Saudi and international artists explore the nature of identity in Riyadh show

Piyarat Piyapongwiwat, Fabric, 2017, HD video, 19 mins. (Here, Now / هنا، الآن , October 3, 2021 – January 31, 2022, miskartinstitute.org)
Piyarat Piyapongwiwat, Fabric, 2017, HD video, 19 mins. (Here, Now / هنا، الآن , October 3, 2021 – January 31, 2022. (Courtesy of the artist and Misk Art Institute)
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Updated 05 October 2021

Saudi and international artists explore the nature of identity in Riyadh show

Piyarat Piyapongwiwat, Fabric, 2017, HD video, 19 mins. (Here, Now / هنا، الآن , October 3, 2021 – January 31, 2022, miskartinstitute.org)

DUBAI: A large woven installation echoes the shapes of palm trees viewed while lying down on the ground. “Palm,” placed in Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh for Misk Art Week’s exhibition “Here, Now,” was created by American contemporary artist Sheila Hicks. It was originally conceived in Riyadh’s King Saud University, where Hicks set up an art program in the 1980s.

Hicks recalls the pleasurable moment of lying down, looking up at a palm tree and seeing a mass of leaves spanning out above her. The joy of looking at the parallel reality created by its leaves became the basis of Hick’s tapestry “The Palm Tree” (1984-85), made in wool, cotton, rayon, silk, and linen. The piece on view in Riyadh follows centuries-old weaving methods established at the Aubusson workshops in France and presents the artist’s ability to translate a personal, intimate moment into the physical and public realm with grace and ease.




Sheila Hicks, Palm, 1985, wool, weave tapestry, 358.1 x 281.9 cm. (Here, Now / هنا، الآن , October 3, 2021 – January 31, 2022. (Courtesy of the artist and Misk Art Institute)

“During my time in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s,” Hicks said, “on a field trip with various architects involved in designing King Saud University, I looked up to the sky and was struck by the splendor and size of the palm tree that was protecting and shading us. ‘Palm,’ the tapestry on show as part of ‘Here, Now,’ is inspired by this specific palm tree.”

The original work is hanging in the main auditorium of the King Saud University in Riyadh. Other versions of the work are in several international collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Hicks’ dreamy work, recalling the beauty of Saudi Arabia’s desert landscape, is one of several pieces by Saudi and international artists in the show responding to notions of individual and collective identity and how these respond to society, as well as to a particular space or place, be it public or private. Curated by British writer Sacha Craddock in collaboration with Misk’s assistant curators Alia Ahmad Al-Saud and Nora Algosaibi, the exhibition also features paintings, textiles, sculptures, digital works and immersive installations by Saudi artists Filwa Nazer, Manal AlDowayan, Yousef Jaha and Sami Ali AlHossein, the Saudi-Palestinian Ayman Yossri Daydban, Piyarat Piyapongwiwat from Thailand, Salah ElMur from Sudan, Vasudevan Akkitham from India and the South Korean Young In Hong.




Young in Hong, Flower Drawing (Columbia Road, London), 2009, embroidery on cotton, 116 x 89x3 cm. (Courtesy of the artist and Misk Art Institute)

“I hope that the exceptionally fluid and open process that brought ‘Here, Now’ together is mirrored by the experience of the audience,” said Sacha Craddock. “Layers of curatorial knowledge and familiarity, on my part, have merged with totally new influences, innovations and traditions to produce a sense of perpetual discovery for all.”

“I Am Here,” a large-scale piece by Manal AlDowayan, encourages visitors to participate in the work. Paint and stencils are offered so that viewers can themselves write the artwork’s title — I Am Here — on one of the gallery’s walls. Over time, the painted words gradually disappear under new words, offering a visual commentary on the delicate relationship between the individual and the collective, as well as the ephemeral nature of time and existence.

The interactive maze-like sculpture by Saudi-Palestinian artist Ayman Yossri Daydban entitled “Tree House” (2019) is a large-scale work positioned against several walls. It seeks to deconstruct archetypal narratives related to cultural heritage and identity, as well as the Middle East’s historical relation to Western colonial powers, through its multitude of cut-out forms, Daydban’s thought-provoking work stems from the subjective nature of words and language. The artist believes that even after the function and meaning of an object moves on, its material base — in essence its core form — remains.




Filwa Nazer, The Other Is Another Body 2, 2019, polyethylene industrial netting and cotton, 292 x 83 x 240 cm. (Courtesy of the artist and Misk Art Institute)

An installation work by Filwa Nazer, another Saudi artist, entitled “The Other Is Another Body,” which was commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation in 2019, features a pair of sculptures covered in black netting that, according to Nazer, “evoke a female presence and embody the spirit of the in-between in its various contradictions.” She intends the sculptures to be “at once vulnerable and strong, abstract and concrete, protected and exposed, connected yet separated.” Nazer’s intent was to show sculptures in “the state of becoming in all its fragility and awkwardness.”

Nazer’s work, which ranges in medium from digital print to collage, textile, and photography, addresses question of emotional identity regarding social and spatial context.

“My work relates to my emotional or psychological interaction with my themes and concepts,” she said. “Research is an integral component of my artistic practice: reading, field research, collecting material and stories. My lines of inquiry always stem from a desire to question things. Through my research, previously unseen connections between various elements start emerging, and then begins the process of experimental creation.”

The diversity of the works on show is further exemplified in paintings by Saudi artist AlHossein and the Sudanese ElMur. The former’s abstract paintings depict the idea of personal memory as a landscape while ElMur’s at once endearing and profound works on canvas depict subjects confused by reality as we know it and a new three-dimensional space — perhaps the influence of today’s rapidly expanding technological realm.

As the works in “Here, Now” demonstrate, the spaces occupied by the personal and the public are subjective—at the whims of one’s perception, dictated by their own personal context and the intention that they apply to the people and spaces they occupy in real-time—in everyday life.

Here, Now / هنا، الآن , October 3, 2021 – January 31, 2022, miskartinstitute.org


Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021

Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021
Updated 06 December 2021

Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021

Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun to be honored at E! People’s Choice Awards 2021

DUBAI: E! Entertainment Television announced on Monday that Syrian comedian Amr Maskoun has been voted by the public as the Middle Eastern Social Media Star of 2021 at this year’s People’s Choice Awards.

This is the first time the awards show has dedicated a category to the Arab world. 

Maskoun is recognized by the People’s Choice Awards alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names including the entrepreneur, fashion and beauty mogul Kim Kardashian, who will receive “The Fashion Icon” award; entertainment powerhouse Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who will be honored with “The People’s Champion” award, and Academy Award-winning actress, director and producer Halle Berry who will take home “The People’s Icon” award. 

On receiving his award, the social media star said in a released statement: “Throughout my life, all external factors, especially during my period of asylum, made me feel that I didn’t have much worth and that I was inferior to others. I think that this award is proof that with passion and dedication, there is nothing that can stop you from dreaming.”

The 23-year-old social media star and architecture graduate was born in Aleppo, Syria, and rose to fame when his comedic videos and sketches began to go viral on the internet. 

He is best known for playing the character of “Umm Suzan,” a persona that he created. 

From being a Syrian refugee in Turkey and France, to now becoming one of the most famous social media influencers in the Arab world, Maskoun has reached over three and half million followers on Instagram and almost four million subscribers on YouTube in just seven years. 



The other nominees in the Middle Eastern Social Media Star of 2021 category included Kuwaiti style icon and fashion influencer Ascia, Saudi Arabian fashion and style influencer Fozaza, Lebanese fashion guru and lifestyle influencer Karen Wazen; Emirati storyteller Khalid Al-Ameri, Egyptian Instagram sensation and beauty influencer Logina Salah, Iraqi YouTube sensation Noor Stars and Bahraini filmmaker Omar Farooq.

The 2021 People’s Choice Awards will be broadcast on Dec. 8, starting with 2021 People’s Choice Awards: Live From E! at 3:00 a.m. and the ceremony at 5:00 a.m. (Saudi time). 

The red carpet and ceremony will air again later that same day at 3:30 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. 


Mexican film ‘The Hole in the Fence’ wins Golden Pyramid Award at Cairo Film Festival

Mexican film ‘The Hole in the Fence’ wins Golden Pyramid Award at Cairo Film Festival
Updated 06 December 2021

Mexican film ‘The Hole in the Fence’ wins Golden Pyramid Award at Cairo Film Festival

Mexican film ‘The Hole in the Fence’ wins Golden Pyramid Award at Cairo Film Festival

DUBAI: Mexican director Joaquin del Paso’s film “The Hole in the Fence” won The Golden Pyramid Award for Best Film at the 43rd edition of the Cairo Film Festival on Sunday.  

The movie, which premiered in at the Venice Film Festival, takes place at a secluded exclusive summer camp in the Mexican countryside. It tells the story of some boys from a prestigious private school who receive physical, moral and religious training to turn them into tomorrow’s elite. 

The discovery of a hole in the perimeter fence triggers a chain of increasingly disturbing events.

The film is Del Paso’s second work after “Panamerican Machinery,” which made headlines after its release in 2016.

The Best Actress Award went to a German-born actress Swamy Rotolo for her performance in the Italian-language drama  “A Chiara,” directed by Jonas Carpignano.

The event, which took place at the Cairo Opera House, also honored Egyptian star Mohamed Mamdouh with the Best Actor Award for his role in the Nadine Khan- directed film “Abu Saddam” that premiered at the festival. 

The event awarded a number of renowned filmmakers, including Egyptian actors Nelly, Karim Abdel-Aziz and Indian film composer A.R. Rahman.

The festival, which took place from Nov. 25 to Dec. 5, screened over 111 films from 63 countries.


Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli
Updated 06 December 2021

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli

Sotheby’s Dubai to exhibit $40 million artwork by Italian artist Botticelli

DUBAI: Sotheby’s Dubai is set to exhibit the renowned Italian renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli’s artwork “The Man of Sorrows” from Dec. 12-14.  

It will be on view to the public from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. before it returns to New York for Sotheby’s annual Masters Week sales series in January 2022, where it will be offered with an estimate in excess of $40 million.

Executed in the late 15th/early 16th century, the painting is one of the last masterpieces remaining in private hands by Botticelli. 

The artwork puts a spotlight on the artist’s spirituality, which greatly influenced his later period of work and life.

Sandro Botticelli, “The Man of Sorrows.” (Supplied)

“The Man of Sorrows” was first recorded in the collection of Adelaide Kemble Sartoris (1814-1879), a famed English opera singer, and descended in the family to her great granddaughter, who sold it at auction in 1963 for $28,000. 

Since then, it has remained in the same private collection, unseen until its inclusion in the major exhibition devoted to the Florentine master at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt in 2009 to 2010.

The work came to auction following Sotheby’s sale of Botticelli’s “Young Man Holding a Roundel” in January 2021, which was also exhibited in Dubai. 

The painting sold for $92.2 million – making it one of the most valuable portraits of any era ever sold and one of the most valuable old master paintings ever sold at auction. 

Despite the landmark sale earlier this year, works by Botticelli – from any period – remain exceedingly rare at auction. His late works in particular very seldom appear on the market, with only three other works from this period (post 1492) known to be in private hands.


Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 
Updated 06 December 2021

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 

Models Shanina Shaik, Sara Sampaio touch down in Jeddah 

DUBAI: Models Shanina Shaik and Sara Sampaio touched down in Jeddah just in time for the winter festivities — and they made sure to treat their combined 10 million Instagram followers to glimpses of the Kingdom. 

Shaik, who is of Saudi-Lithuanian-Pakistani-Australian decent, took to Instagram Stories to share snippets of her trip, which included spending time at the F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. 

“Off to the races,” she captioned a photo on her feed, in which she can be seen posing in front of a teal-colored Toyota FJ Cruiser. 

She attended the races as a guest of the Ministry of Sport, according to a pass she showed off on Instagram, and went on to share snaps of the crowded stands at the adrenaline-fueled event. 

The model also shared a short clip featuring Portuguese Victoria’s Secret star Sampaio, who made a cheeky appearance in Shaik’s video.

Earlier in the day, Sampaio shared her own clip alongside Red Sea International Film Festival Chairman Mohammed Al-Turki, who was no doubt gearing up for Jeddah’s inaugural movie festival that kicked off on Monday night. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sara Sampaio (@sarasampaio)

For her part, Shaik seems to be in the middle of a jet-setting period, having just informed her followers on Instagram that she was heading back to London, from her home Los Angeles, for the holiday season. 

The UK trip came just a couple of days after the model celebrated Thanksgiving in the US with her loved ones, including her partner, record label owner Matthew Adesuyan.

According to Shaik, her trip across the Atlantic will not be a brief one. 

“I won’t be back for a long time,” she captioned a picture of her suitcase on Instagram Stories, adding “I didn’t pack light.”

She also shared a snap of her two pet dogs, writing: “So sad! I don’t want to leave my boys.”

The former Victoria’s Secret model told her 2.5 million Instagram followers that it has been a while since she took a long flight.

“Ten-hour flight wow, it’s been a while since I’ve flown that long!” she wrote.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sara Sampaio (@sarasampaio)

Her most recent trips include going to Miami to celebrate the Michael Kors x 007 collection in October and to Ecuador to serve as a bridesmaid for her friend and fellow model Jasmine Tookes’s wedding in September. 

And now the model can add Saudi Arabia to her packed winter itinerary.


‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society
Updated 06 December 2021

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society

‘All the Women Inside Me’ a complex tale of coping with family, society

CHICAGO: Shortlisted for the 2021 International Prize for Arabic Fiction is the novel “All the Women Inside Me” by award-winning novelist and journalist Jana ElHassan. The story is about the complex life of a woman and how she copes with her family, society, and the unhappiness that plagues her. Translated into English by Michelle Hartman, ElHassan’s novel is an intimate look at the many things that seem to be out of the young woman’s control and how she navigates a path to help her survive.

Sahar is 30 years old and lives in Tripoli, Lebanon. Her story does not have a linear timeline. Instead, it is told in vignettes of memories: of her leftist father who rejects love, religion, and relationships for the sake of keeping his political persona alive; of her mother who yearns for a love that always seems too distant for her to grasp; of her husband Sami whose love she must now escape from; and of Hala, a friend whose misery matches hers but who gives her the strength to go on.

Admitting as much, Sahar observes her life just like her readers. She is disconnected from reality, which is too harsh and loveless. She believes that those who submit to reality are the ones who are caged and that she is free in her imagination to love and be loved. Although she grows up in a large house, everything has always been closed-off and separated. Each room has always been meticulously kept, not to be lived in but to show a certain decorum, as ElHassan describes: “The place was like a gun with a silencer; there was always continuous pressure on the trigger. Shots were fired and penetrated deep.”

ElHassan seamlessly weaves Sahar’s story into the city of Tripoli and its society. Patriarchy runs deep in the world of her character and so ElHassan’s story is of a woman trying to understand her position in the world, to see where and if she belongs. She explores how society reacts to this woman and pushes to the forefront the choices people have in life. Some live according to their principles, some choose joy, some choose to be miserable and subservient and scoff at those who choose independence. As for Sahar, her choice is to escape.