Ahmed Mater

Born in Abha, 1979 and lives in Abha, Saudi Arabia

Photo credit Abdullah AlShehri.
Photo credit Abdullah AlShehri.

Physician turned artist, Ahmed Mater is one of the most significant cultural voices documenting and scrutinising the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia. Forging an ongoing, complex mapping of the Kingdom, his practice explores collective memories to uncover and record unofficial histories.

The historical, geographical and topical breadth of his research-led inquiries are sharpened by the incisive actions of his conceptual works. With this scope, Mater imagines possible prognoses for a land of unprecedented religious, social, economic, and political influence.

Born in 1979, the intense conclusion to a decade of momentous economic and political upheaval, Mater witnessed a rapidly transforming society whose changes diverged into extraordinary social shifts and trenchant ideologies. Growing up in Abha, a city in the fertile mountainous region close to the border with Yemen, his early years were geographically remote from the Kingdom’s dominant religious and administrative capitals. The perspective granted by his physical distance exposed him to the modernising world beyond the border. From this vantage, he witnessed the throes of the most seismic period in Saudi history – the Kingdom’s oil boom and the tensions between religion and power. Part of the earliest contemporary art movements in the Kingdom, with Edge of Arabia, the seminal Shatta and Mostly Visible exhibitions and then with his Jeddah, Ahmed’s creative career has been at the forefront of the transforming Saudi cultural sector.

Mater entwines expressive and politically engaged artistic aims with the scientific objectives of his medical training. His practice embraces the paradoxes of science and faith, exploring their connections and contradictions and their social reach. His employs broad investigative techniques to assess the Kingdom’s condition, reframing unofficial socio- political histories and realities with an observational and wide-ranging


Mater’s socially engaged artistic practice is furthered through his involvement in cultural initiatives inside and beyond the Kingdom, including Al-Meftaha Arts Village, Abha;, Jeddah; and as co- founder of the Edge of Arabia collective, which has connected a new generation of Saudi artists with international audiences. From 2017–18, for its inaugural year, he was the Founder Director of Misk Art Institute, where his tenure included overseeing the first Saudi National Pavilion at the Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia.

In 2016, Mater became the first Saudi artist to hold a solo exhibition in the United States with ‘Symbolic Cities: The Work of Ahmed Mater’ at the Smithsonian Institution’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC. Since, he has had a major solo exhibition at Brooklyn Museum, New York. He has also had solo exhibitions at King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia (2018); Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy (2017); Alserkal Avenue, Dubai (2017); Sharjah Art Foundation (2013); the Vinyl Factory, London (2010); Artspace, Dubai (2009); Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, London (2006); and King Khalid University, Abha, Saudi Arabia (2004).

His work has been included in group exhibitions, including major exhibitions at the British Museum, London (2006 and 2012); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2011); Institut du Monde Arab, Paris (2012); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2013); Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar (2013); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humleaek, Denmark (2013);

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (2013); Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, Lebanon (2013); Biennale Jogja (2013); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2014); and New Museum, New York (2014); and Guggenheim, New York (2016).He participated in the Sharjah Biennial (2007 and 2013); Cairo Biennial (2008); Venice Biennale (2009 and 2011); and Kochi Muziris Biennale, Kerela India (2012).

His work is part of major international collections including The British Museum, London; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; and Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Mater lives and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is represented by Athr Gallery, Jeddah and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano.

Ahmed Mater, Prognosis: 1979-2019
Ahmed Mater's first solo exhibition explores the culture and geography of Saudi Arabia over forty years, in the new Lakum Artspace, Riyadh
08 Dec 2021 - 08 Feb 2022
Lakum Art Space
Eyes in the Sky
The exhibition is a curatorial project by Luigi Fassi and Alberto Salvadori that brings together works...
29 May 2021 - 31 Aug 2021
Galleria Continua
Chianti, San Gimignano, Volterra
The Restless Earth
La Triennale di Milano and the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi present La Terra Inquieta (The Restless Earth),...
28 Apr 2017 - 20 Aug 2017
Triennale di Milano
Continua Sphères Ensemble
Under the artistic direction of José-Manuel Gonçalvès, over twenty galleries and foundations from...
16 Sep 2017 - 19 Nov 2017
Ahmed Mater: Mitochondria: powerhouses
For his solo show the artist investigates on the structures of contemporary geopolitics, combining religion...
24 Sep 2017 - 07 Jan 2018
Galleria Continua
Chianti, San Gimignano, Volterra
Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys
The exhibition, the first within the New York institution, is an opportunity for visitors to experience...
01 Dec 2017 - 08 Apr 2018
New York
But a Storm is Blowing From Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa
The exhibition marks the final exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Organized...
11 Apr 2018 - 17 Jun 2018
GAM Milano
Art Spaces
Lakum Art Space
Galleries in Riyadh
Galleria Continua
Galleries in Chianti, San Gimignano, Volterra
Athr Gallery
Galleries in Jeddah
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