Major exhibitions, new art spaces and events enhance the Saudi art scene

Writer Laura Egerton
December 17, 2021

Saudi Arabia opened its first home-grown biennale this week, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, taking place in the Jax District of Diriyah, just outside of Riyadh. The event is organised by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation which was established in 2020 with the support of the Saudi Ministry of Culture and aims to provide a platform for discovery, connection and dialogue. A second biennale in 2022 will be focused on Islamic arts.

Philip Tinari (Director and Chief Executive of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, China, leads an international team of curators who brought together 63 artists for the inaugural edition, titled “Feeling the Stones”. More than half of the artists are of Saudi Arabian or Chinese descent, and over half the works are new commissions. The exhibition, divided into six sections, is open to the public until 11 March 2022 and is one of Saudi Arabia’s largest and most significant international displays of contemporary art to date.

Alongside the opening of the Biennale another important moment was the unveiling of artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke‘s new commission as winner of the 4th edition of the Ithra Art Prize, the first artist not from Saudi Arabia to be awarded the prize, granted by Ithra, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran.

Ahmed Mater, arguably Saudi Arabia’s most acclaimed artist, opened his first ever solo exhibition in Riyadh this month, “Prognosis: 2079-2019” at the new Lakum Artspace under the direction of Neama Al Sudairi.

Across the country in Jeddah, a city which has led the way in grassroots cultural development since the formation of Edge of Arabia in 2003 and SAC in 2014, the much anticipated opening of Hayy Jameel took place on 6 December 2021. The major arts complex and creative hub managed by Art Jameel was designed by waiwai, winners of the Golden Lion at the 2021 Venice Architectural Biennale for their exhibition “Wetlands” in the UAE Pavilion. Hayy Jameel opened with a group exhibition created in partnership with the Delfina Foundation, London called “Staple: What’s on your plate?” 


Keep up to date with My Art Guides
Sign up to our newsletter and stay in the know with all worldwide contemporary art events