Art in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Alãan Artspace in Art Asia Pacific magazine2nd January 2015
Click here to see the full blog article by Wided Khadraoui for January’s issue of Art Asia Pacific magazine, featuring Alãan Artspace.
Saudi Arabia: the enigmatic nation whose norm is always met with incredulous looks. There are family sections in restaurants where single men aren’t allowed to enter. Everyone has apps downloaded onto their smartphones that alert them when it is time for the five daily prayers (according to Muslim customs), as the entire country temporarily shuts down in observance of the ritual. And, yes, the abayas (a robe-like over-garment) is mandatory for women to wear in their everyday life.
In contrast to Jeddah, the urban and resort center of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh—the nation’s capital—is known as a notoriously conservative city. Landlocked and sitting atop a large plateau, Riyadh is the country’s largest city, and the epicenter of the Saudi royal family. An increasingly sprawling metropolis, the combination of Riyadh’s grid plan and chaotic traffic ensures that jams, gridlock and terrible parking are all mainstays of the city. The Olaya district—home to ’the iconic Kingdom Tower and Al Faisaliyah Tower and numerous shopping malls—is the commercial hub of Riyadh. The district is also the site of one of Riyadh’s weekend rituals, where young men infamously cruise up and down the high-end Tahlia Street. At the center of Riyadh lies Batha’a and Dirah, the oldest quarters of the city.
Despite Riyadh’s inherent conservatism, its art scene has developed exponentially over the past five years—a growth spurred on by both the region’s flourishing art market and an increased local interest in the arts. A number of galleries and art spaces have opened, which host both regional and international artists. Regularly scheduled exhibitions at such galleries are now a staple of the city’s art scene. Lam Art Gallery, Naila Art Gallery (Full disclosure: this writer currently works for Naila Art Gallery), L’Art Pur and Lahd Gallery all have active programs…