.
Saudi Arabia’s Misk Art Institute launches Masaha residency exploring the nature of art creation
Saudi artists create new interdisciplinary artwork to show how art connects with all sectors
Updated 23 June 2021
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: There is a garden that lies outside of time. It is where three portals, represented by plants, peer into the past, present and future of our world. This is the imaginary garden of Saudi artist Abdulmohsen Albinali created as an artwork during a three-month residency at the inaugural Masaha Art Space in Riyadh, formerly known as the King Faisal bin Fahad Arts Gallery, long revered as one of Riyadh’s most seminal spaces for contemporary art. For Albinali, the three plants serve as a means for discussing humanity’s relationship with the natural world through historical events, present cultural perceptions of the environment, and a science fiction understanding of the future.
“These green shelters, in their very conception and the marks they bear of human care and cultivation, undeniably stand as restorative, nourishing, and necessary havens where poetry, art, desires, love, and culture come to bloom and secrets come to eternally rest,” the artist told Arab News.
Albani is one of nine Saudi artists showing their work in “Blurring Lines: Art & the Creative Industries,” an exhibition presenting work by artists with a cross-disciplinary practice with a particular focus on the crossover between the visual arts and other creative industries such as design, film, music, fashion, and food. The exhibition explores how artists, creatives, and other non-arts related sectors, including health, can collaborate in creative ways.
Misk Art Institute designed the Masaha Residency as a way for artists to pursue new projects and ideas with the aid of a dedicated mentors aiding artists through studio visits, workshops, seminars, networking opportunities, research, and regular masterclasses and critique sessions by guest mentors. The two guest mentors for this residency were Inti Guerrero, former curator at Tate Modern, artistic director of Bellas Artes Projects, and curator of the 2018 EVA International Biennale, and Maya El-Khalil, one of the region’s foremost independent curators who has championed Saudi Arabian art.
The Masaha residency was established by the Misk Art Institute, a new artist-centered cultural organization founded in 2017 and operating under the auspices of the Misk Foundation, established by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It is fully funded, includes travel, accommodation and production costs, and is hosted in 10 purpose-built studios. It is open to regional, national, and international artists with the sole purpose of creating art that engages with local communities with the aim of contributing to new global art practices and experiences.
“We believe that art residencies are important because they broaden an artist’s experience and inspire cultural exchange,” Reem Al-Sultan, CEO of Misk Art Institute, told Arab News. “Residencies encourage an artist to leave their comfort zone and push boundaries. In addition, residencies influence and expand an artist network within the field providing opportunities for exposure. What makes Masaha Residency unique is that we provide mentorship and critique sessions that aid an artists’ critical thinking and enhance their skill set.”
Selected through an open call, the nine artists were invited to develop new works with support from creative practitioners spanning various industries in during an intensive program of studio-based activities.
Many of the artists drew from traditional Saudi culture and symbolism, merging such references with digital technology and contemporary art practices.
Huda Al-Aithan, for example, created “Numinous Najd,” a work consisting of a 3D-printed pendant lighting fixture, a handmade lighting and clay sculpture and digital prints. The pieces borrows functional elements from Najdi architecture and re-interpret them into a contemporary lighting installation.
By designing playful and contemporary forms that borrow from the essence of Najdi architecture, Al-Aithan seeks to participate in the preservation of her local heritage.
The lighting fixture and sculpture serve as studies on architectural forms and light. “The installation creates a conversation between the past and the future in terms of materiality and essence,” explained the artist who also created futuristic digital prints in which to place the lighting fixture as a piece of architecture itself.
In similar nod to her native Saudi culture and Islamic faith, the work of Sara Khalid draws its inspiration from the traditional narratives of the Arabic language and Islamic methodologies in art and technology. Her work “Oral Platforms,” the third version of “HyperLink,” aims to bridge the gap between the distinct domains of cultural inclusivity and the status quo. It explores, like her contemporaries in the residency, the state of Saudi Arabia’s strong oral tradition and its surrounding aesthetics. In each new version of the work, Khalid aims to foster fresh perspectives on the nature of Arabic and Islamic language, culture—preserving elements from Saudi’s rich past while also innovating, just like the residency and exhibition demonstrate, through cross-disciplinary means.
The next cohort of “residents” will be welcomed during the Fall of 2021 and will feature nine artists-in-residence and one writer-in-residence working around the theme of “HOME- Being and belonging.”
“Blurring Lines: Art & the Creative Industries” runs at the Masaha Art Space until June 30.
Art Jameel announces opening date for Hayy Jameel cultural complex in Jeddah
The 17,000-square-meter cultural complex will open in Jeddah this winter, 2021
Updated 23 June 2021
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: In another win for the Saudi art scene, the long-awaited Hayy Jameel has announced it will finally open the doors to its sprawling 17,000-square-meter cultural complex in Jeddah in winter 2021. Hayy Jameel, which derives its name from the Arabic word for “neighborhood,” intends to be exactly such — a space for collaboration and creative exchange. The new cultural complex adds to the growing list of new cultural enterprises launched in the Kingdom over the last several years as Saudi Arabia continues its mission to push for a “creative economy.”
“Hayy Jameel is set to be a home-from-home for Jeddah’s creative community — a dynamic, multidisciplinary complex created specifically to support the art scene and nurture next-generation talent,” Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, told Arab News.
“This is a hugely exciting, new era for Saudi culture, in general. Now, complementing and supporting the dynamic and large-scale developments led by the Ministry of Culture and government-affiliated entities, we have the first major not-for-profit, private sector contribution and one with a wholly civic purpose,” she added.
Located in a three-story edifice in the residential area of Al-Mohammadiyyah in north Jeddah, Hayy Jameel will include the launch of Hayy Cinema, a 200-seat cinema that marks Saudi Arabia’s first independent cinema; Hayy Arts, a 700-square-meter exhibition center; Hayy Studio, an artists’ studio; Feta Hayy, a multi-purpose space for performances, workshops and talks; Hayy Learning, a community-focused education platform featuring a program that offers in-person and virtual learning, research and apprenticeships; and Hayy Residents, a space that will bring together pioneering creative businesses from Jeddah, ranging from contemporary art and performance to design and publishing, as well as baking institutes, new cafes and restaurants.
The complex is designed by waiwai, a Dubai and Tokyo-based architectural studio, also the creator of the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park in front of Dubai’s Jameel Arts Center. The cinema is designed by Jeddah-based Bricklab, a commission awarded to the firm after an international design competition staged by Art Jameel.
Jeddah has long been known for its creative scene, with its annual 21’39 festival that has taken place throughout the city since 2013; its Athr Gallery and Hafez Gallery, two of the Kingdom’s most renowned art galleries; and its host of emerging and established Saudi artists. The city will also play host to the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival in November 2021. What has been lacking in the scene, however, are spaces in which to create and incubate artistic production.
In many ways, Hayy Jameel has arrived as the missing ingredient in Jeddah’s cultural mission. It is distinct from Dubai’s Jameel Arts Center in that its purpose is not solely to act as a museum or place to exhibit the Jameel family collection but to nurture cross-cultural dialogue and creative production.
“We think of Jameel Arts Center as a contemporary visual arts museum and Hayy as a multidisciplinary creative hub,” added Carver. “Both embrace creative dialogue, while Hayy focuses more on artistic production.”
Such ideas are reflected in its architecture. Its three-story structure is characterized by tall façades that reflect the intimacy of a private home, while the interior space is open and centered around Saha, a communal courtyard meant to be a re-interpretation of the traditional courtyard typology with surrounding landscaping rooted in sustainable and green practices. The structure’s airy ambiance is supported by natural light, which streams in from all sides, further enhancing the space as a place for easy dialogue and creation. The building uses a steel structure with aluminum cladding and concrete flooring — elements that offer flexibility to the spaces, allowing them to be used in a versatile fashion for exhibitions, events, workshops and more.
Hayy’s architecture and design are already the recipients of numerous architectural accolades, including Gold in the Hong Kong Design Awards; Silver in the New York Design Awards; and the Honor Award for Exceptional Design by the American Institute of Architects’ Middle East chapter. It has also been nominated for the 2A Continental Architectural Award as well as the London Design Awards.
Hayy’s inaugural show titled “Staple: What’s on your plate?” is co-curated with London-based partner the Delfina Foundation. Inspired by Jeddah’s diverse demographic, the exhibition will explore the relationship between food and memory, ecology, and place through the works of over 30 artists, thinkers, performers, researchers, filmmakers, and other creative practitioners.
The kickoff date for such conversations is set for November 2021 and will continue until April 2022, supported by a public program of talks, performances, and educational and film programs, with contributions from regional and international artists. Workshops will also be held for people of all ages, from children to the elderly, proving how art is accessible to all and the creative journey and knowledge acquired through it long-lasting.
Hayy Jameel also marks the 75th anniversary of the Jameel family's global philanthropy.
Headquartered in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Jameel family has long been one of the Arab world’s biggest patrons. For decades, Art Jameel has supported artists and creative communities across the Middle East through exhibitions, commissions, research, and community-building, propelled by the belief that the arts can be open and accessible to all. Hayy is the next chapter in Art Jameel’s journey.
“Art Jameel was born in Jeddah, and Hayy is our most ambitious project to date,” Fady Jameel, chairman of Art Jameel, told Arab News. “This homecoming, at a time of unprecedented local interest and investment in the arts, is such a significant milestone moment for our family.”