Casual Art Talk #2 Summary
Topic: The Art Scene in Jeddah- What’s There and What’s Missing?
I would like to start by thanking everyone for their great participation. It was a very productive Art Talk with pages and pages of notes. I’m using first names only because in these discussions, we are all equal, and I want readers to be neutral when reading each person’s input.
We started at 7:45 pm sharp with the video about The Shop, the venue of our talk. Baraa, the owner, shared it because he felt it also represented the art scene in Saudi Arabia. It was a slow motion video of a man jumping rope in a forest and screaming, but you really couldn’t tell they were screams. “I think more of us need to get together and make some noise so we can be heard,” explained Baraa.
I started the discussion by asking: What is the first exhibition you recall going to in Jeddah?
It was interesting how there were different answers.
Louay recalled visiting the art gallery in Jamjoom center, “Beit Al Fannaneen Al Tashkeeleyeen” (Artist House), which was the only place in Jeddah that felt like a place for an artist to be. “It was nice to be able to meet the artists,” he said. He added that one of the earliest exhibitions he recalled going to was the Waterman underwater photography exhibition. Several attendees, myself included, remembered going to that exhibition, which was at Serafi Megamall.
Ahmed mentioned going to an exhibition at Hilton, and others mentioned “Al Alamiya” gallery on Arafat street. Others mentioned “Darat Safiya Bin Zagr” , who is an artist herself and a patron of the arts. Fatma mentioned Roshan art gallery, “It was one of the best, but it closed down. I’ve been in Jeddah for 15 years, and back then, art was trending and some people were spending hundreds of thousands on artwork,” she said. “However, there was still a lack of awareness. Some people actually asked if they had to pay to get into an exhibition.”
Raiyan, who loves drawing patterns, said he hasn’t gone to any exhibitions because of his introverted nature. I was honestly very happy that he joined the art talk and brought his beautiful patterns/motifs with him.
Dania said the best exhibition she attended was the solo exhibition of expat Dorothy Boyer , and added that she hasn’t seen such quality ever since.
Sultan added we should give some credit to the efforts of Hamza Serafi, founder of Athr Gallery, for opening a space where everyone was welcome, and for introducing new talent.
I personally recall going to Jeddah Atelier for Fine Arts for Ayman Yossri’s solo exhibition. There was a very interesting collection, but this sort of work was still not appreciated locally.
The conclusion we all drew was that there wasn’t a specific place/area for people to go if they wanted to buy artwork. Furthermore, there was no variety. Fatma added that cultural intelligence isn’t very strong, and a lot of artwork looks like a copy from something we’ve seen online, and she was personally not enjoying most of it. Additionally, people who were buying artwork were looking for things that match their furniture more than anything.
Nada suggested that there should be more focus on the “little people” who are not privileged to be part of a big network. “Big names are getting bigger, and small names vanish,” she explained. Dania added that they need support in order to grow. On the other hand, Baraa argued that those in “the middle” also need support. “It is our duty to support them, and by doing so, it will change the way society sees us,” he explained. “The local art scene needs someone who knows what they’re doing to develop it. There is no one there to scout for talent and give direction.” Dania elaborated saying that there is nobody to give proper critique, and most comments are actually compliments.
Sultan went on to explain that quality artwork was controlled by few groups. These groups interfere with artists’ work because they know what buyers want. “We need to create a healthy environment for art; a healthy art community and area in Jeddah. ” he said. “People need to work together rather than waste time competing with each other.” He added that, to find art, people tell you to go to websites, which is wrong. “We need to create a new hip thing. Think of a slogan for the local movement.”
Baraa supported the idea saying that there needs to be a hub that focuses on finding the unique and talented. “There also needs to be a committee that follows art and cultural events to make sure they don’t conflict. We need to join our efforts and not compete with each other.” Sultan continued saying: “We need a committee that brainstorms ideas to educate people about art through lectures and workshops. The idea should be spread through a newsletter for example.”
Doha said that now is the time for networking to find people interested in art. “We’re learning new ideas through word of mouth, and these ideas develop later on,” she explained.
We concluded the meeting with an assignment for next meeting:
Think about how each one of you can contribute to the local art scene.