Riyadh on the rise: Christie's features Alãan Artspace10th January 2015
As she unveils her gallery’s challenging new exhibition, gallerist Neama Al-Sudairi speaks to Chris Mugan about Riyadh’s emerging art scene
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As the focus of next year’s Armory Show in New York demonstrates, the Middle East is clearly a rising force in contemporary art. In Saudi Arabia, this movement has largely been centred in Jeddah, although artists have recently begun to emerge in Riyadh, too, thanks in part to the city’s youngest gallerist.
In 2012, when Neama Al-Sudairi was still in her thirties, she opened the Alāan Artspace to support the Saudi capital’s nascent, proudly Saudi art scene, through exhibitions, events and a library. The gallery launched with an introductory exhibition that showcased work by three of the kingdom’s female artists: Sarah Abu Abdallah, Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali (both of whom the gallery represents) and Manal Al Dowayan.
Since then, the space has pursued an eclectic programme, including an exhibition of miniatures from Germany’s Vitra Design Museum and QVOD VIDES, TOTVM (‘All that is seen’), devised by Italian photographic artist Teresa Emanuele. Earlier this year, the gallery hosted video installation The Question, previously seen at last year’s Venice Biennale, and created by another of its artists, Abdullah Al-Othman.
Alāan is now showing Muqeem (‘Prayer’), Series I, the debut exhibition by Ehab Mamdouh, and perhaps the gallery’s most challenging show yet. For unlike many of his peers, Mamdouh uses figurative images. The artist has lived most of his life in Saudi but was born in Egypt and remains influenced by its ancient pictographic heritage. Referencing the use of geometric patterns and religious practices in the artist’s home culture, Muqeem is a call for tolerance and understanding…