Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale returns for second edition  

Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale returns for second edition  
Diriyah Biennale Foundation Exterior. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 February 2024
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Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale returns for second edition  

Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale returns for second edition  
  • ‘After Rain’ features 92 artists and is led by a team of international and Saudi curators  

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s flourishing cultural scene gains further impetus this month with the return of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale. Taking place in the Saudi capital of Riyadh from Feb. 20 to May 24, this is the second edition of the contemporary art event after its inaugural showing in December 2021.  

Titled “After Rain,” the biennale will feature the work of 92 artists from 43 countries, of whom 30 are from the Gulf region. Such a vibrant mix of artists from around the world supports the biennale’s mission to provide a platform for contemporary art to foster dialogue between Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world.  

The 2024 biennale centers around ideas relating to the natural environment and the impact it has on human life. If one is living in an oasis in the desert, for example, when it rains it has an immediate effect on the surroundings. Drops of rain nourish the earth and revitalize it. So the title “After the Rain,” explains the biennale’s German-born lead curator and artistic director Ute Meta Bauer, is about renewal and hope — reflective of the energy and change of today’s Saudi Arabia.  




Ahmed Mater in his Riyadh studio in June 2022. Mater is one of the Saudi artists participating in this year's Diriyah Biennale. (AFP)

“The second edition of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale,” Bauer tells Arab News, “examines the role that contemporary art can foster in a society that is (in) a period of rapid change.” 

The event will take place across seven halls and numerous terraces and courtyards in a series of repurposed former warehouses located in the JAX District of Diriyah, situated along Wadi Hanifa. 

Led by Bauer, the curatorial team includes Wejdan Reda of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation; Rahul Gudipudi, who will act as adjunct curator alongside co-curators Rose Lejeune and Anca Rujoiu; Ana Salazar; Amina Diab; Dian Arumningtyas; and Alanood AlSudairi. 

“The artists’ experiences stood central in the preparation of ‘After Rain,’” Reda says. “We organized various trips to different parts of Riyadh and the Kingdom to engage with professionals across various disciplines to explore various offerings around the country.” 

Those excursions included visits to Dammam, Khobar, Al-hasaa, Riyadh, Jeddah, Khamis Mushait, Abha, and Rijaal Almaa, and centered around fostering conversations and enhancing collaboration between Saudi artists of various generations to further learn about the country’s rich and diverse cultural scene. 




Mohammad Al-Faraj at Hayy Jameel in Jeddah in early 2023 Al-Faraj is one of the Saudi artists participating in this year's Diriyah Biennale. (Supplied)

“It is our deeply held belief and ambition as a foundation to deliver world-class international platforms that highlight the transformative power of 

the arts in Saudi Arabian society,” Aya Al-Bakree, the CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation said in a statement. “‘After Rain’ opens a new chapter for the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, where a diverse and multi-generational group of artists come together. We hope to ignite conversations, broaden perspectives, and, above all, engage wider audiences than ever before with the arts.” 

Participating Saudi artists include Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, Asma Bahmim, Mohammad Al-Faraj, and Ahmed Mater. The featured works cover a range of media and diverse artistic practices exploring a range of subjects, including historical, archaeological, and environmental issues, among many others. 

“Our aim is to engage deeply with the location and the conversations taking place here, while simultaneously fostering new connections within the Middle East region and beyond,” said Bauer. 

Many of the works will reflect on — and engage with — the unprecedented period of transformation currently taking place in Saudi Arabia. 

Among the newly commissioned works will be a collaborative project between Mater, one of Saudi Arabia’s most important artists, and Berlin-based photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke. The two artists have embarked on a long-term partnership that will see them jointly documenting Saudi futurism since the 1940s. Both artists conducted research into the archives of Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom’s petroleum and natural gas company, located in Dhahran in the eastern province.  




The biennale curatorial team Top (L-R) Ana Salazar, Dian Arumningtyas, Ute Meta Bauer, Wejdan Reda, Anca Rujoiu Bottom (L-R) Alanood Alsudairi, Rose Lejeune, Rahul Gudipudi. (Diriyah Biennale Foundation)

On a more spiritual note, the Jeddah-based Yemeni artist Sara Abdu will create a series of towers made from hand-crafted bars of soap to explore the region’s cleansing rituals.  

As this year’s biennale will be running throughout Ramadan, many of the works focus on the communal values of the holy month, such as the sharing of food, for example. Britto Arts Trust will invites the audience to harvest, cook, and eat in a bamboo architectural structure, while NJOKOBOK, a collaboration between artists Youssou Diop and Apolonija Sustersic, will operate a juice and tea bar serving locally produced hibiscus and ginger juice, alongside Senegalese mint tea. 

Additionally, Lucy and Jorge Orta will invite the public to participate in a meal in the streets of the JAX District, connecting the structure in which the Biennale is housed with artist studios and other artistic platforms within the district.  

Another interactive highlight will be large-scale artworks that incorporate contemporary art references with traditional Saudi art forms. These will be stationed outdoors around the JAX district. One example is a work by Bosnian-born Azra Aksamija in the form of a 70-meter-long canopy of recycled felt, inspired by Saudi textiles and incorporating traditional Sadu weaving techniques. 

Dutch architect Anne Holtrop, meanwhile, will build a structure from recycled glass sheets produced by Saudi manufacturers.  

Beyond the themes of renewal, hope and the natural environment, a great emphasis has been placed on knowledge, discovery and cross-cultural dialogue.  

“The biennale is a meeting ground for young voices and established figures,” emphasizes Bauer. “It feeds off and nurtures the cultural ecosystem in which it is embedded.” 

Innovation, both artistic and intellectual, with a focus on history, creativity and nature is, then, the mission of “After Rain” — for rainfall promises a period of fertility, regeneration and hope. 


Bella Hadid heads to New York for Adidas campaign launch

Bella Hadid heads to New York for Adidas campaign launch
Updated 16 July 2024
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Bella Hadid heads to New York for Adidas campaign launch

Bella Hadid heads to New York for Adidas campaign launch

DUBAI: US Palestinian Dutch supermodel Bella Hadid is the face of Adidas Originals’ new campaign for its SL “Super Light” 72 sneaker.

The brand is reintroducing the running shoe, which launched in the summer of 1972, in five colorways. Hadid took part in the launch campaign, which sees the model star in a digital and billboard campaign for the brand — with her image taking over a largescale billboard in New York this week.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

“Lucky to still be able to have these (kinds) of pinch me moments,” Hadid posted on Instagram alongside a carousel of photos of the billboard.

The photographs for the campaign were shot in Paris and see Hadid posing in the shoes while wearing an Adidas top-and-shorts set with the brand’s identifiable three stripes. She holds a bouquet of red-hued flowers in the photos.

Hadid is celebrating more than just her latest campaign — this spring, the model launched her own brand Orebella. The inaugural products were three perfumes.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

In July, the beauty entrepreneur announced that a percentage of the proceeds from her brand are being donated to the Orebella Alchemy Foundation, a charitable initiative aimed at creating positive change across various communities.

The Orebella Alchemy Foundation partners with organizations that are “deeply personal” to Hadid, such as Girls Club New York, which empowers young women and “youth of color,” and the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.), which aims to change lives by providing equine-assisted services to people with disabilities.

“We will be donating a minimum financial donation of 1 percent of all Orebella net sales to charity, as well as delivering service hours, community outreach and social promotion,” Hadid wrote on social media. “I can’t wait to keep growing and including even more amazing organizations. I have so many different organizations that are important to me and we will continue to roll them out.”


Marvel downplays Israeli background of character in ‘Captain America: Brave New World’

Marvel downplays Israeli background of character in ‘Captain America: Brave New World’
Updated 16 July 2024
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Marvel downplays Israeli background of character in ‘Captain America: Brave New World’

Marvel downplays Israeli background of character in ‘Captain America: Brave New World’

DUBAI: Amid the hype surrounding the release of the first “Captain America: Brave New World” trailer, Marvel Studios is seeking to distance itself from the controversial roots of one of its characters.

A story published on Marvel’s official website contained the following information  about new character Ruth Bat-Seraph, whose inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was previously confirmed in 2022.

“New to the cast is Shira Haas, who joins as Ruth Bat-Seraph. A former Black Widow, Ruth is now a high-ranking US government official who has the trust of President Ross,” said Marvel.

The description confirms some significant changes from the comics, where Ruth is originally a mutant named Sabra, an Israeli superhero and an agent of Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency. The character has long been controversial owing to her connection to the Israel-Palestine conflict — a controversy that has taken on even greater significance recently due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Although the term “Sabra” refers to a Jewish person born in Israel, the name is also considered insensitive considering the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982.

Ruth is played by Israeli actress Shira Haas, who was first cast in the role in 2022. She has previously appeared in movies including “Asia” and “The Zookeeper's Wife,” as well as the Netflix series “Bodies.”


First UAE childrenswear label at London’s Harrods marks ‘step forward’ in exporting Emirati creativity

First UAE childrenswear label at London’s Harrods marks ‘step forward’ in exporting Emirati creativity
Updated 16 July 2024
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First UAE childrenswear label at London’s Harrods marks ‘step forward’ in exporting Emirati creativity

First UAE childrenswear label at London’s Harrods marks ‘step forward’ in exporting Emirati creativity

DUBAI: Emirati brand Shatha Essa Kids has become the first childrenswear label from the UAE to be launched at luxury London department store Harrods, with designer Shatha Essa Al-Mulla telling Arab News the move represents a step forward in exporting Emirati creativity to the world.

Al-Mulla ventured into childrenswear last year, after launching her eponymous womenswear label in 2016. Now, her frothy, fun line of dresses and sets has found a home at the historic store Harrods.

The designer dubbed the achievement “an immense honor and a significant milestone,” adding the move “(showcases) Emirati culture and craftsmanship on a prestigious global platform … (and) also contributes to putting Emirati childrenswear on the international map.”

The line features special occasion looks for toddlers and girls up to the age of 14, with all the outfits designed and produced in Dubai.

“I design those dresses for my girls first then display them to the world. It is like giving everyone access to our private wardrobe at home,” the designer said of the inspiration behind the brand, referring to her two daughters Hessa and Hind.

Summery butter yellows and grey, sophisticated tulle outfits mark the collection, with rose pink embroidered double-breasted dresses and silk bow-adored looks on show at the retail space in London.

The interactive retail space, which was designed by Al-Mulla herself, features a theatre booth and dress up dolls.

“I aimed to create an ambiance reminiscent of a delightful birthday party … allowing kids to fully immerse themselves in a whimsical magical environment and enjoy collaborative play,” Al-Mulla explained.

The permanent space is emblematic of an East-to-West trend, the designer said.

“This milestone is crucial for the UAE’s fashion scene because it represents a step forward to exporting Emirati-made products to the world, fostering greater appreciation and interest in our designs.”

 


Imaan Hammam poses for resort, sportswear labels

Imaan Hammam poses for resort, sportswear labels
Updated 15 July 2024
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Imaan Hammam poses for resort, sportswear labels

Imaan Hammam poses for resort, sportswear labels

DUBAI: From Victoria’s Secret sportswear to luxury resort wear, Moroccan Egyptian Dutch model Imaan Hammam is spending the summer broadening her horizons.

The model, who is usually found on haute couture catwalks and modeling for high-end eveningwear labels, took to social media this week to share snaps from campaigns for Victoria’s Secret and US label Louisa Ballou.

Hammam posed for fashion photographer Nikki Arya in outfits from Louisa Ballou’s Archive High Tide collection. The model was photographed on a beach at dusk wearing a cobalt blue-and-black sheath dress with graphic patterns across the length of the ankle-grazing outfit.

Raised in Charleston, South Carolina, in the US, designer Louisa Ballou founded her brand in 2018. The label seeks to offer “an unconventional perspective on resort wear, creating beautifully crafted and covetable luxury clothing that transcends the beach,” according to its website.

From the beach to the gym, Hammam shared campaign images from a shoot with US label Victoria’s Secret this week. In the images, she shows off nude-toned gym wear, complete with a zip-up sports top and matching pants.

“Keeping comfortable,” the model captioned the images on Instagram.

Earlier this month, Hammam took to social media to share a fashion shoot in which she celebrates Moroccan culture.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

“I will always be proud when I get to show off the beauty that is Moroccan culture and collaborate with so many amazing artists and creatives,” Hammam captioned a carousel of snaps on Instagram.

The model collaborated with auteur Marwane Jinane, photographer Hamza Lafrouji and a fellow model and creative who goes by the name Cheb Pablo on the shoot, which sees the pair posing in various locations in Casablanca.

Hammam is known for working with and promoting artists and creatives from the MENA region with her 1.7 million Instagram followers. The runway star — who is a fashion week staple and is currently the brand ambassador of cosmetics giant Estée Lauder — is known for dropping personally curated playlists of regional music for her social media fans and she has also promoted regional artists in the past.

In June, Hammam hit the runway at the Vogue World event in Paris alongside Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadidi, French Algerian icon Farida Khelfa and Venus and Serena Williams.


Liverpool Arab Arts Festival’s return showcases entertaining agenda

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival’s return showcases entertaining agenda
Updated 14 July 2024
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Liverpool Arab Arts Festival’s return showcases entertaining agenda

Liverpool Arab Arts Festival’s return showcases entertaining agenda
  • Vibrant mix of art, theater, music, literature, workshops

LONDON: The Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, the UK’s longest-running festival celebrating Arab arts and culture, runs until July 21 and showcases a vibrant mix of art, theater, music, literature, and workshops.

Founded in 1998, the festival has become a cornerstone of Liverpool’s cultural calendar.

This year’s program features a diverse lineup of artists from Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, offering a dynamic interplay between traditional and contemporary Arab art forms.

Laura Brown, creative producer of the festival, told Arab News: “Artists are dealing with contemporary ideas and art forms, but often the conversations and themes they are tapping into are something Arab communities have been talking about for generations, like migration, identity and conflict.”

One of the highlights will be the festival’s tribute to Palestine. A special screening of “At Home in Gaza and London” will be held on Monday, with ticket proceeds benefiting collaborators in Gaza.

“Oranges and Stones,” a wordless play told through physical action and music, on Thursday will depict 75 years of occupation and settlement in Palestine. Marina Barham, general director of Al-Harah Theater in Bethlehem, will also speak about the therapeutic role of theater in addressing community trauma.

Port city Liverpool has fostered diverse and multicultural communities, with Arabic reportedly being the city’s second most-spoken language.

Brown said: “What’s really important to us is that we work with the community to ensure everyone feels represented. We talk to the community about artists they like and who they want to see, to bring them over. It was a conversation with members of the Somali community that introduced us to Aar Maanta.”

As an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organization, the festival is part of the 2023-26 investment program.

Brown added: “Being an NPO is something the whole team is incredibly proud of and it is something we take very seriously.

“The arts landscape is very challenging and the ability to be able to know your festival is secured for several years in advance allows you to build relationships with venues and creatives to develop programs and projects further.”