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The Edge of Arabia: Emerging Saudi Artists at the 55th Venice Biennale
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The Edge of Arabia: Emerging Saudi Artists at the 55th Venice Biennale

Picture of Helen Brady
Updated: 5 January 2017
Edge of Arabia presents emerging Saudi artists at this year’s 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition is entitled RHIZOMA (Generation in Waiting) and will be supported by the Abdul Latif Community Initiatives.
Huda Beydoun, 'Documenting The Undocumented' Series, 2013 | Courtesy of the artist
Huda Beydoun, ‘Documenting The Undocumented’ Series, 2013 | Courtesy of the artist

Edge of Arabia is an independent social enterprise working to develop appreciation of contemporary Arab art and culture with a particular focus on Saudi Arabia. The organisation began when Englishman Stephen Stapleton met a group of Saudi artists in southern Saudi Arabia, against the backdrop of the last Gulf War. Upon their departure from one another, they agreed to work together and over the next nine years the group evolved into a conglomerate comprising over sixty Saudi and Arab artists. They established an educational programme reaching hundreds of schools and universities, and had twelve publications translated into five languages. The initiative has expanded exponentially, and has now travelled to Berlin, Istanbul, Dubai, Riyadh and Jeddah amongst others.

In 2012, Edge of Arabia were asked to participate at the 55th Venice Bienalle by London-based art critic and curator Sara Raza and Saudi-based poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh. Fayadh remarks that the collective’s aim is to provide ‘a clear vision of the radical transformation in Saudi art, which is now more affiliated with its roots, to the real culture represented by the awareness of the different living conditions in Saudi Arabia.’

Basma Felemban, 'Sidana', 2013 | Courtesy of the artist
Basma Felemban, ‘Sidana’, 2013 | Courtesy of the artist

The Venice Biennale exhibition, RHIZOMA (Generation in Waiting), will show the works of twenty six artists, many of whom are creating work specifically for the exhibition. Site-specific works will be on display by artists and designers like Sarah Al Abdali and Basmah Felemban, whose subversion of geometric spatial dynamics earned him critical praise at a young age. Innovative content also comes from Telfaz 11 and U Turn who will be collaborating with fellow artists to reach target audiences in their millions through cross platforms such as Youtube. In addition, a rhizomatic structure will be especially designed and built for the exhibition to stage several art works and will function as an extended metaphor for non-linear identities which RHIZOMA promotes. To accompany the project, a series of artist talks and in-conversations will be streamed via the internet cross-connecting the exhibition with audiences in Saudi Arabia and internationally. Social media platforms shall serve as vital extensions of the project, utilising public dialogue and engagement with the audiences.

Cinema of Arabia & U-Turn, Still from 'Takki' trailer | Courtesy of the artists
Cinema of Arabia & U-Turn, Still from ‘Takki’ trailer | Courtesy of the artists

The Saudi Arabia Team:
Artists: Abdulkarim Qassem, Abdullah Alothman, Ahaad Alamoudi, Ahmad Angawi, Basmah Felemban, Batool Alshomrani, Dana Awrtani, Eiman Elgibreen, Eyad Maghazil, Heba Abed, Huda Beydoun, Majid Althobaity, Mala’a Al-Amoudi, Mohammad Makki, Nasser Salem, Nora A.Almazrooa, Nouf Alhimiary, Omamah AlSadiq, Ramy Alqthamy, Saeed Salem, Sami Al-Turki, Sarah AbuAbdallah, Sarah Al Abdali, Shaweesh, Telfaz 11, U-Turn

Curator: Sara Raza and Ashraf Fayadh

Venue: Magazzini del Sale, Dorsoduro 262, 30124 Venice

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale took place from 1 June – 24 November. The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Series is an article series leading up to the start of the exhibition. With 88 countries participating in the Biennale — 10 of them for the first time — and 150 artists from 37 countries, our coverage highlights a selection of the National Pavilions that participated in the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale.