identity themes to be explored in the Riyadh cultural event

When it launched in 2016, Misk Art Week was a local affair, with events and exhibits geared towards a local crowd. This year’s event, which runs from December 1-5, brings together more international names, including French writer and curator Simon Njami and British curator Sacha Craddock, alongside regional names, and builds on the programs that the Saudi art foundation has been implementing in recent years.

“The evolution of Misk Art Week over the past five years reflects the overall growth of the art scene in Saudi Arabia,” said Reem Al Sultan, Managing Director of Misk Art Institute. “We are proud to play a key role in this development, fostering local talent and opening up opportunities for the creative community. “

Three main parts of the exhibition will be presented at Misk’s Prince Faisal bin Fahd Fine Arts Hall in Riyadh, two of them generated by the support programs that the Saudi foundation has put in place.

His new residence, Masaha, presents an exhibition of the works carried out during the three months program for Saudi and international artists.

A second exhibition includes works produced throughout the Misk Art Grant program. The awards program opened this year to Arab artists after its 2019 premiere as Saudi-only, and included artists such as Afra Al Dhaheri and Latifa Saeed from the United Arab Emirates, Basmah Feemban from Saudi Arabia and Zoulikha Bouabdellah. from Algeria. The 10 recipients shared the prize of one million Saudi riyals ($ 270,000), an amount that has already doubled in its short lifespan.

An important theme throughout Art Week in 2021 is that of identity in the face of rapid change. This year’s Misk Art Grant, for example, asked his cohort to respond to the idea of ​​“Under Construction,” while Masaha invited artists to explore the question of belonging. The flagship exhibition of the week, also presented in the lobby, examines memory.

Craddock put on this show, titled Here, Now, with a focus on established creators, a notable contrast not only to other Misk programs that support emerging artists, but also to Arabia’s largely young art scene. Arabia. Artists here include Manal Al Dowayan, a Saudi artist who has long followed the status of women in the country; Ayman Yousri Daydban, a Palestinian artist based in Jeddah who examines how images and idioms move in the Arab world; and Salah Elmur, whose paintings evoke memories of his childhood in Sudan. Textiles and tactile materials are also in the spotlight, as in the woven work of American artist Sheila Hicks, or the diaphanous creations of Filwa Nazer, from Saudi Arabia.

Along with these exhibits, Misk’s international conference program is now hybrid, with online lectures as well as in-person discussions.

As with Misk Art Week as a whole, the ambition of this program is growing: participants include Njami, one of this year’s curators for Abu Dhabi Art; architect Wael Al Awar, whose presentation at the Venice Biennale won the United Arab Emirates Golden Lion this year; and Saudi artist Moath Alofi, whose videos and photographs follow the development in his homeland.

While reflecting change, this year’s Misk Art Week also opens in the midst of a maelstrom. During the overcrowded month of December, the Art Jameel Hayy Outpost opens in Jeddah; the upcoming Noor Riyadh, the capital’s public art program; and finally, the Ad-Diriyah Biennale, a major enterprise run by the Ministry of Culture on the outskirts of Riyadh, as part of the launch of the first biennial in Saudi Arabia.

Update: November 16, 2021 11:41 a.m.

James C. Tibbs