In the last few years, contemporary artists in Saudi Arabia have been expanding their reach, exhibiting at the British Museum and the Venice Biennale, in addition to other cultural institutions. In response to this, Saudi Arabia is also beginning to witness the emergence of a gallery scene.
Established in October 2012, Alāan Artspace is one such venue injecting a dose of contemporary art and cultural discourse into Riyadh’s local art scene. It was the brainchild of siblings Neama and Mohammed Al-Sudairy, and their goal was to create an arts community-building space to bridge the gap between artists and audiences in the city. “There is a tremendous amount of energy around the arts in Saudi Arabia, but relatively few institutions exist to support such talent, which is why we decided to launch Alāan Artspace as Riyadh’s first curated contemporary art platform,” said Neama Al-Sudairy, the founding director of the gallery. Since opening, the space has hosted thought-provoking exhibitions, including the works of established and emerging women artists such as Manal Al Dowayan, Sarah Abu Abdallah and Sarah Mohanna Al Abdali, whose striking installations, videos, and mixed-media artworks debunk established perceptions about Saudi contemporary art.
“Saudi Arabia’s art scene is fast evolving and we want to capture the diversity and depth of the talent inside the Kingdom,” said Al-Sudairy, observing that there are certain advantages to establishing an art gallery in Saudi Arabia. “Although the art scene here is relatively small and underdeveloped, it has actually been liberating, as it’s allowed us to experiment with ways to engage the public,” she continued, noting that the multifunctional gallery space also offers dedicated programming aimed at nurturing emerging and established contemporary artists and designers, as well as an audience for their work. Al-Sudairy tapped Sara Raza, the former curator of public programs for Tate Modern in London, to organize seminars, workshops, artists’ talks, and panel discussions at the gallery. In addition to film screenings, such activities underscore Alāan’s commitment to establishing a creative hub within Riyadh where discussions and debates on contemporary art and design can take place.
More than a gallery, Alāan is also a meeting place where patrons can lounge at its welcoming café, library, and shop displaying a selection of art books, magazines, and specially commissioned objects by a roster of designers from the Middle East. For those looking to satiate their appetites, stop by the gallery’s restaurant, where a delicious selection of globally inspired dishes has been concocted by its award-winning French chef (who has served quite a few heads of state).
For more information, visit http://www.alaanart.com/.
Photos: Courtesy of Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz