DUBAI: After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the international art exhibition Desert X AlUla will return to Saudi Arabia’s dreamy ancient region for its second showing.
Staged from Feb. 11 until March 30, 2022, the exhibition is a collaboration between Desert X and the Royal Commission for AlUla and takes the theme of Sarab, which means “mirage” in Arabic. It presents artworks exploring the ideas of mirage and oasis through large-scale public artworks positioned amid the enchanting ancient formations found in the Kingdom’s desert region of AlUla in the northwest of the country.
Free and open to the public, the exhibition takes place according to the curatorial vision of Desert X that was first established in California’s Coachella Valley and aims to foster a dialogue through art with nature and the surrounding desert landscape — reflecting back on the principles of the Land Art movement. The exhibition will feature works by artists from Saudi Arabia and across the world.
“The upcoming exhibition is a continuation of what we started in 2020 and it is a dialogue that connects desert to desert, and we have always used this platform to bring local and international artists into dialogue,” Nora Aldabal, arts and creative planning director at the Royal Commission for AlUla, told Arab News.
For the 2022 event, Aldabal said that the location had been moved to a larger valley. “It also allows guests to take journeys and create their own path through the artworks,” Aldabal said. “It is a continuation and progress to Desert X AlUla’s vision of land artworks within the natural environment.”
The 2022 exhibition is staged under the curatorial vision of Reem Fadda, Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield.
“AlUla has always been at the crossroads of trade and culture,” said Neville Wakefield, co-artistic director of Desert X AlUla and artistic director of Desert X Coachella in California. “Its landscape and history have drawn, and continue to draw, people from across the globe.”
The 2022 Desert X AlUla builds on the legacy established in its 2020 show. Works from the 2020 show by Lita Albuquerque, Manal Al-Dowayan, Sherin Guirguis, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Nadim Karam and Superflex are still in place in AlUla for public viewing, while Rashed Al-Shashai and Muhannad Shono are currently working as artists-in-residence in AlUla.
The exhibition also provides an international platform and opportunity for local artists: Saudi artist Zahrah Alghamdi, who participated in the first edition with “Glimpses of the Past,” then exhibited her work “What Lies Behind the Walls” at Desert X 2021 in California.
“The first edition of Desert X AlUla in 2020 proved how much there is for artists and audiences from different parts of the world to learn from one another,” Wakefield said. “Artists are often leaders in these conversations and so it is particularly exciting for Desert X AlUla to have such a significant role in the region’s many programs of cultural transformation.”
Desert X AlUla is one of two highlights of the AlUla Arts Festival. The second highlight is the exhibition “What Lies Within: Works from the Basma Al-Sulaiman Collection,” an exhibition at Maraya of seminal works by contemporary Saudi artists, exhibited for the first time in the Kingdom by the eminent Saudi female collector. The show will be curated by Saudi female artist Lulwah Al-Homoud.
The festival also extends to Al-Jaddidah, an area near AlUla Old Town, transforming it into a bustling place for performances and gatherings, including the outdoor Cinema El-Housh presenting Saudi arthouse filmmakers.
Local community enhancement through education and economic growth is pivotal to the Royal Commission of AlUla’s vision, so Desert X AlUla 2022 will include art mediator training programs, workshops for teachers and visitors, and family events.
An NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music and more. They are bought and sold online, usually with cryptocurrency.
Hadid told her 52.1 million followers that each NFT features “different and unique 3D scans of me, thought up with you in mind, that will be utilized around the world; designed to encourage travel, community, growth, fantasy and human interactions.”
The model said that in the coming months, the project will allow collectors to go to real locations and events around the world, where they can meet her.
Sustainable label Glossy Lounge takes cues from loungewear trend
Updated 21 May 2022
DUBAI: Loungewear has become a wardrobe staple, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is something British entrepreneur Natasha Zaki is looking to capitalize on with her chic new range of comfortable clothing.
Post-pandemic life acted as a creative catalyst for the Dubai-based businesswoman who took advantage of the explosion in loungewear’s popularity to launch her own brand, Glossy Lounge, which is available in Saudi Arabia.
The clothing label, which she launched earlier this year, is Zaki’s second business venture. She also has an eco-friendly beauty brand, Glossy Makeup, which is available at 50 retail stores globally.
Glossy Lounge offers hoodies, jackets, jumpers, T-shirts, leggings, shorts, sweatpants, bodysuits and underwear in an array of different colors for men, women and children.
Her label has so far received the likes of regional it-girls including Kuwaiti social media star Fouz Al-Fahad, Egyptian actress Asallah Kamel and Lebanese fashion influencer Mayada Sleiman, to name a few.
According to her website, Zaki works with sustainable fabrics such as “organic cotton, bamboo and recycled polyester.”
Contrary to what one might think, the founder said that creating eco-friendly products is not “very challenging.”
“A lot of factories offer sustainable fabrics and solutions,” she said. “We source sustainable fabric and biodegradable trims pretty easily. Sourcing the best fabrics for our customers’ comfort while taking care of our environment is one of my top priorities with Glossy Lounge.”
Just last month, Glossy Lounge partnered with Dubai’s non-profit organization Emirates Nature-WWF. Every purchase from the loungewear brand will support mangrove and conservation efforts in the UAE, according to the fashion and beauty enthusiast.
“I personally wanted to give back to the Emirates, and as a nature lover we decided to partner with Emirates Nature,” Zaki said. “The pandemic was a time of self-reflection for many of us, reminding us of the importance of giving back and preserving our dear planet.”
Why Beirut Museum of Art project is a beacon of hope in crisis-plagued Lebanon
New York-based architects WORKac were approached in 2018 to design Beirut’s new art museum
BeMA will stand on what was once the “green line” dividing the Lebanese capital during the civil war
Updated 21 May 2022
DUBAI: For many Lebanese, the past can be a painful subject. A civil war destroyed large swaths of the country between 1975 and 1990. The postwar period has been marked by sectarian strife and government dysfunction.
But in spite of the traumas of recent decades, Lebanon remains a land of immense cultural wealth, with a rich history reflected in its architectural, cultural and anthropological heritage.
This is why the Beirut Museum of Art, or BeMA, which is due to open in 2026, has been billed as a “beacon of hope” in a country beset by political paralysis, economic decline and a worsening humanitarian crisis.
When Sandra Abou Nader and Rita Nammour launched the museum project, their goal was to showcase the wide diversity of Lebanese art and provide facilities for education, digitization, restoration, storage and artist-in-residency programs.
“They realized that there was, in fact, very little visibility for the Lebanese artistic scene, within the country and abroad, and for Lebanese artists, whether modern or contemporary,” BeMA’s art consultant, Juliana Khalaf, told Arab News.
About 700 works of art will be on display at the new venue, drawn from the Lebanese Ministry of Culture’s collection of more than 2,000 pieces, the bulk of which have been in storage for decades.
“We are going to be housing this very important collection,” said Khalaf. “We call it the national collection and it belongs to the public. It’s our role to make it, for the very first time, accessible. It’s never been seen before.”
The artworks, created by more than 200 artists and dating from the late-19th century to the present day, tell the story of this small Mediterranean country from its renaissance era and independence to the civil war period and beyond.
The collection includes pieces by Lebanese American writer, poet and visual artist Kahlil Gibran and his mentor, the influential late-Ottoman-era master Daoud Corm, who was renowned for his sophisticated portraiture and still-life painting.
Works by pioneers of Lebanese modernism, such as Helen Khal, Saloua Raouda Choucair and Saliba Douaihy, will also feature among the collection, as will several lesser-known 20th-century artists, including Esperance Ghorayeb, who created several rare, abstract compositions in the 1970s.
“The collection is a reminder of the beautiful heritage that we have,” said Khalaf. “It shows us our culture through the eyes of our artists.”
Among the priorities for the BeMA team, in partnership with the Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences, is the restoration of the collection, which includes several paintings and works on paper that have been damaged by war, neglect, improper storage or simply the passage of time.
Gathering information about the artists and their effects on Lebanon’s artistic heritage is another priority for the BeMA team, and is a task that has proved to be challenging given the dearth of published resources and the means to catalog them.
* International Museum Day, held annual on or around May 18, highlights a specific theme or issue facing museums internationally.
“What was surprising was how little research there is out there and how much we need to do on that front, like getting the right equipment that is not currently available in the country to properly archive books and photography,” said Khalaf.
In 2018, the BeMA team approached WORKac, an architectural firm based in New York, for ideas about the new venue. Co-founded by Dan Wood and Amale Andraos, a Lebanese-born architect and former dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, WORKac has designed museums in California, Texas, New York and Florida.
For Andraos, who left Lebanon at the age of three, the chance to design a home for Beirut’s artistic heritage is particularly special.
“I think it’s a very personal project for everyone involved,” she told Arab News. “Everybody put their heart and soul into this idea that Beirut really needed a museum to house the national collection.
“For me, personally, I have a great attachment to Beirut, to its history, as well as architecturally, artistically and intellectually.”
Given the country’s troubled past and complex identity, Andraos believes the museum’s collection will prove valuable in helping Lebanon rediscover its sense of self and recover from past traumas.
“It’s an archive that we need to go back to, to understand who we are and how we move forward,” she said.
After the project was approved by city authorities, the first stone was laid at the site of the new museum in February. The initial phase requires Andraos and her team to examine the site for archaeological remains.
When complete, the museum will feature three gallery floors that borrow aesthetic elements from local Art Deco urban design. It has been described as an “open museum” and a “vertical sculpture garden,” owing to its cubic facade which will be embellished with bursts of greenery from top to bottom.
Andraos admits she was initially skeptical about the project. Lebanon is in the throes of multiple crises, including a financial collapse. Beirut, the capital, is yet to recover from the devastating blast at the city’s port on Aug. 4, 2020, when a warehouse filled with highly explosive ammonium nitrate caught fire and detonated, leveling an entire district.
All of this, combined with the additional economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has caused thousands of young Lebanese to move abroad in search of work and respite from the seemingly endless litany of crises.
For some people in the country, though, it is precisely because of these issues that a museum celebrating Lebanon’s cultural achievements is needed, perhaps now more than ever.
“When I recently presented the museum to a member of the BeMA board, I said: ‘This is probably the worst time for a museum,’ and he said: ‘This is the most important time for a museum because we need culture, education and ideas,’” said Andraos.
“When people are hungry, it’s like art versus food — but art is also food, in some ways, for the spirit and the mind.
“Everyone involved in it sees it as a beacon of hope and the country needs to build its institutions. It’s almost like a resistance to collapse. We have a history that is worth valuing, rereading, and a culture that we need to preserve and build on.”
This is not to say that the project was welcomed by everyone at the beginning.
“There’s no large public attendance of museums; it’s something that really needs to be developed,” Khalaf said. “In that respect, people felt like it was an unnecessary project.
“But now that people actually see that it’s a serious project and is happening, the attitude has changed. People say there’s something to look forward to.”
To date, about 70 percent of funding for the project has been allocated and a public appeal will soon be launched to make up any shortfall. Entry to the museum will be free.
Located in the leafy, upmarket, residential Badaro district in the heart of Beirut, known for its early-20th-century, art deco-influenced buildings, the museum will stand on what was once the “green line” that separated the east and west of the capital during the civil war.
“What’s nice about it now is that it might become the ‘museum mile,’ because there’s the National Museum, BeMA, Mim Museum, and if you just go further down, you’ll actually get to the Sursock Museum,” said Khalaf.
“It changes the perspective from a war-torn Beirut to a culturally alive Beirut.”
Return of the leopard is at the heart of plans to conserve and regenerate Saudi Arabia’s landscapes and wildlife
“Back at it, this time in the one and only @festivaldecannes and I am happy to say the vibe and energy of this one is spectacular,” Albanawi wrote on Instagram.
The actress rose to fame in 2016 for her role in the award-winning movie “Barakah Meets Barakah,” which won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival. It was also the Saudi Arabian entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards.
Albanawi’s other credits include playing a Parisian actress from the ’70s in the film “Roll’em” and a selfish theater superstar in the “Bashar” series. She also appeared in the Netflix series “Paranormal.”
She was not the only star at Cannes to step out in a Kali creation.
On Thursday, the designer shared a picture of German model Ann-Sophie Thieme wearing a bright green gown embroidered with crystals against a tulle frill cape as she attended the screening of US filmmaker James Gray’s “Armageddon Time.”
The festival, which runs until May 28, also saw several Hollywood celebrities and international models stepping out in showstopping gowns by Arab designers like Elie Saab, Nicolas Jebran, Tony Ward, Zuhair Murad and Atelier Zuhra.
French model Amandine Petit, Danish catwalk star Josephine Skriver and Indian actress Hina Khan wore colorful royal gowns by Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali.
Other Arab celebrities, including Lebanese reality TV star Alice Abdelaziz and French-Tunisian model, singer and actress Sonia Ben Ammar, were also spotted on the red carpet this week.
Stars of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ discuss Paramount film, working with Tom Cruise
Updated 20 May 2022
LOS ANGELES: “Top Gun: Maverick” takes audiences back to the danger zone with more high-flying action and the return of US actor Tom Cruise to his 1986 star-making role.
Similar to the pilots it showcases, critics are calling the movie the best of the best and an exceptional successor to the original.
In an interview with Arab News, American actor Jon Hamm, who joined the cast as Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson, said that the team working on the movie had “tremendous respect for the original and a real deep desire to make a second chapter of the story that’s just as compelling as the first.”
Hamm recalled watching the first film when he was 15 years old. “I remember immediately after seeing it, I wanted to see it again.”
After decades of avoiding promotion, Navy test pilot “Maverick” Mitchell is ordered to train a squad of young Top Gun pilots.
Cruise and the cast of newcomers bring charm and emotion to the film particularly in the strained relationship between Maverick and Rooster, the son of his late best friend.
The actors in the movie credited Cruise’s well-established career saying that his 40-year experience helped them shoot the flick smoothly.
Actor Glen Powell, who stars as Lt. “Hangman” Seresin, said: “Tom Cruise put together our entire flight training program based on his experience on the first movie.
“So, the first movie they threw actors up there trying to get shots, but the problem is they’re vomiting and passing out and they’re just limp dolls in the back of a plane. So, you can’t use any of that footage.
“That’s only something Tom Cruise can ask for after a 40-year career of doing it at the highest level, so we get to look cool in the back of these F-18s,” Powell added.
Actor Miles Teller, who plays Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, said: “What an audience has been feeling for two hours, he can sum up in one look, and that is something that Tom really is a master of.
“He’s just been doing it at such a high level for such a long time and so I would just find myself sitting back and watching him,” Teller added.
“Top Gun: Maverick” premiered this week at the Cannes Film Festival, where Tom Cruise was lauded with a surprise Palme d’Or.
The movie will be released in Saudi Arabia on May 26.