’Tis the season of the art fair. In the past few weeks gallerists have flocked to The Armory Show NYC, Art Basel, Frieze London and FIAC Paris, and things aren’t slowing down any time soon. For art aficionados working in the Arab region, the next stop is Saudi Arabia.

Taking place from 1-5 December, Riyadh welcomes the 5th edition of Misk Art Week, the annual flagship event hosted by the Misk Art Institution which occupies a central position in Saudi Arabia’s art calendar. The purpose of Misk Art Week is not so commercially driven as an art fair. Rather, Misk Art Week was established to showcase the region’s thriving art scene, and the best Saudi Arabia has to offer. 

This includes a host of dynamic and engaging activities suitable for all ages, an inclusive approach which counters the usual exclusivity of art institutional events. A range of carefully-programmed talks, masterclasses, workshops and performances all respond to this year’s theme of ‘Form’. The events will adopt a hybrid format and take place both online and at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh, catering to the global community cultivated by the Misk Art Institute.

Highlights include newly commissioned works by Saudi and international artists who have participated in the Misk Art Grant and Masaha Residency programme, including well-known artists such as  Basmah Felemben, Ramah al-Husseini and Zoulihka Bouabdellah.As part of the creative forum, there will also be a series of accessible talks responding to the theme of Misk Art Week. Some of the topics discussed include new developments in artificial intelligence, digital art and the rise of NFTs, urban design and city planning, cultural landmarks in Riyadh, and the rise of public art in Saudi Arabia and the wider GCC.

As if that wasn’t enough, Misk Art Week coincides with the exhibition Here, Now / هنا، الآن, a group exhibition at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall which is open until January 30 2022. Exploring themes of local identity, the exhibition features a range of media including paintings, textiles, sculptures, installations and digital works. Curated by Sacha Craddock, the exhibition includes an exciting range of artists not limited to Ayman Yossri Daydban, Salah Elmur, and Sheila Hicks.

In the GCC’s art scene, and beyond, most people are familiar with Jameel Arts Centre, a cultural hub in Dubai. In other news—the centre is extending its roots, with a new creative complex, Hayy Jameel, opening on December 6 2021 in Jeddah. The opening coincides with a packed five-month opening season, featuring an eclectic range of exhibitions and public programmes featuring over 45 artists from over 20 countries. 

This includes a large-scale group exhibition ‘Staple: What’s on your plate?’, co-curated by Art Jameel and Delfina Foundation; ‘Illuminate: a Noor Riyadh Capsule’, featuring major light-based works by 11 Saudi artists; ‘Paused Mirror’, a newly-commissioned collection of portraits of Saudi artists by Osama Esid; and the inaugural Hayy Jamel Façade Commission, awarded to Nasser Almulhim.

As if that wasn’t enough, Hayy Jameel inaugurates Saudi’s first independent cinema in the spring. Watch this space!

Words: Roisin Tapponi

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