JEDDAH: In a city known for a rich cultural heritage, its newest art house is opening its doors to the public in Jeddah in honor of a tradition that has spanned generations and continents.
Located in Jeddah’s Al-Muhammadiyah district, the prominent white structure of the new multidisciplinary arts complex called Hayy Jameel stands proud. On its facade is a colorful commissioned artwork by Saudi artist Nasser Al-Mulhim featuring abstract curved forms. Distinct from other buildings in the vicinity, Hayy, which means “neighborhood” in Arabic, draws the spectator’s gaze.
After many years in the making, on Monday, Dec. 6 it will officially open to the public. Designed by multi-award-winning architectural Wai Wai Studio, based in the dynamic arts complex, it commemorates the Jameel family’s 75 years of arts patronage and community development throughout the Middle East.
After years of establishing projects abroad, including the annual Jameel Art Prize, an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition staged at the V&A in London and the Jameel Arts Center in Dubai as well as the Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Cairo and the Jameel House in Jeddah— both of the latter focusing on the heritage of Islamic art and culture — Hayy symbolizes the family’s rich art patronage returning home to Saudi Arabia with its largest space yet.
The center, characterized by multi-purpose spaces set across three floors and numerous courtyards fostering creative dialogue and exchange, also includes the Kingdom’s first independent cinema— an element that just a few years ago would not have been possible in Saudi Arabia— symbolizing the significant change that has swept the Gulf nation over the past several years.
“We’re thrilled to be able to launch Hayy Jameel’s opening season at this time of such artistic dynamism in Saudi Arabia and to complement December’s major events with the inauguration of a new institution and home for the arts in Jeddah,” director of Art Jameel, Antonia Carver, told Arab News.
“This is just the beginning for Hayy Jameel; we’re marking this moment with a range of exhibitions and commissions featuring both Saudi and international artists, grounded in Jeddah and the Kingdom yet marked by global collaboration and exchange. Over the next few months, the Hayy Residents, our creative partners, will launch their spaces, and Saudi’s first independent audio-visual center, Hayy Cinema, a 200-seat cinema, will open its doors. Hayy Jameel is all about building community, about bringing the various creative disciplines together in one destination and fusing the arts with new audiences.”
Inspired by Jeddah’s diverse population, on view now is the Noor Riyadh capsule, featuring a selection of light-based works shown earlier in Riyadh. In Staple: What’s on your plate? — co-curated with London-based partner Delfina Foundation — the exhibition explores what we eat and how our food is entangled with memory, heritage, place of residence and ecology.
More than 30 artists from Saudi Arabia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Thailand, India and Bangladesh investigate how the food we eat goes beyond nourishing the body and is connected to the crucial politics socio-economic structures that affect our world.
“I wanted to create a space for the community and to encourage existing and future generations of creatives in Saudi Arabia and beyond,” Fady Jameel, deputy president and vice chairman of Abdul Latif Jameel, chairman and founder of Art Jameel, told Arab News. “If someone wants to see art, watch a film, do research or meet like-minded people with creative interests, they can come here, to Hayy.”