Ithra Art Prize-winning artwork unveiled as AlUla Arts Festival kicks off in Saudi Arabia

Ithra Art Prize-winning artwork unveiled as AlUla Arts Festival kicks off in Saudi Arabia
The Ithra Art Prize-winning artwork “Palms in Eternal Embrace” was unveiled in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 February 2024
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Ithra Art Prize-winning artwork unveiled as AlUla Arts Festival kicks off in Saudi Arabia

Ithra Art Prize-winning artwork unveiled as AlUla Arts Festival kicks off in Saudi Arabia

ALULA: On Friday, Saudi artist Obaid Alsafi unveiled his Ithra Art Prize-winning artwork “Palms in Eternal Embrace” in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla during a jam-packed schedule at the AlUla Arts Festival.

The 6th edition of the annual prize run by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is the first in collaboration with Arts AlUla. This year’s theme, Art in the Landscape, called for submissions of public artwork proposals that are site-specific to AlUla and that present interpretations of AlUla’s unique landscape and natural heritage. Alsafi’s winning installation will be exhibited for six weeks amid the 2.3 million date palms of the AlUla Oasis.

The unveiling took place amid a wider schedule of events in AlUla, including Desert X AlUla 2024, Wadi AlFann, the “More than Meets the Eye” show, the AlUla Artists’ Residency, and “AlUla 1445.”




AlUla 1445 features images by Moroccan pop artist Hassan Hajjaj. (Supplied)

This year’s edition of Desert X AlUla sees contemporary artworks by Saudi and international artists placed in the desert landscape of AlUla. Under the curatorial guidance of Maya El-Khalil and Marcello Dantas – with artistic direction from Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield – the exhibition features 15 newly commissioned artworks.

Wadi AlFann explores the work of Saudi artist Manal Al-Dowayan in the lead-up to her land art commission, “Oasis of Stories,” which will be unveiled in 2026. During the ongoing AlUla Arts Festival, two exhibitions will explore the artist’s work. The first exhibition features hundreds of drawings gathered from the artist’s workshops with communities across AlUla. These drawings and stories will eventually be inscribed into the walls of “Oasis of Stories.”  A parallel exhibition presented in collaboration with Sabrina Amrani Gallery, titled Their Love Is Like All Loves, Their Death Is Like All Deaths,” delves further into AlDowayan’s practice, with works including soft sculptures made of tussar silk printed with images related to AlUla’s heritage.

“More than Meets the Eye” is an exhibition of contemporary works by Saudi artists on loan from collectors in Saudi Arabia, hosted at the Maraya concert hall.

Arts AlUla is also presenting two Artist Residency exhibitions: The Visual Art Residency exhibition “The Shadow Over Everything,” and the Design Residency exhibition “Unguessed Kinships,” which will run until April 30.

AlUla 1445 features images by Moroccan pop artist Hassan Hajjaj. He photographed local residents in February 2023 in an outdoor studio in AlUla and those photographs form the basis of this exhibition. 

Meanwhile, Design Space AlUla will host an exhibition titled “Mawrid: Celebrating Inspired Design,” curated by Sara Ghani.


‘The Sympathizer’ cast, director discuss new series that shows the Vietnam War through a Vietnamese lens

‘The Sympathizer’ cast, director discuss new series that shows the Vietnam War through a Vietnamese lens
Updated 12 sec ago
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‘The Sympathizer’ cast, director discuss new series that shows the Vietnam War through a Vietnamese lens

‘The Sympathizer’ cast, director discuss new series that shows the Vietnam War through a Vietnamese lens

DUBAI: “The Sympathizer,” HBO’s latest spy drama streaming in the Middle East on OSN Plus, is based on Vietnamese-US author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel.

It tells the story of a double agent known to the audience only as the Captain (Hoa Xuande), a North Vietnam operative who is a plant in the South Vietnam army. After he is forced to flee to the US and take up residence in a refugee camp, he continues to spy for the Viet Cong.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Speaking to Arab News in a virtual interview, Xuande, an Australian actor of Vietnamese descent, talked about digging into the dual nature of his character and the struggle it creates.

“It is important to remember that the Captain is a human being and he’s trying to play to survive. And, obviously, the struggle of war, and trying to save his people, and trying to find the best outcome for the people that he cares about, and trying to not rock the boat so much.

“And, so, I really tried to dig deep into the facts of the period of the time. And I tried to figure out the psychology of what people were thinking and the ideologies that were spinning around at the time,” he said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The show was also an opportunity for Xuande to reconnect with his people’s past.

“I’ve been so used to being told what Vietnamese people are or the stories that even my parents grew up telling me, you know. Their perspectives were always generally lost, right? Depictions of the war were always depicted through the Western perspective,” he said.

“I always knew what the war was about. But I really wanted to get deep into the stories that that we’ve never heard before. And I did a lot of YouTubing and reading of articles. And, so, once you learn those stories, you start to appreciate that Vietnamese people — who bore the brunt of the trauma of this war — have never really had their voices heard. That weighed heavily on me. And so, I tried to carry this throughout much of the show, playing the Captain. And I guess that kind of made me appreciate my own history that I haven’t really learned about before.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Veteran Korean director Park Chan-Wook, the name behind cult classics such as “Oldboy” and “The Handmaiden,” oversaw the new adaptation. Park directed the first three parts of the seven-episode series, which premieres weekly on OSN Plus. The show also stars and is executive produced by Robert Downey Jr.

“‘Sympathizer’ is a story about identity and this individual having two kinds of minds and two kinds of identities. I’m drawn to that kind of story because the story is dealing about an individual who wants to be someone else while there is certainly some other identity within him. Or it might be a case of him being forced to become someone else than who he really is,” said Park.

“So, whenever that kind of situation is forced upon him, he has to put on a mask. And then at some point that mask eventually becomes his identity itself. So, the story is dealing with how certain tragedy or comedy happens because of that kind of situation. And I feel like I’m certainly drawn into that kind of story.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Sandra Oh, an American Canadian actress born to South Korean immigrants and best known for her roles in shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Killing Eve,” plays the character of Sofia Mori, a liberal feminist who, in the midst of a complicated love triangle, begins to realize her own complicity in the racism suffered by her people.

“From my character’s perspective, to play a character who is representing a very Asian American character, who is a liberal in her own way, and who is a defiant woman in her own way… But throughout the series, I tried to show how through her relationship with the Captain and the love triangle that you’ll see comes about in the series, she starts to question how she has also been complicit in the very thing that she is fighting against, against the patriarchy and against the racism. You see how much she’s internalized and is starting to question the internalization,” said Oh.


Malak Mattar aims to raise Gaza awareness with Venice exhibition

Malak Mattar aims to raise Gaza awareness with Venice exhibition
Updated 17 April 2024
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Malak Mattar aims to raise Gaza awareness with Venice exhibition

Malak Mattar aims to raise Gaza awareness with Venice exhibition
  • The Palestinian artist hopes her show in Venice, coinciding with the biennale, will further raise awareness of the horrors being perpetrated in Gaza 

DUBAI: In the art world this week, all eyes will be on Venice. The Italian city will inaugurate the 60th edition of its namesake biennale, arguably the world’s most prestigious art event, on Apr. 20. Coinciding with the biennale is the opening of an intimate exhibition by the Palestinian painter Malak Mattar, who hopes to shed light on the atrocities unfolding in her native city of Gaza on an international stage.  

Mattar’s parents and two younger siblings were recently safely evacuated from Gaza to Egypt. “A burden has been lifted but I still have family members there,” she tells Arab News from Alexandria, where she has been reunited with her family. “The past six months have been a nightmare, to be honest. The situation has been going on for this long because people have become numb and desensitized.”  

This won’t be the first time that 24-year-old Mattar has shown her work in Italy, but her exhibition at Venice’s Ferruzzi Gallery during the biennale opening is a significant milestone in her career, which is going from strength to strength.  

“Prematurely Stolen,” 2023. (Anthony Dawton)

“This might be the most important exhibition that I’ve ever done in my life,” she says. It all began with a chance encounter at her previous exhibition in London. 

Dyala Nusseibeh, director of Abu Dhabi Art, and a prominent figure in the regional art scene, was in attendance and later approached the young artist with a proposal of setting up an exhibition in Venice. “I told her, ‘Of course, let’s do it.’ I was so happy,” she recalls. “I’m grateful to Dyala for making this happen in a short period of time.” 

Her exhibition, which runs until June 14, is called “The Horse Fell off the Poem.” It features one large-scale painting and seven smaller charcoal drawings, showing harrowing images of victims. The show’s title is based on one of the late Palestinian poet and resistance writer Mahmoud Darwish’s works.  

“Death Road,” 2023. (Anthony Dawton)

“(Darwish) is part of our individual and collective identity,” says Mattar. “We grew up with his poems, his voice and his story. He was so close to us, like a family member. I still remember his death (in 2008) and it was really hard. His poems are timeless and you can always relate to them, especially now.”  

Previously called “Last Breath”, the large-scale painting has been retitled “No Words.” The black-and-white image depicts hellish and disturbing scenes of loss, chaos, deterioration and death. Mattar doesn’t hold back.  

“The horse has a symbolism and a place in the current time of war,” Mattar previously told Arab News. “Its role has changed from carrying fruits and vegetables to being an ambulance. There’s a strength and hardness to a horse, which is how I also see Gaza; I don’t see it as a weak place. In my memory, I think of it as a place that loves life. It always gets back on its feet after every war.”  

“I see Birds,” 2024. (Anthony Dawton)

She is aware that her works could stir controversy. That tends to be the case at the biennale, which is renowned for addressing socio-political issues. This year’s theme is “Foreigners Everywhere.” 

“Any reaction is good, whether negative or positive,” Mattar says. “If the work doesn’t elicit any reaction, then the work is not effective.”  

Mattar believes that her works are being shown at a time when freedom of expression about Palestine is limited. This has affected the art world too. In recent months, a US university exhibition of works by the veteran Palestinian artist Samia Halaby was cancelled, the auction house Christie’s withdrew a couple of paintings by Lebanese painter Ayman Baalbaki from a sale (one of them depicted a man in a red and white keffiyeh), and there were calls from the general public to cancel the Israeli national pavilion at the Venice Biennale.  

“The art world is so black and white,” says Mattar. “There is no freedom to express yourself. There are always restraints. So, for “No Words” to be (shown in the same place and at the same time) of the biennale is important. The genocide is still happening. It’s not ending. (These works) are not a reflection of a time that already happened — it’s happening at the moment. The best time to show them is now.”  


Kesha champions Lebanese eyewear brand By Karen Wazen

Kesha champions Lebanese eyewear brand By Karen Wazen
Updated 17 April 2024
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Kesha champions Lebanese eyewear brand By Karen Wazen

Kesha champions Lebanese eyewear brand By Karen Wazen

DUBAI: US singer and songwriter Kesha was spotted this week wearing black sunglasses from Lebanese eyewear label By Karen Wazen.

Kesha sported the Blaze shades, which boast a cat-eye shape with flat lenses at the bottom. The side temples are notably thick, adorned with the brand’s golden logo.

Kesha shared a brief video on her social media platform, playfully lip-syncing to her hit song "Your Love Is My Drug” while enjoying her time at Coachella, the renowned annual music festival held in California. She took a helicopter ride, dressed in a chic grey printed T-shirt and black jeans.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Kesha (@kesha)

Karen Wazen, the founder of the Dubai-based brand, shared Kesha’s clip on her stories with her 8.2 million followers. In a tribute to the moment, she recorded herself lip-syncing to another verse from the music sensation’s song, donning the Blaze shades in brown.

Wazen launched her debut collection of eyewear in December 2018. The first line of five styles came in acetate and stainless steel and in an array of colors, from neon to tortoiseshell.

Less than a year after the official launch of her brand, her designs were picked up by major e-tailer Farfetch, which became the first online platform to offer her eponymous eyewear collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Kesha (@kesha)

With an array of stylish shades to its name, Wazen’s label has gained the nod of approval from international celebrities including superstar Beyonce, British-Albanian singer Dua Lipa, reality television star Kourtney Kardashian and her mother Kris Jenner, French model Cindy Bruna, singer Becky G, actresses Lucy Hale, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts, and socialite Paris Hilton, to name a few.

In February, the entrepreneur broadened her brand’s horizons by unveiling her inaugural jewelry collection. She introduced earrings and bangles fashioned after her brand’s logo, featuring a zigzag-like infinity sign, available in both silver and gold.

Wazen is one of the most influential figures in the region.

In addition to being a business owner, the mother-of-three has also starred in plenty of regional advertorials for prestigious brands, including Prada, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Cartier.

In 2020, the social media influencer was also named a high-profile supporter of UNHCR.


Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’

Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’
Updated 16 April 2024
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Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’

Israeli artist shuts Venice Biennale exhibit until ‘ceasefire agreement happens’

DUBAI: Israeli artist Ruth Patir has shut down her national pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale, saying that she will only reopen it when a “ceasefire agreement happens” between Israel and Hamas.  

Patir said in a statement on Instagram: “I feel that the time for art is lost and I need to believe it will return. We (Tamar, Mira and I) have become the news, not the art. And so, if I am given such a remarkable stage, I want to make it count.

“I have therefore decided that the pavilion will only open when the release of hostages and ceasefire agreement happens,” she added. “This has been our decision and we stand by it. I am an artist and educator, I firmly object to cultural boycott, but since I feel there are answers, and I can only do what I can with the space I have, I prefer to raise my voice with those I stand with in their scream, ceasefire now, bring the people back from captivity. We can’t take it anymore.”

In February, thousands of people, including artists, curators and museum directors, signed an online appeal calling for Israel to be excluded from this year’s art fair and accusing the country of “genocide” in Gaza.

“Any official representation of Israel on the international cultural stage is an endorsement of its policies and of the genocide in Gaza,” said the online statement by the Art Not Genocide Alliance (ANGA) collective.

ANGA said the Venice Biennale had previously banned South Africa over its apartheid policy of white minority rule and excluded Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said the appeal was an “unacceptable, as well as shameful ... diktat of those who believe they are the custodians of truth, and with arrogance and hatred, think they can threaten freedom of thought and creative expression.”

Dubbed the “Olympics of the art world,” the Biennale is one of the main events in the international arts calendar. This year’s edition, “Foreigners Everywhere,” is due to host pavilions from 90 countries between April 20 and Nov. 24.


Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’
Updated 16 April 2024
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Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

Eiza Gonzalez stuns at premiere of Saudi-backed film ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’

DUBAI: Mexican actress and singer Eiza Gonzalez this week turned heads at the premiere of the Saudi-backed action movie “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” in New York City. 

The star dazzled in a metallic gold strapless gown by New York-based label Jason Wu. The dress boasted intricate three-dimensional designs accentuating the waist and chest. 

Complementing the ensemble, she showed off matching gold heels from Maison Ernest and Cartier jewelry. Her brunette bob was styled in a voluminous blowout. 

Complementing the ensemble, she showed off matching gold heels from Maison Ernest and Cartier jewelry. (Getty)

She posed on the red carpet alongside her co-stars Henry Cavill, Henry Golding, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Cary Elwes, Babs Olusanmokun, Henrique Zaga and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. 

The premiere was attended by Mohammed Al-Turki, film producer and CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation. 

The Saudi foundation, which backed the movie, took to Instagram to share pictures of the premiere captioning the post: “Live from New York, the premiere for ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,’ Red Sea Film Foundation is proud to have supported through its Red Sea International Film Financing initiative.”

 

 

Based on recently declassified files of the British War Department and inspired by true events, the movie is an action-comedy that tells the story of the first-ever special forces organization formed during WWII by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a small group of military officials, including James Bond author Ian Fleming. 

The top-secret combat unit, composed of a motley crew of rogues and mavericks, goes on a daring mission against the Nazis using entirely unconventional and utterly “ungentlemanly” fighting techniques. Ultimately, their audacious approach changed the course of the war and laid the foundation for the British SAS and modern Black Ops warfare.

The film is directed and co-written for the screen by Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes,” “The Gentlemen” and “Wrath of Man”) and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure”).

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” will be released in cinemas in the Middle East on April 18 and internationally on April 19.